Friday, 19 January 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #8: Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen



Location: Withington

Address: 536 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester, M20 4BY
Category: Chinese restaurant
Opening hours: Wednesday - Monday 5pm-10:30pm
Veganness: 100% Vegetarian, about 80% vegan.
Price range for meal: £10-£20
Wait for food: About 20 minutes

Websitehttp://www.lotusvegetariankitchen.com/

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, based in Withington is Manchester's only (as far as I'm aware, correct me if I'm wrong) fully vegetarian Chinese restaurant. Most of the options are also vegan, and they are about the best mock meat dishes you may find at any restaurant in Manchester. There is a whopping more than 90 vegan options on the menu here!




Their menu is one of the most varied for vegan options. For starters you can have one 10 different soups, or 13 starters for yourself. However, what I like to do is have a starter to share. The crispy combination is my favourite if I'm with 3 or 4 people. With the crispy combination you get Spring Roll, Skewer Veggie Chicken, Samosas, Veggie Prawn on Toast, Crispy Won Ton & Seaweed. However, if it's just 2 or 3 of us we might get the crispy duck or the crispy lamb. Here's what the crispy duck looks like:



There's then more vegan main course options than you could ever imagine. If you're not a fan of mock meats, there are 14 vegetable and tofu dishes. I am a big fan of mock meats, so unfortunately I haven't tried many of them. Then there's the sizzling dishes. You can get several sizzling beef or sizzling chicken steak dishes, where they bring the mock meat out on a metal plate and pour on whatever sauce you choose, and the whole restaurant can hear your dish sizzling, with steak rising high.



There's then too many mock meat dishes to count, with all sorts of traditional Chinese restaurant dishes with mock duck, chicken, king prawn, beef, fish, seafood and even eel. That's not even to mention the rice dishes, noodle dishes and soup noodles.



There are a small number of dessert options, and to be fair this is not their strongest point. They have vegan ice cream, banana fitter and pineapple fritter. They also always give you some slices of fruit at the end of your meal as a palate cleanser, which is nice. Occasionally you will even see melons carved into roses or other shapes.



I couldn't recommend Lotus enough. It's easily in my top 3 favourite places to eat in Manchester without a doubt. I have taken meat-eating family members here before and they've told me it's the best Chinese they've had in a long time. It's location is a bit tricky if you don't live in south Manchester, but there's plenty of public transport links. It's close to Mauldeth Road train station and you can get regular busses there as it's on the student corridor of Wilmslow Road, so frequent bus services stop here. It's really good value for money. You can also order take away which prices are 10% cheaper, but for collection only. Well worth visiting Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen!

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #7: The Pasta Factory

The Pasta Factory




Location: Shudehill, City Centre

Address:77 Shudehill, Manchester, M4 4AN
Category: Italian style pasta restaurant
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm, Friday-Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm
Veganness: Serves meat and dairy.
Price range for meal: £11-£30
Wait for food: Once seated, ~15-20 minutes. If you haven't booked a table, you may have a wait for a table to become available, especially at weekends.

Website: http://www.pastafactory.co.uk/

The Pasta Factory situated next to Shudehill bus station is an Italian style restaurant that only does pasta dishes for it's main courses. All of which is homemade and is of the highest quality I've been able to find in all of Manchester. There are lots of vegan options, including for dessert.

The menu (which I forgot to take photos of) labels vegan items by having them in green font, rather than a red font, with a V sign which they use for all of their vegetarian options. So it's really clear what's vegan on the menu. For starters there is a range of antipasti, more than half of which are vegan. For mains there are 4 vegan pasta options, plus whatever they have on the specials board. What I like a lot about The Pasta Factory is their parmesan. If non-vegans want their non-vegan parmesan, the waiter gives them a small serving from the cheese grater, but if you request the vegan parmesan they give you a jar full of the stuff and a spoon and leave it with you. You can see it in the photo above, but a closer look in this photo:



For dessert there's a chocolate ravioli, sorbet or whatever is on the specials. For this visit I had a vegan pastry selection from the specials, and although it was really good, it didn't seem to be very pastry. I was still very impressed.



The Pasta Factory is definitely for even meals out. If you're visiting at the weekend or with large numbers of people, I would highly recommend booking a table in advance as it is only small and can be busy. It's not the cheapest of places, but it's very high quality with all the pasta and sauces made fresh on site. It's the perfect venue for a birthday meal, or that special date.

One last thing! Their vegan parmesan and cheese can be bought to take home. If you just want to buy some excellent vegan parmesan without sitting down for a meal, just pop in and buy one off the counter. All their cheeses are nut based and not soya based, so it's real artisan vegan cheese. You won't find vegan cheese like this in many shops. Well worth trying out.





