Friday, 26 October 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #14: Common Bar

Location: Northern Quarter

Address: 39-41 Edge Street, Manchester, M4 1HW
Category: Diner style bar
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10am-late. Food served until 9pm
Veganness: Serves meat.
Price range for meal: £8-£15
Wait for food: ~15-20 minutes


The Northern Quarter is what you might call the epicentre of vegan eateries in Manchester. There's pretty much vegan options on almost every street. Probably my favourite street though has to be Edge Street, where Manchester's most famous vegan eatery exists, V Rev. But you'll have to wait for the review for V Rev, this is about the blue bar across the road from V Rev called Common.

Common is a vibrant and trendy bar who have in the last year or two started offering lots of vegan options on their menu. Whenever I ask people in the Manchester vegan community for recommendations for a vegan breakfast, someone always recommends Common. It is a really good vegan breakfast. There are several vegan options for breakfast - a full fry up, a vegan hash and what they called "frijoles on toast". You can also choose your own from a list of ingredients. Here's what the vegan fry up looks like:

On all the menus you will find the vegan options labelled with (vv) which makes it easy to find. They do also serve meat. On their main menu they have plenty of vegan options. On the small plates the 2 vegan options are Korean Tofu and Padron Pep-Peps (grilled peppers). The only sandwich they do which is vegan is falafel wrap. They have 2 vegan burgers, an amazing katsu tofu burger and a more traditional vegan burger. As part of the big plates they offer 2 vegan options, a katsu curry and bahn mi, which is what I might describe as a Korean style tofu baguette (pictured below). All the sides are also vegan which include incredible kimchi fries. They also usually have vegan options on the specials board.

In the evenings Common hosts a few events such as quiz nights, beer fests, poetry evenings, and even art shows. Most nights there is nothing on however so if you want a quiet meal in the evening you'll have no problem. It can get busy in the evening, especially at the weekend but during the day it can be quite quiet. If you want to book for a large group such as a party then it's free to reserve a large portion of the back room. The breakfasts are served from 10am until 3pm and the main menu is from 12 until 9pm. Highly recommended as a place to try, especially if you've gone to V Rev and found they're fully booked and want a good alternative.

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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #13: The Deaf Institute

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #13: The Deaf Institute

Location: Oxford Road/University area

Address: 135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester, M1 7HE
Category: Bar with diner style food.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 4pm-late Sun 3pm-late. Food served until 10pm.
Veganness: Serves meat. Sundays are fully vegan.
Price range for meal: £6-£17
Wait for food: ~15 minutes


The Deaf Institute is a music venue and bar located near Manchester Metropolitan University, just off Oxford Road, less than a 10 minute walk from Oxford Road train station. Arguably more known for their music venue situated on the first floor, the Deaf Institute serves some of the best diner style vegan food in Manchester. Around half of their menu is now vegan, and on Sunday's they host the Vegan Hangover, where their menu is fully vegan.

To start off their menu, they have a few smaller dishes. They join one of the ever growing number of places offering deep fried cauliflower meant to mock popcorn chicken. These things are highly addictive. You've been warned. You can also get mac n cheese, loaded nachos, avocado hummus and falafel as one of their smaller dishes.

Next they offer a selection of flatbreads and wraps, all of which are vegan. Falafel wrap, avocado flatbread and the eggplant & red pepper flatbread are all available. Their bowls of curries and salads are all also vegan. These are the options that you might want to try to be more healthy and avoid the junk food. They include cauliflower tikka masala, sweet potato thai curry,  butternut squash Moroccan tagine and a superfood salad.

They have a range of burgers and hotdogs available but during the week only 2 of them are vegan - the mac n cheese dog and the holy seitan burger. Both of these are amazing. On Sundays there is a wider range available. The Deaf Institute always has vegan specials as well which change on a regular basis so keep an eye on the specials board.

The Deaf Institute has to be one of my favourite places for vegan desserts. You can get vegan ice cream made by the wonderful vegan dessert parlour Ice Shack (see our review of Ice Shack here), a chocolate brownie bowl and sticky toffee pudding. On Sundays they have an extended selection of vegan desserts worth checking out including vegan meringue!

