Autumnal menu reivew at The Oddfellows

My first impressions of The Oddfellows are from comedy and cocktail nights in the upstairs speakeasy; the vintage interior offers sophisticated quirks and charms that are a luxury for students, and the vast array of spirits and ales are incredibly exciting. The cocktails are an absolute delight – these experimental and delicious concoctions are overshadowed by popular and inexpensive cocktail bars in the city, attracting students from the deep, dark depths of their deadlines. If you’re in need of a cosy space for an uninterrupted first date, then students, leave the sugary, syrupy cocktail pitchers at Firehouse and head across the road to The Oddfellows. If conversation is sparse you can discuss the eccentric decor, like the giant pine cone chairs, or the animal heads hanging from the walls.

Sometimes I just hate breaking the news that I’m vegetarian to the restaurant owners overseeing my reviews, particularly after first-glance at a lavish meat feast of a menu consisting of duck breast, black pudding mousse, chorizo couqettes…the chefs certainly know how to curate a menu according to season. So when my lovely server, Ryan, recommended the last of the venison on today’s specials board I didn’t want to announce “I’m afraid we’re (referring to my lucky reviewee partner and myself) vegetarian”. And that’s made awkward more so by the fact that the only vegetarian main on the menu was a risotto, albeit a luxurious, al dente, creamy risotto. Although, I do prefer it when a menu is composed of a few extensively and passionately designed dishes. Situated on a table with full view of the happenings of the kitchen, the solo chef on this Monday evening knew his way round the elaborate yet tempting menu, juggling the orders for hungry diners.

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The dish that deserves the spotlight from this three course is surprisingly a simplistic vegetarian starter, which merely thinking about is making my mouth water. On paper, it’s rather unexciting: Goats cheese mousse, quince purée, and butternut squash. This restaurant certainly loves its mousses and purées. The goats cheese mousse melted in the mouth – it wasn’t overpowering or too rich like you’d expect it to be but was the perfect, soft accompaniment to the crunchiness of the butternut squash – which there were only three cubes of – a tad ungenerous, if not to emphasise the mousse as centerpiece.

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An additional vegetarian starter on the specials board also caught my eye: salad of roasted heart of artichoke, giant caramelized shallots, served with a concentrated spinach and basil dressing, and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. This was a wholesome and more filling starter compared to the first. But starters aren’t meant to fill you up, they’re there to whet your appetite for the next courses, and the goats cheese mousse was incredibly exciting, making me anticipate the what would come next.

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Up next was unfortunately the only vegetarian main up for grabs: creamy roasted cauliflower risotto with truffle oil. It didn’t disappoint in taste and appearance however; the charred cauliflower with truffle oil against the luxurious base of al dente (cooked to perfection in my books) risotto rice really worked. If you prefer less rich, less creamy risotto then this may not be for you – it’s truly indulgent.

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I’ve never had parfait before, so the dessert was an appealing excuse to try it I’m also a sucker for all the components of this dessert: peanut butter, caramelized banana and salted caramel sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed the way this was assembled, rather than merely plated; it was similar to the artistic arrangement of the winning starter.

On average starters and desserts were priced at £5.50, and mains ranging from £13 to £19, so it’s a student treat, or somewhere to take when the parents visit for graduation perhaps. I would definitely go again if the options for vegetarians were increased and more varied, there’s much more scope for experimentation in the non-meat dishes. Otherwise I’ll just have to order three of the goats cheese mousse starter.

Rose petal and pistachio cake

Rose petal and pistachio cake vegetarian; serves 10 

Bottled rose water and dried rose are incredibly exciting ingredients. I bought them about a year a go for a mere couple of pounds from an International food supermarket, and they’ve been a little neglected at the back of my cupboard, amongst the things I told myself I’d always get round to using. And once I practised this recipe to perfection, they were all gone. 

Ingredients:

  • 225g baking butter, softened to room temperature (I am forever loyal to stork)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 40g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped

For the icing:

  • 125g sifted icing sugar
  • 2 tsp rose water
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 tsp pink food colouring
  • 40g unsalted pistachio kernels, chopped
  • Dried rose petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and prepare a non-stick loaf tin with baking parchment or butter.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the baking butter and caster sugar. Gradually sift in the self-raising flour, add the eggs one at a time, and combine well.
  3. Stir in the rose water and pistachios so the flavours are evenly distributed through the cake mix.
  4. Pour the mix into the loaf tin, and even out the surface with a spatular. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until a knife through the centre comes out clean.
  5. Once cooled take the cake out of the tin. Create the icing by combining the sugar with rose water, warm water and pink food colouring. Smoother the top of the cake with it. Sprinkle on pistachio kernels, and dried rose petals if you’re feeling decadent.