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Thursday, 4 January 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #6: HOME

HOME



Location: First Street Estate, Oxford Road/Deansgate area
Address2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, M15 4FN
Category: Cinema and art gallery with restuarant and bars.
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 10am-11pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-12pm, Sunday 11am-10:30pm
Veganness: Serves meat but labels vegan items.
Price range for meal: £10-£20.
Wait for food: Around 20 minutes.

Websitehttps://homemcr.org/

HOME (yes, it is all stylised in capital letters) is primarily a cinema and art space. They show all sorts of films across world cinema. Some of the big blockbuster hits, and a lot of small independent films that aren't shown in many theatres. They hold many film festivals as well as some theatre shows and art exhibitions. These are all well worth checking out and are the main reasons I visit HOME. However, we're here to review their food which is also excellent! Before we go any further I must apologise for the photos in this review, the lighting wasn't that good so some photos come out really dark.


This year they have added new options to their menu. They previously had only offered vegan pizza, but now have several options to choose from. They still however do serve meat so don't expect a vegetarian kitchen. I usually get a pizza but this time I thought I would try new things on the menu. For starters I had cauliflower buffalo wings with vegan mayo & chive dip. These are really good. If you have not tried fried cauliflower, you need this in your life.



For a main I had the portobello mushroom and bhali burger which was also really good. Other new items include an Asian buddha bowl rice dish, vegan cheese toastie and soup. None of which I have tried but they all look really good. they do 2 different vegan pizzas, roast vegetable and artichoke & wild mushroom. Vegan cheese is however an extra £1. It's a good pizza though and does rank reasonably high out of the pizzas in Manchester. It is a step up from the pizza at Pizza Express or Zizzi in my opinion.



Overall I would recommend HOME as your cinema of choice and it's well worth having food while you're there if you want to make a full evening of your visit. HOME is located roughly between Oxford Road and Deansgate in the new First Street Estate which has a lot of restaurants and bars. It's a short walk from either Oxford Road and Deansgate train stations as well as Deansgate Castlefield tram stop. There are regular busses to City Centre, Trafford and South Manchester, but it's only about a 20 minute or so walk from Piccadilly Gardens. I would say however, unless you spend time drinking or dining in the Deansgate or Oxford Road areas it's not likely that you would find yourself naturally near to HOME it's probably best to plan your visit here in advance, or at least give yourself enough time to travel there. If you're going to eat before seeing a film I would suggest getting there a good 30 or 40 minutes before the film starts to eat.



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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Support Manchester's Hidden Vegan Secrets on Patreon!

Manchester's Hidden Vegan Secrets was launched in August 2017 and currently has a readership of over 2,000 per week. I have had a lot of people get in touch to thank me for introducing them to new vegan eateries and for making it easier for them to find decent vegan food. I really do appreciate all the support and encouragement I have so far received. It makes me believe this is a useful tool for pushing veganism in Manchester, one of the UK's most vegan friendly cities. I am now launching a Patreon to help push the website to achieve more and to reach far more people.

Please check out the Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/mcrvegansecrets


What is Patreon and why am I using it?
Patreon is a platform where content creators of all kinds can raise funds to support the work they do and allow them to focus on their work rather than other income to subsidise their content. Supporters can support their favourite content creators with monthly donations. Content creators can in return offer rewards as a massive thank you to their Patrons.
I am asking for support to help make Manchester's Hidden Vegan Secrets the best it can be. There are costs associated with running the website and so far I have invested some of my own money to cover these costs. It costs to host the website. I am in the process of hiring a graphic designer to make simple improvements to the site. It does cost to visit and eat at the restaurants, cafes, takeaways and shops to review for the site. It takes a few hours to write the review and edit photos for every post. I do this all on top of working 44 hours a week in my day job.
In the future I would love to expand what the website can achieve. I want to hire a graphic designer to do a full re-design of the website to make it better and more accessible. I want to create simple merchandise such as stickers and badges, some of which would be given away for free to help promote the website. A long term goal would also to write and publish a book or zine, being the ultimate guide to vegan friendly places in Manchester. I would not be able to achieve all of this without your support.

What rewards do Patrons receive?
As a massive massive thank you for supporting the website, Patrons will receive a number of rewards. All Patrons will get to vote on upcoming reviews, choosing where I review next. For each post I take a lot of photos and only a small amount of them make it onto the post so Patrons will get access to the extra photos and other behind the scenes material. I will do monthly question and answer sessions with my Patrons. Once merchandise becomes available, Patrons contributing above a certain amount will receive some free merchandise. And if any supporter wants to suggest other perks they would like to see here I am open to suggestions.

What if I am unable to support you on Patreon?
If you are unable to support the website here on Patreon, do not worry. The website and it's content will always be available for free for everyone. I massively appreciate every single time someone shares posts on social media or follows one of our social media accounts. Those things really help the website to grow.