The Deaf Institute is fairly reasonably priced for a proper meal out, is open every afternoon and evening. Upstairs there are gigs or club nights on most days of the week. It doesn't really affect noise on the ground floor, but it can sometimes be busy in the bar leading up to the doors for gigs opening (usually around 7:30). They even have a few seats outside, so if it's sunny why not enjoy your food and drink in the sun?

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Thursday, 13 September 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #12: Ice Shack

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #12: Ice Shack

Location: Withington

Address: 1c, 160-164 Wellington Road, Manchester, M20 3FU
Category: Ice cream & cake parlour
Opening hours: Mon CLOSED Tue-Sat 12pm-9pm Sun 12pm-6pm
Veganness: 100% vegan
Price range for meal: £1.7-£7 for ice cream and cake and milkshake
Wait for food: 2 minutes


Ice Shack is Manchester's dedicated vegan ice cream parlour & cake shop (self titled desserts parlour), based in Withington. Opening in 2016, originally Ice Shack wasn't that vegan. They started off with a vegan range, but the majority of their cakes and ice creams were not vegan, and none of their vegan ice creams were homemade. Fast forward a year to mid-2017 and the owner of Ice Shack had turned vegan and had seen the demand in Manchester for vegan treats. Ice Shack turned vegan, the first dedicated vegan desserts parlour in the North of England.

Ice Shack is more than just somewhere to go and stuff your face with cake and ice cream. Ice Shack is a place to hang out, to play board games, to meet other vegans. Ice Shack regularly hold events such as curry nights, board games nights and even athletic events such as 5 a side football or circuit training (although not in the actual shop). Or you could just stuff yourself with cake and ice cream.

There are 3 counters at Ice Shack. The first you see as you enter has a range of vegan truffles and chocolates. The second has a huge range of vegan ice creams. The third has a selection of vegan cakes. Behind the counters you can see a menu which includes a manor of milkshakes, sundaes, a huge list of ice cream toppings & syrups and various specials.

If, as a vegan, you have ever missed going into ice cream shops and being able to get multiple flavours, Ice Shack is definitely for you. From traditional flavours to modern favourites, Ice Shack does arguably the best homemade vegan ice cream you can get in Manchester. And their milkshakes are just superb. 

You can get to Ice Shack by bus, getting on any of the busses to Didsbury along the student corridor. If you really want to avoid the bus, it's a 15 minutes walk from Burton Road tram stop or about 18 minutes walk from Mauldeth Road train station. Or if you really want to try their ice creams without travelling that distance, you can try a limited range at The Deaf Institute near MMU next to Oxford Road.

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Sunday, 9 September 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #11: Hillgate Cakery

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #11: Hillgate Cakery

Location: Stockport

Address: 22 Lower Hillgate, Stockport, SK1 1JE
Category: Bakery & coffee house
Opening hours: Tue-Wed 12pm-6pm, Thurs 12pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-6pm, Sun 12-4pm
Veganness: 100% vegan!
Price range for meal: ~£2-£4 for cake
Wait for food: 2 minutes

This is the very first time we've covered an area outside of Manchester, but long term plan for this website is to cover all areas of Greater Manchester. This time we're covering Hillgate Cakery in Stockport. And boy is it worth a visit!

Founded in 2017, Hillgate Cakery is a fully vegan cake shop in Stockport town centre. Following the recent closure of Teatime Collective, Hillgate Cakery is the only fully vegan dedicated cake shop in all of Greater Manchester. Recently I was thinking about what I would recommend as the best vegan cake available in the area, especially given that Teatime is no longer open. I came to the conclusion that Hillgate Cakery is the best vegan cake available anywhere in Greater Manchester.

I know there will be some of you who live in Manchester or a more northern suburb thinking "but it's all the way in Stockport". Stockport is less than 10 minutes on the train from Piccadilly, and then Hillgate Cakery is only a 10 minute walk from Stockport train station. Or if you have a bus pass then Hillgate Cakery is a 10 minute walk from Stockport bus station. It is more than worth the occasional visit to Stockport for.

