The Enchanted Tearoom – Vegan afternoon tea

There is always something so decadent about an afternoon tea. I always feel like a true Lady when I go to one, and it makes me feel all posh and regal: Like I am in my very own Bridgerton episode. Since going vegan though I have only been able to find one other vegan afternoon tea, and this was at Fortnum and Mason’s in London. So really a bit too posh for me! It was very lovely but it was also very expensive – but it was to celebrate me completing (and passing!) my masters degree. So I guess it was justified.

I found out about The Enchanted Tearoom while searching for a venue for my friend’s hen party. But because it all looked so good and I am impatient, I took my mum here for her birthday. For a little afternoon tea to celebrate and catch up after a year of very limited outings. They are based in Redbourn, Hertfordshire and this is the most English town ever: there were many a thatch cottage and lots of tiny winding roads. It really did look like a postcard. Now I am not a country strong type of girl: I need to be in the centre of a city and any town I live in must have a population of more than 10,000. Otherwise I feel I am stuck in the outback somewhere with no sign of civilisation. But every now and again a break to the countryside is a really nice change of pace.

I don’t think it’s possible to do a bad afternoon tea. The principle is so simple that it should be b very easy to follow, right? The Enchanted Tearoom absolutely nailed it. Now while it may not be the most extravagent of teas, it had everything you would have wanted and did a lovely and simple afternoon tea. I did have a fully vegan option, so the standard version did include clotted cream for your scones (scone as in gone – not scone as in cone) and a macaroon.

Side note: I would literally give my kidney if it meant I could have a vegan macaroon. They were my absolute favourite thing before going vegan and I have never seen vegan ones on offer. If anyone can hook a girl up, I may cry with delight! I will also owe you a life debt.

The sandwiches were your standard cucumber sandwiches, but even then they were still very yummy and refreshing. There is also something so extravagant about having a sandwich, with the crusts cut off and cut into little finger strips, that just make a sandwich feel elevated. Isn’t it odd that I would never ever make myself a cucumber sandwich at home, but put tiny versions on a china plate and I am all for it!

The scones (again – scone as in gone. A debate for the ages I’m sure) were delicious. They melted in your mouth and had that wonderful crumble to them that you want with a good scone. The jam was also lovely – a nice, smooth strawberry – and you had some vegan butter. There was no vegan cream but honestly I have never been a fan of mixing jam and cream together. The Queen may do so but I cannot live by such anarchy. You were given two and I always forget how filling scones are. Two was definitely enough – I would have loved more but then my stomach would have literally exploded.

The cakes were also very nice. The types of cake that go perfectly with a cup of tea, so it was a lovely way to end the meal. I had a walnut and raisin slice and I believe the little cupcake was carrot cake. I think their cakes change depending on what they have made, so there is a chance you get a different cake each time you go. Which is a good excuse to go back multiple times just to see what other cakes they have on offer. The walnut cake was delicious, although slightly stodgier than you would expect. The carrot cake was also lovely: The icing was very rich (but I personally am not a fan of icing anyway so I may be a little biased) but the cake itself was light and fluffy and was a lovely end to a lovely meal.

They also had a huge selection of loose leaf tea and it is bizarre how much a difference loose leaf tea makes. I stuck with a standard English breakfast tea but even that tasted lighter and fresher than it usually does from your PG Tips teabag. I would love to have been able to sit all day and go through every type of tea they had on offer, but alas time was not on my side. The decorations are that charming shabby chic aesthetic, with lots of vintage style pictures and paintings decorated throughout. The building is adorable – I believe it is an old Tudor building as you can still see all of the supporting beams across the ceilings and the walls and the ceilings are slightly lower than modern buildings.

Price wise, I believe the afternoon teas were £22.95 per person. Which while it sounds expensive, that is actually not a bad price at all for an afternoon tea. I also argue that it is 100000% worth the price as it was genuinely the cutest little meal I have had. It is a lovely place to visit and the staff were all helpful, polite, professional and just overall made the whole day really enjoyable. While afternoon tea may feel a bit ‘extra’ for a weekly event, I stand by the idea that if you enjoy something then do it. Instead of going for coffee and cake, why not go for a cream tea with your friends as a catch up?

Overall: 10/10. Would highly recommend this place to visit to everyone!