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MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #5: The Wonder Inn (closing 31st October)

The Wonder Inn



Location: Shudehill/City Centre
Address29 Shudehill, Manchester, M4 2AF
Category: Vegan pub and venue
Opening hoursMonday-Thursday 5pm-12:30am, Friday-Sunday 10am-12:30am
Veganness: 100% vegan!
Value for money: 4/10
Wait for food: Generally 15-20 minutes.

Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/Thewonderinn/

The Wonder Inn is closing one week today. I should have written a review of this place weeks ago and feel bad that I don't. You all have one week to visit The Wonder Inn before it closes. It's location is about a 5 minute walk from Victoria train station and a 1 or 2 minute walk from Shudehill tram stop and bus station.




The Wonder Inn opened up 3 years, and is a large vegan pub and venue. As you walk in the front entrance you see a reasonable sized cafe and bar. When I first went here this is all I thought there was, enough seating for perhaps 30 people. However, there is so much more to the Wonder Inn. At the back of the building there is another room with a lot more seating and the toilets. There are other rooms in the back where they hold events. Upstairs there are a number of large rooms where they hold large events. These events include music concerts, poetry nights, talks, workshops, yoga, martial arts and a lot more.




The Wonder Inn is fully vegan and has a lot of raw options. Their raw cakes are brilliant. Their hot food is really wholesome and very healthy. I have only tried their cakes, but I have heard that the hot food is good. However, the portions are small for the price, and the cakes aren't cheap either. Neither are the drinks here. Everything is of a very high standard though.




What really makes The Wonder Inn for me though is the ambiance. It feels like a pub and a cafe combined. It's somewhere I can feel comfortable hanging out all day long. There's plenty of space and you can spend hours there just having a few cups of tea if you wish. I have spent time here hanging out with friends casually for hours on end. You wouldn't be out of place drinking tea and reading a book on your own for hours either. There aren't many places in Manchester that I feel that way about. At least not without spending lots of money or drinking a lot. It feels like a safe space for hippies everywhere. 



Unfortunately the costs of running such a large venue have paid their price. The Wonder Inn can no longer keep up with the cost of rent and bills. They are closing on 31st October and are having a closing party this Sunday where the owner is performing a music set as she is a musician. It is a ticketed event but hopefully the cafe/bar will still be open for free for all. It's certainly somewhere worth visiting before it closes down.


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Sunday, 22 October 2017

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #4: Zad's

Zad's



Location: Chorlton
Address354 Barlow Moor Road, Manchester, M21 8AZ
Category: Vegan pizza and burger and junk food takeaway
Opening hours: Tuesday - Sunday 4pm-11pm
Veganness: 100% vegan!
Price range for meal: £4-£12
Wait for food: 10-20 minutes when quiet. When really busy up to 40 minutes. Phoning up in advance will save time when collecting. Delivery roughly one hour.
Websitehttps://www.zads.co.uk/




I wouldn't exactly class Zad's as a hidden secret, however this website isn't strictly about finding the most unknown places. I just want to share the best vegan places in Manchester, and that's what Zad's is. In my opinion Zad's is the best vegan junk fast food takeaway I have tried, at least in the North of England. Certainly the best in Manchester.




Zad's opened up earlier in 2017 on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton. It was set up by vegans with lots of experience working in vegan and non-vegan kitchens. They only employ vegans as well. In my view, this is why Zad's is so great. Junk food vegan chiefs running a vegan junk food takeaway. They know what vegans want and what vegans are missing in Manchester. And they know how to run a kitchen well.





On to the food. Zad's has a large range of vegan pizzas, as well as an option to create your own by choosing your own toppings. This includes a range of vegan meat alternatives including pepperoni, hot dog and smoked seitan. They have a Pig Save Pizza where for every sale 50p will be donated to one of the many Animal Save groups. Zad's also offer a wide range of vegan burgers. Their signature burger, known as the Zad Burger, contains double patty, cheese, avocado & either an onion or pineapple ring. It is heavenly for those who like their junk food. Sides include chips, cheesy chips, curly fries, vegan chicken nuggets, and loaded fries. They also have a range of vegan desserts, usually cupcakes or brownies. The desserts aren't on their menu because the desserts change regularly.






Since Zad's opened up in what many consider to be Manchester's most vegan populated neighbourhood, it has become very popular. Visit it at 7pm on a Saturday night and there will be queues of people waiting for foods. Originally Zad's intended to offer delivery, but when they opened up they didn't do delivery. This was because they wanted learn how to cope with the already large number of customers they gathered when they opened before expanding to delivery. They have since started offering delivery, but this again is limited and only done if you phone up and pay by cash when the food arrives at your home. Eventually they plan to launch the ability to order online and pay by card on their website for delivery. They are always advertising for more people with cars to become deliverers for them if anyone is interested. They currently only deliver within 3 miles of their Chorlton base.