The cakery offers a wide range of sponge cakes ranging from classics like victoria sponge to modern popular flavours like biscoff, various cupcakes, brownies and a variety of small cakes such as tiffin or millionaires shortbread, which you can see above.You can also get a range of soft drinks, coffees, teas, smoothies and milkshakes.

Hillgate also offer cakes to order. If you need a cake for a birthday party or a wedding or any occasion, Hillgate Cakery have got you covered.

The shop sits somewhere around 20 people and there is always a table available. I believe the long term plan for Hillgate Cakery is to expand and open a cafe serving hot vegan food, which is much needed in Stockport. For now though, go and visit Hillgate Cakery for the best vegan cake in all of Greater Manchester. You will not be disappointed.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #10: Tibetan Kitchen

Tibetan Kitchen

Location: Whalley Range/Firswood

Address: 254 Upper Chorlton Road, Manchester M16 0BN
Category: Tibetan takeaway & cafe
Opening hours: Wednesday - Sunday 5pm-10pm.
Veganness: Serves meat.
Price range for meal: £4-£10
Wait for food: Less than 5 minute, usually


Tibetan Kitchen in Whalley Range is a real rarity. As the name suggests, a Tibetan cafe and takeaway. I say cafe, but it's more in between a cafe and a restaurant. It's only open in the evening, and if you're sitting in, you're sitting at a small number of sort of casual cafe style seating. They also do festival catering and have a location in Hebden Bridge. But this review is about their location in Whalley Range/Firswood.

Tibetan Kitchen offers a range of different curries, several of which are vegan. If you're struggling to choose between them, you can order 'rice & 3'. A few places in Manchester offer 'rice & 3' which is a portion of rice, and 3 portions of different curries, usually for only a small amount more than a larger single portion of one curry. At Tibetan Kitchen you can get a curry for £5 or a rice & 3 for £6.50. They have a set menu of curries, but they always have specials as well so do always ask what is vegan and the staff will be happy to tell you. Arguably my favourite thing to get here though is the veg dumplings. Easily the best dumplings I have ever tried. 
Although I didn't have any, they do also sell vegan Booja-Booja ice cream.

It's always worth checking their opening hours before going. On the website they advertise open Wednesday to Friday, but the board outside the cafe says Wednesday to Sunday. They also close occasionally to do other catering or just closed for unknown reasons. So do check they're open before making the trip down. It's a short walk from the Firswood tram stop or it's on the 86 bus route from town or Chorlton. It's also within walking distance of the vegan supermarket Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton if you wanted to visit both together.

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Thursday, 15 March 2018

MCR's Hidden Vegan Secret #9: The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut

Location: Afflecks Palace, Northern Quarter

Address2nd Floor, Afflecks Palace, Church Street, M4 1PW
Category: Caribbean
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10:30am-6pm, Saturday 10am-6pm
Veganness: 100% Vegan
Price range for meal: £2.5-£8
Wait for food: 2-5 minutes


Right in the middle of Afflecks Palace there is a vegan corner, with multiple vegan businesses right next to each other. There's The Vegi Hut vegan shop and a vegan soap/cosmetics shop (in the style of Lush). I may do reviews of those places one day, but today this review is on the newest arrival, The Beach Hut situated next door to The Vegi Hut. Replacing what was one of those breakfast cereal cafes, the Beach Hut serves vegan versions of all the caribbean classics.

For mains they offer ital curry, jerk jackfruit, soups, patties and there are also daily specials. Plantain and salads are available as sides.On my visit I had jerk jackfruit, and boy it didn't disappoint! If you like spicy caribbean food then this is a must.

They also offer a good choice of cakes and drinks, including smoothies.

You can either takeaway or they have a nice seating area. All in all, I would highly recommend trying out the Beach Hut. It's a nice short stop for those visiting the city during the day. It's even more worth visiting the Vegi Hut next door at the same time, killing 2 birds with one stone.

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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


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.


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


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.


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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