Sloe gin

sloe gin…and an incredibly sloe process (three months to be exact). Sloe gin makes a thoughtful Christmas gift, accompanied by homemade jams and chutneys in a hamper.

Do not worry about purchasing an expensive bottle of gin, a supermarket own will suffice.

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Sloe gin produces 1 bottle; vegan 

Ingredients:

  • 350g handpicked sloes
  • 250g sugar
  • 35cl gin of your choice

Method:

  1. Forage your sloes when they are in season (beginning to ripen in late August). Clean them thoroughly, throwing away any unripe, squashed or rotting.
  2. Using a sterilised needle, prick the sloes all over so that the juice of the fruit can seep through and flavour the gin.
  3. Sterilise a large kilner jar by placing it in an oven at 160°c for 20 minutes. Once cooled, add the fruit, followed by the sugar and gin. Seal and shake well.
  4. Store your jar in a cool, dark cupboard for 3 months. Make sure to shake every few days, or as often as you remember.
  5. After 3 months, strain the gin through muslin and bottle.

No 1 Polsloe cafe

No 1 Polsloe on Facebook

No 1 Polsloe on Instagram

No 1 Polsloe café – the clue is in the title and the address – they’re No 1 at delivering high quality food, No 1 for aesthetic, No 1 for value. 

They faced me with a challenge: to get through three of their vegetarian breakfasts, one strawberry ice cream milkshake, a flat white and a cappuccino. Suffice to say, I was waddling to my 12pm lecture after.

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Here’s me tucking in, with brunch appropriate hair clips (available to buy via my Etsy shop)
I had been to this café back in 2014, but since it changed hands in August 2015, the aesthetic and vibe of the dainty space has gone from strength to strength. Decorated in makeshift cacti botanical bowls, fairy lights, plant wall hangings, and giant flowers floating from the ceiling; all I’m thinking about whilst waiting for my breakfast is how I wish I had the creative juices of the café’s trendy yet modest owner, Becky.

The space also boasts connections with Devonshire artists. Illustrative artist Elise who runs Skelliton illustration, has currently got a table of gorgeously designed goods up for sale there. The menus are designed by artist George Goodwin, who goes by the title ‘Omg I drawed it’ – and I’m looking at his art on the walls thinking Omg I WISH I drew that. But fear not, George’s drawings are available to purchase so you can bring home a little bit of that No 1 Polsloe aesthetic.

After feeling a little jealous of all these creative types, the food arrives, and the pressure is on to do all this beautiful food justice through my little iPhone camera.

Becky’s team have given me a platter featuring: their special smashed avocado and poached eggs on thick-sliced bread, with lime, chilli, and dill; a vegetarian, avocado aficionado version of eggs royale; and, buttermilk pancakes with honey, banana and Greek yoghurt.

The combination of lime, chilli, and dill with avocado tastes sensational. The hollandaise sauce poured over the eggs, avocado slices and warm muffins is absolutely perfect. I used the pancakes, accompanied by the strawberry ice cream milkshake, as my desert to the breakfast trio – they have clearly mastered their pancake batter recipe. After sampling all of these, I cannot help but think I would be over the moon to receive this in a highflying hotel. Yet, a brunch here will only set you back £6 at the most.

It’s all the thoughtful finishing touches which makes this eatery so great. Everyone is considered – from the meat-eaters, to the vegans, to the gluten-free customers. I truly appreciate seeing a restaurant also fully supportive of local businesses, such as using Exe Coffee Roasters to supply its beans, and KB Eats’ spectacular cakes to stock the counter.

No.1 Polsloe does not stop at brunch – it’s open for lunch and into the evening for pizza and cocktails. It’s now available to be hired out for private parties too.

I’d definitely give it 5 avocados out of 5. 

Berlin reflections

pretzels, bagels, bratwurst, currywurst…and erm, more currywurst

To make my flight €100 cheaper, I stopped off in Berlin for a few days before heading back to London. I found that Berlin had few concrete, fundamental dishes and ingredients that sets it aside from the rest of Europe. The capital certainly has the rest of Germany’s predilection for meat, particularly sausages. But, I was disappointed I couldn’t try the dish most ranted and raved about – that is bratwurst sausage with curry toppings, or ‘currywurst’ – because of dietary requirements. There’s even a museum dedicated to the phenomenon that is ‘currywurst’.

I fell in love with the city; it lives to reflect and learn from its controversial past, with the effect that it now exists as a liberal and lively hub. In the process, it has accumulated a vast array of multicultural cuisines. I ate in authentic Turkish, Italian and Asian restaurants (and many modern vegan eateries that are dispersed throughout the city).