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Thursday, 7 September 2017

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #3: Teatime Collective

Teatime Collective




Location: Hulme
AddressSt. Wilfrids Enterprise Centre, Royce Road, Hulme, M15 5BJ
Category: Vegan cafe, homemade comfort and junk foods.
Opening hours: Sunday & Monday closed. Tuesday - Saturday 11am-4pm (last orders 3:30pm)
Veganness: 100% vegan!
Value for money: 7/10
Wait for food: Generally 15-20 minutes.

Websitehttp://www.teatimecollective.co.uk/




Teatime Collective is my all time favourite vegan eatery in Manchester. It is the very inspiration for this blog because it is so undervalued in the Manchester vegan community and I wanted every vegan to know about this place. I get so excited whenever I get the opportunity to take someone to Teatime Collective for their very first time.




Teatime Collective was formed out of the punk community in Manchester about 6-7 years ago now. Initially showing off home cooked food at house parties, they started catering at punk festivals and it grew from there. For a while they catered at festivals and fairs before opening the cafe they have now in Hulme.



Teatime Collective is a fully vegan cafe in the heart of Hulme. They serve a variety of vegan comfort foods and deserts. You can get all day English breakfasts, or breakfast style pancakes. For mains they have lots of faux meaty sandwiches or large salads. They have an ice cream parlour where they serve many amazing creative flavours made by themselves. Takeaway is available. On this visit you can see I had a philly cheese seitan steak sandwich, my friend had a big breakfast and we both had a scone with strawberry cream.



As well as a daytime menu, Teatime Collective do catering. They can cater at festivals and fairs, as well supply buffets for events and they do arguably the best vegan cake in Manchester. They also supply a few shops and delis with items such as pies. You can book Teatime Collective out for group meals in the evening, where they serve you 3 course meals. If you get the chance to, try this out at Christmas where they do amazing Christmas dinners.

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Monday, 28 August 2017

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #2: The Hip Hop Chip Shop @ Kosmonaut

The Hip Hop Chip Shop @ Kosmonaut


Location: Northern Quarter
Address10 Tariff St, Manchester M1 2FF
Category: Fish & chip shop and bar
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 12pm-8pm
Veganness: Serves meat.
Value for money: 7/10
Websitehttps://www.thehiphopchipshop.com/

Kosmonaut is a bar in the Northern Quarter. We're not bothered about the bar, we're bothered about what's in the kitchen. The Hip Hop Chip Shop started life catering festivals and weddings. In March 2016 they set up their trailer in MediaCityUK, where it still lives to this day. In October 2016 they opened up at Kosmonaut.

As you expect by the name, it's a fish and chip shop. Except not as a takeaway but more like pub grub. Most of their food is not suitable for vegans so we won't talk about those options. What they are brilliant at, is battering and deep frying food. They have one amazing vegan main meal - the Vegangstarr Meal. This is soda battered vegan sauage, chips and minty mushy peas. This costs £7.50. Just look at it:



The vegan sides are also amazing. Chilli batter onion rings. Beer batter gherkins. Beer batter plantain. Chilli batter potato scallops. You can also bring your own chocolate bar and they will batter and deep fry it for you for 50p. They have lots of vegan dips including vegan mayonnaise.

Through Deliveroo and UberEats you can get deliveries, if you live close enough.
This is definitely one of my favourite vegan meals in Manchester and I highly recommend it. However, I once went in and they did not have any of the vegan sausage in so it may be worth checking with them first.


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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secrets #1: Little Aladdin

Little Aladdin


Location: Northern Quarter
Address: 72 High St, Manchester, M4 1ES
Category: General takeaway
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-9:30pm Sun 12pm-8pm
Veganness: 100% vegan.
Price range for meal: £3-£8
Wait for food: Less than 5 minutes


Little Aladdin is a takeaway that has been around for many years. Situated on High Street, opposite Dough and around the corner from the Arndale Centre, Little Aladdin transitioned to become the first 100% vegan takeaway in the city centre in 2016. It's not ashamed to be vegan either, with a large sandwich board outside the shop proclaiming that it is vegan and proud.

This gem serves a range of 15 different vegan curries, including Manchester's famous rice & 3 curries for £4.99. There is a choice of 3 different burgers - soya, spicy bean and vegetable. Also offered is a variety of falafel/tofu/bhaji/chip wraps, vegan naan breads, Indian starters, and of course onion rings. There's even vegan mayonnaise for your chips and burgers.

Little Alladin has fast become my go to place for a cheap bite to eat either on my lunch at work or if I have some time to kill in the evening in town.

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