T xx

The Vegetarian Butcher: What the Cluck pieces

OK so the brand name is slightly confusing, but they actually have a very extensive range of vegan meat substitutes. We decided to try the chicken option first (instead of the duck that was also on offer at our supermarket at the time) as chicken replacements tend to be the plainest and therefore the easiest to work with with most meals.

We tried them in burritos, to see how they dealt with spice, and I am actually a big fan of these.

Texture wise, they are slightly rubbery, but not in an unpleasant manner. They are definitely a thicker meat substitute, so aren’t as flaky as chicken can be. It also lets you know that it is definitely not meat by having that slightly tough and rubbery texture, which I personally prefer; the identical switches always make me nervous that I have actually been subject to a cruel prank and tricked into eating meat.

They took up the flavour of the spices really nicely too, so you weren’t just stuck with the plain chicken. I would like to try these again but leave them in a marinade beforehand as I feel like these would really soak up that flavour. I think you could make a lot of different recipes with these so the possibilities are endless. Also, as they are quite chunky pieces, they definitely fill you up but don’t leave you having any sort of vegan soya sweats like the more stodgier replacements can do.

Overall: 9/10. One of my personal favourites now and am excited to experiment with them more!

T xxx

Snuggle Sundays

The hot weather always reminds me of my boys. Gerbils are desert animals so normally do very well in hotter weather. But one of their favourite things to do when it was super hot out, was to sit in our hands while we held them in front of an open window or a fan, and they would just be chilling in the breeze for as long as we would hold them.

So here is an old picture of our sweet Merry, enjoying just that.

T xxx

Ben and Jerry’s Vegan: Save our Swirled Now

It has been 28 degrees (Celsius) here in England for the past week, and let me tell you that us British are NOT PREPARED for such prolonged heat. It happens so rarely in England and without any warning, so naturally we all just sort of freak out a bit when it gets to anything over 25 degrees. To anyone reading this who lives in a tropical or normally very hot country who may be thinking that 25 degrees is not very hot at all, please do remember that England rains 90% of the year and when it is not raining it is either completely grey or snowing. Heat is a strange occurrence that we still have not got to grips with.

I, however, love the heat. As someone who normally runs about 5 degrees colder than everyone else around her, I love being able to wear a t-shirt and not freeze instantly. If I am being honest, 25 is the perfect temperature for me. Mainly because it means i can eat ice cream for lunch and no one says anything because they too are melting.

Ben and Jerry’s are probably the best ice cream makers in the world. I don’t even think that’s an opinion anymore. They are so universally loved that you cannot think of ice cream without thinking of Ben and Jerry’s. And while I am STILL holding my breathe for a vegan phish food to be released, their vegan options are still a really good choice if you want something a bit more exciting than simply chocolate or vanilla.

The Save our Swirled Now flavour is their social justice campaign flavour to bring to light the issues surrounding climate change. So not only are they selling you ice cream, but they are also bringing your attention to a very real issue that needs very real and urgent support. The packaging is 100% plant based recyclable, and all ingredients are fair trade. For more information on the whole campaign and to read more on climate change, see these links:

The Ben and Jerry’s official Page

WWF Climate Change Fund

Earth Day page

National Geographic info page

There are hundred of articles out there about climate change and what we can do – individually and as a society – to reduce our impact on the environment, but these are the best starting point to see the facts and figures.

As to the overall flavour of the ice cream…it’s nice. It is quite sickly – due to the coconut, the caramel and the chocolate chunks – so you can’t eat more than a few spoonfuls in one go. But it does have a very nice balance of the flavours, and it is very refreshing on these hot summer days: With some fruit and maybe a little bit of whipped cream you’d have the perfect summer treat. The chocolate chunks also add a lovely crunchy texture to the ice cream, but just be careful you don’t crack a tooth on the very large chunks. I am not a fan of vanilla, so it is actually really good to have a flavour that is a bit more exciting than vanilla without being just pure chocolate.

But honestly, when my food also comes with a side of environmental activism, I am 100% a fan! The price of most Ben and Jerry’s Ice creams seems to be about £5.50 which is actually such a rip off when the non-vegan versions are only £3. Is it worth that money? For some flavours yes, but not so much for this. But would I pay that extra £2.50 to help support global activism and outreach tasks across the globe, and all I have to do is eat some ice cream? Absolutely.