The German bakeries are the city’s redemption. Think pretzels galore. Here’s a ‘streuseltaler’ – a fine yeast dough pastry with a refined butter crumble. It’s essentially an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

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In East Side Berlin, there was a substantial selection of vegan eateries, to match the cool and hip ambience of this side of the city. Just past the East Side gallery, I came across a building hosting Veganz (a supermarket), Goodies (a vegan café dedicated to great coffee), The Bowl (a clean eating restaurant for the best, beautiful bowls of goodness), and a vegan shoe shop.

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The Bowl boasts a 100% plant-based kitchen, producing gluten and sugar free bowls for a little over €10. I tried went for the ‘California’ bowl from the menu; this was lemon quinoa, deep fried sweet potato sticks, sesame tamari leaf spinach, raw apple carrot salad, avocado slices, tomato coriander salsa and teriyaki hibiscus sauce. (But I also pinched a spoonful of the ‘Buddha’ bowl too from my travel buddy). The ingredients are simple, but the sauces and dressings bring the ingredients to life.

This restaurant refreshed me from a 3 hour urban art walking tour of the East Side gallery and beyond. And it has given me inspiration for new healthy, filling and vegan recipes.

 

 

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons

Rosemary & dark chocolate buttons makes 1 gift; vegan

feeling inspired by the ultra-fancy chocolatiers ‘Rausch Schokoladenhausin’ the heart of Berlin. This is a simple, yet beautiful gift to give to someone special. The rosemary is freshly picked – no need for cooking

Ingredients:

  • 100g fine dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder (if needed)
  • 1 long sprig of rosemary, trimmed

Method:

  1. On a sheet of baking parchment, use a circular stencil to draw the outline of 9 circles, evenly spaced apart.
  2. Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt over
    a pot of boiling water.
  3. If the cocoa percentage is low, stir in some cocoa powder for extra richness.
  4. Leave for 1 minute to cool slightly. Using a desert spoon, fill the circles with chocolate. Place trimmed rosemary sprigs in the middle before they begin to set.
  5. Set in the fridge for at least an hour. Snap off the baking parchment and gift in a small cardboard box, with ribbon.

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Carob and fig ice cream

Carob and fig ice cream serves 4; vegetarian 

making use of the carob powder and syrup I brought home from Cyprus, I thought I’d try combining some awesome Cypriot flavours into this indulgent dessert. These ingredients are easily found in all well-stocked Turkish food shops. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large free range eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 figs, peel removed
  • 1 heaped tsp carob powder
  • 1 tsp carob syrup

Method:

  1. figggg.jpegWhisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff peaks are formed.
  2. Slowly whisk in the caster sugar, continuing until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
  3. Whisk the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed – be sure to not whisk too much otherwise it’ll curdle.
  4. Fold in the cream, egg yolks, the inside flesh of 2 figs, carob powder and syrup into the mixture until well combined.
  5. Pour into a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Serve with more fresh fig, and carob syrup, according to taste.

 

Sea salt and dark chocolate avocado mousse

Sea salt and dark chocolate avocado mousse serves 4; vegan 

this vegan desert is a lighter alternative to conventional chocolate mousse. The base is made simply from frozen banana and avocado. The sea salt compliments the dark chocolate, giving it a bitter and rich edge.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 hass avocado, chilled
  • 1 frozen very ripe banana
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 squares of good quality dark chocolate, grated

Method:

  1. Freeze the banana in slices. Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a food processor, followed by frozen banana, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Blend into a smooth paste. If too thick, add ice cubes, and pulse.
  2. Taste, and add more maple syrup if needed. Stir in the sea salt and pop the mousse into ramekins. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, and leave to chill and set in the fridge before serving.

Banana and goji berry loaf

goji berries are a current superfood trend…spread peanut butter onto these loaf slices for a morning energy hit

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Banana and goji berry loaf makes 10 slices; vegetarian 

Ingredients:

  • 85g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 heaped tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 40g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 40g dried goji berries
  • 30g dried banana chips

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a loaf tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the peanut butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the mashed bananas.
  3. Mix in the flour and baking powder until well combined and smooth. Stir in the walnuts and goji berries.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the lined baking tin. Decorate with banana chips, whole walnuts and more goji berries. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until golden brown, and a skewer comes out clean when put in the middle.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and serving. Store in an air tight container.

Tahini and honey cookies

Tahini and honey cookies makes 10

tahini and honey are a killer combination. Tahini, which is made from sesame seeds and oil, is very much the Middle Eastern equivalent to peanut butter. 

Ingredients:

  • 70g light brown sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 40g tahini
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 180g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp of sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C. Cream together the brown sugar and butter, until light and fluffy. Add the tahini, cinnamon and honey, and mix well.
  2. Add the flour and knead until a smooth dough is formed. Break the dough into 10 equal balls, and shape into discs. Coat them in sesame seeds on both sides.
  3. Place on a baking paper on a tray, 5cm apart. Bake for 16 minutes. Eat once cooled!