Monday, 13 April 2009

S1E5: Castling and the romantic South West.

Thank goodness for the gluttony and calorie storage of Brighton, for the following day we went castling at Leeds and Hever castle, where decent vegan lunch options are fairly non existant. Jen and Cath were a bit amazed, after watching me eat so much in recent days, to see a prime display of vegan conservation mode. You know the one, sometimes it is like we just have this super secret mode we can switch on in times of need that allows us to cruise on through a day on nothing but (in this case) a left over nutmeat sausage and some pita bread for breakfast and a vegan Wagon Wheel and some dried apricots for lunch! The castles were beautiful though. We got lost in the maze at Leeds for quite a while. If you want to know the secret, go and spend an hour wandering around being lost and then beg the answer from the staff member standing on top of the hill in the middle - hee.

Anyway, that night we said goodbye to Cath and headed off the second YHA at Holmbury St Mary. A disturbingly school campish like place about 20 minutes out of Dorking. We had stopped off at Somerfield on the way (crappy supermarket in the heirarchy) and picked up some of the ready meals the British seem so fond of to heat up when we got there.

The only vegan thing in the place was the Bombay Potato, which was OK as far as these things go. We also got some salad leaves, because greens are not regularly included in the meals we were having and, being a level 10 vegan and all, I was at serious risk of getting scurvy and dying after being without greens for three days. You know how it is. ;) The YHA was pretty grotty. But it had a super cute guy at reception. But the hot water was broken in the morning, and freezing cold showers make Susan a cranky girl!

The next morning we headed off to, according to the guide book, 'the romantic South West'' and went to Salisbury cathedral and Old Sarum. I think we just munched on more hummus and pita from our shopping trip the previous day. That evening we rolled into Bath and our three star YHA with not only a private room (which we had all the way though, no way was I sharing) but also a shiny ensuite. We met up with a friend of mine from vet school, the lovely Sophie, who lives in Bristol and headed out for dinner at Porter Cellar Bar, a vegetarian and vegan pub. We were super keen to try the wedges (of course) and the onion rings, but alas for some reason they had neither of these!

So to make up for it, the nice man at the bar gave us some free chips! Which were quite nice. We also got some garlic bread, which was fairly average and I don't have a photo of. Basically just bits of slightly thick bread grilled with some slightly garlicky stuff spread on it.

My main was the Sausage and Bean Cassoulet (6.25), with tomato and onion in rich red wine and herb sauce, served with mashed potato and seasonal vegetable. Which was quite nice. Didn't have that depth of flavour that one craves in a cassoulet and could have been a bit hotter, but pretty good pub food!

The following day we went all mythical, and started our day heading for Glastonbury. After trekking up to the top of the Tor (feel the burn, do it anyway) and exploring the Abbey and the Chalice Well and Gardens, we stopped in for lunch and Rainbow's End. I really wanted the sweet potato flan with potato and salad, but they had just sold the last piece. Woe.

So instead I had the red bean and capsicum stew with rice, pitta and spicy olives. I don't really like capsicum but it was stewed so well here I couldn't taste the icky. But unfortunately it reminded me that, aside from the reason they generally taste gross, is that they give me some indigestion. More Woe. Still, it was good while it lasted! They also had quite a few vegan sweets there. I got a (photoless) chocolate and coconut slice to take away, but it was more coffee flavoured and not as good as I had hoped. Should have gotten the date flapjack instead!

Following Glastonbury, we went stone circling at Stonehenge and Avesbury. Randomly, Avesbury has The Circle, a vegetarian National Trust restaurant that specialises in vegan and gluten free, according to the blurb. We weren't in the market for any more food at that time but I stopped by to see if I could at least see a menu, but it was closed and seems to have a changing menu, so I can't report on what it might offer.

Back to Bath, where we walked around and admired the Abbey, The Circus and Royal Crescent in the setting sun, before heading off to our dinner at Demuths, a bit of a fancy pants vegetarian and vegan restaurant. There we were met by... the same guy from the pub the day before. He obviously works the vegan beat in Bath!

We of course had some wedges for our starter, which were perfectly tasty but more like halved baby roasted potatoes than true wedges. Still, they filled out potato needs.

We also shared some greens with garlic sauce, which were delightful and really helped with that scurvy issue I was having.

For the main I felt like something a bit lighter as I was still suffering a little bit from the capsicums, so I had the middle eastern platter (£13.95) -
sweet potato, pumpkin & bean stew with kasha (buckwheat with roasted herby vegetables and pinenuts) beetroot roasted with sesame thyme and sumac, sweet tamari seed crackle, chargrilled potato and rosemary flatbread, tahini yoghurt dip, spicy harissa and pickled cucumber.
YUM! I was torn between this and the sri lankan curry (check the website), but the waitress told me to go the middle eastern. It was a delightful combination of a whole lot of flavours. Overall just right!

And, of course, dessert! Sticky toffee pudding (£6.95) - gooey sticky toffee pudding, caramel sauce and warm apple pear and quince compote, with vanilla soy icecream. Another YUM! Though needed more toffee sauce (a need that will be met later - stay tuned for York!).

The next day we said goodbye to Bath YHA (sadly also without hot water on our last morning. HMPH!) and headed off into the picturesque Cotswolds, then up to Warwick Castle. I had a munch on another hummus and salad sandwich (this time with coriander hummus and sundried tomato bread) and we fought through the minions of hell... oh, sorry, I meant groups of school children, and had a lovely castly time before heading off you our final stop for the day - Stratford Upon Avon for a dose of Shakespeare. And the beginning of our obsession with Tudor houses - yay! Also a visit to a health food shop to buy a block of Cheese for the journey.

At Stratford we went to pretty much the only non-vegan restaurant in the trip, The Vintner. It was mentioned in Lonely Planet as having inventive vegetarian options, so I hoped they might be able to invent me some vegan option. The person at front of house said 'no problem', the chef went 'eeeep'. I made it easy for them in the end, nice person that I am. But really, what can you do? They did try, which I appreciate. And the waitress was interested in hearing about my reasons and experience with veganism. Always good to get to do a bit of vegan edumacation!

So here it is. It is the mushroom burger. Minus the actual burger bun, which might have had eggs in it. Instead, they gave me free chips to make up for the carbs I craved. So my big mushroom had some grilled capsicum and caramelised onions on it. And they also gave me quite a big salad on the side - bigger than Jen got with her (meaty - ewww) burger. So they did their best to look after me. Hurrah!

So there is a whirlwind tour through three days worth of trip. That night we checked in to our only non-hostel, an in on the motorway. HEAVEN! You never know how wonderful a bathmat is until you have to go to stinky hostels and not have one. Plus a heated towel rack. Plus no bunk beds. I let Jen have the double bed seeing as I had made her have all the top bunks on the trip, a small price to pay for making me hostel it, methinks. ;)

Tomorrow - to the Peak District and Chester, and a meeting with the Lovely Vegan Sue!


  1. My eyes must be deceiving me because I swear you said vegan wagon wheel?????? Where? How? when?....

    I didn't know england had so many vegan restaurants, you're lucky you didn't visit my neck of the woods - there are NONE! I've never seen a vegan friendly desert in a restaurant round here, aside from sorbet! boo. But then it is mostly chain restaurants in my town.

  2. Your meal @ Demuths looks lovely, so many flavours! And vegan sticky toffee pud, yes please!

  3. I'm sooooo happy you made it to Glastonbury! It's such an amazing place.