It might be hard to believe, but even just a few years ago the term Veganism was virtually unheard of on foodie and restaurant scenes, with many people unaware of what following a Vegan diet actually entailed and for Vegans themselves the struggle to find an exciting, flavourful option (or even any option at all) when eating out in restaurant was far too real. Fast forward a few years and more and more restaurants, coffee shops, cafes and even takeaways are introducing inventive vegan dishes to their menu. Like it or not, it seems the vegan lifestyle has begun an unstoppable foodie trend introducing new ingredients, recipes and flavours, meaning that choosing to follow a certain diet no longer means bread and water is your standard order.
One place totally on board with the Vegan movement is Love Thy Neighbour – a cosy little haven situated at the top end of Bold Street. From their giant graffiti muriel on the side, to the cosy, inviting pink glow that shines over the cobbles, it’s easy to see why the place has gained so much popularity in such a short space of time, also opening recently in Manchester to satisfy the cravings of those looking to eat fresh and healthy food that has been created with tasty yet interesting flavour combinations. In fact, Love Thy Neighbour believe that healthy eating can most definitely still be exciting and are so confident in the concept of following Veganism and still eating delicious food that they have dedicated a whole day to it and when I got a message asking me to go down and try the ‘Vegan Mondays’ menu, I didn’t hesitate.
The great thing about Love Thy Neighbour during the evening is that you can choose from one of their delicious cocktails (using fresh fruit, so it’s guilt free, right?!) if you’re planning on wining and dining or you can keep it casual and go for one of their smoothies or hot drinks such as the activated charcoal latte (also available as a hot chocolate) or even their Matcha and Turmeric lattes, perfect for the health-conscious diner. This time however, we played it safe with two sodas (one coconut and one watermelon) which were as refreshing as they sound.
The Love Thy Neighbour Vegan menu isn’t overly big but it’s obvious the ingredients are fresh and the dishes well thought out. They also leave the diner a choice; you can order a few dishes per person from the small plates menu (a popular concept amongst many up and coming eateries) or you can order one of their nutritious Buddha bowls for a light and wholesome meal for one. Never being able to decide on one dish, the small plates concept is perfect for me and when you’re dining with other people, it means you’re guaranteed to get a try of lots of different dishes. In the end, we went for the smoked garlic hummus with flatbread crisps, the loaded sweet potato fries, falafel skewers, chickpea pancake with smashed avocado, roasted tomato and hummus and a bagel topped with creamy garlic mushrooms and wilted spinach. The hummus came as a starter and didn’t disappoint – obviously homemade, it had a subtle garlic flavour and was accompanied by thin crunchy flatbread pieces – a match made in dipping heaven.
The mains arrived promptly and like most small plate feasts, our table was soon covered with an array of delicious looking food leaving us with a dilemma of what to tuck into first. Diving straight for the mushrooms, I was immediately surprised at how much flavour could be packed into a veggie dish that couldn’t be loaded with cheese or accompanied by meat. The mushrooms were served whole and the portion size extremely generous – an all-round winner. Next up was the chickpea pancake – I have to admit I was a little sceptical about the idea of a chickpea pancake topped with hummus having any significant flavour whatsoever – but I was wrong. The blandness I was expecting was replaced by an interesting earthy flavour complimented by the sharpness of the roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce, with the smashed avocado adding to the overall smooth texture of the dish. This was extremely (if not a little too) easy to eat and something I wouldn’t hesitate to order again.
The falafel dish was probably the largest of our choices as it wasn’t listed under the small plate section. The falafels were just as they should be, crispy on the outside, light and fluffy in the middle with that unmistakable sweet and herby taste. The falafels sat on top of a cucumber and mint buckwheat which, admittedly I did find a little tasteless on its own but the vegan chilli yoghurt that was served alongside it packed a little punch that made up for any lost flavour, without overpowering the palette. The loaded sweet potato fries were the last addition to our table and although described on the menu as coming with a smoked tomato sauce and a jalapeño salsa I was a little disappointed to find this wasn’t on ours and as a result I would use the description ‘loaded’ loosely. They did however, come topped with pickles and covered in a rich and nutty Tahini, so I wasn’t complaining!
The portion sizes of the dishes themselves and the great quality of the ingredients used certainly made them extremely great value for money, but we did still have room to squeeze a little dessert (or two) in. Sticking to the vegan theme, we ordered the amazing sounding pecan pie. After looking at the menu online prior to my visit, I knew that the Nutella pancakes with chocolate ice cream were going to be a huge testament to my vegan willpower, and in the end, I caved and ordered them. However, much to my surprise, although the pancakes were everything I had hoped for (sweet, fluffy, loadssss of Nutella), it was the Pecan pie that really stole the show – buttery (dairy free of course) pastry with a smooth, nutty filling. Although I have a fairly open-mind when it comes to having a meat and dairy free diet – Love Thy Neighbour proved to us, on a cold and rainy Monday evening, that these ingredients are not essential to flavour and we left with full bellies and the bonus satisfaction of knowing that no animals were harmed in the process. 10/10 would recommend.