Overall: As a flavour, 5/10. As a way to make an eco-conscious purchase, 9/10.

T xxx

Vegan Butcher: Shrimp

Another new try from the Vegan Butcher counter. As mentioned in my previous post, I was super impressed by the different options the Vegan butcher counter had on offer, and I will definitely be going back there soon to try some of the other things on sale. Part of me fears I may have set my expectations a bit too high with this…

Now I don’t think I have ever had shrimp before. I have never liked the idea of sea food and in all honesty will never understand how anything that smells the way a fish does can ever taste nice. Like…who picks up a dead fish, takes a good ol’ sniff of it and then thinks ‘yes…I shall eat this’?? Bizarre.

Either way, we decided to be a bit more adventurous with our meals and therefore went for the shrimp, thinking we could make a paella with it. Now I must admit it looks just like shrimp, and when cooking it did have that fishy texture to it. I think it is actually made out of tofu, as when you bite into it, the shrimp did have that flaky tofu texture to it. But this was tofu that had clearly been wonderfully prepared, as once cooked the shrimp felt bouncy and a little bit chewy to eat. It wasn’t rubbery at all and did add a nice new texture to our meal that meant the food just sort of melted into your mouth.

Downside was that it still tasted like tofu. It didn’t have any fishy flavour to it. It did soak up a lot of the sauce that we cooked with though, so maybe the key is to marinate these the night before in some sort of vegan fish sauce to really give it that seafood flavouring. Is vegan fish sauce a thing? If any of you guys have ever cooked with vegan shrimp – or have tried to make any sort of vegan fish alternative – let me know what you used and I shall see if that adds anything to it.

Overall: 3/10. A nice texture and visually appealing….but it has no flavour on it’s own. I think a follow up attempt may be needed just to confirm.

T xxx

PHD Smart Plant Protein: Eton Mess

Now that I ma getting back into my fitness, I have decided to start drinking protein again. I used to drink it a lot when I was working out 5-6 days a week and found that I recovered a lot quicker than if I went without. I am now getting to the point where DOMs are starting to kick in more regularly (as I up my cardio distance and time, as well my weight lifting numbers) and these protein shakes have actually helped so much with the soreness.

I have always found vegan protein to be quite hit and miss. They either don’t taste of anything or they are really high in sugar in order to taste of something. They also always seem to mix terribly – no matter how hard I shake the bottle or how much water I use, they always end up with this gritty powdery texture while drinking. Over the years I simply learnt to accept that this is what vegan protein is like and made my peace with this.

My partner (who has far more years experience with the gym and protein) always raved about the non-vegan PHD range. I had a look at some of their macros and was too impressed. They also had two vegan options to try so I decided to just give it a go. Worst case, they would be like every other vegan protein I have tried. Best case, it would become my staple.

Best case worked out! This stuff is lovely! It mixes like an absolute dream too. It does take a fair bit of mixing (be prepared for sore arms if mixing by hand) but it will end up smooth and velvety – no gritty texture or powdery taste at all. It also tastes like what it says it is meant to taste like: The Eton Mess did taste like strawberries and cream and was a really nice after dinner drink to satisfy any sugar cravings I may have had.

There are also instructions on the packet to make a protein mousse. You simply mix the powder with some milk and it eventually whips up into a light mousse you can enjoy as a snack or a dessert. I didn’t try making this (as I would rather just drink my protein) but now that I know how this protein mixes, I think I may finally give it a go. Just to see really.

I have also tried the chocolate cookies flavour and personally I preferred that one over the Eton Mess. Purely because I have a proper weakness for anything chocolate flavoured. But I was very pleasantly surprised by this range and I definitely will be buying this on a regular basis.

Downside is they don’t seem to do packets bigger than 500g, which for me lasts just under 2 weeks (roughly 4-5 shakes a week). The packets costs £12, so for that price it is actually quite good value for money. But ideally, if it something you will be drinking every day, it would obviously be more beneficial to buy a bulk bag size of it all to just keep in stock. There is nothing more disappointing than having a really hard gym session to come home and realise that you only have enough left in the packet to make half a scoop. Granted it’s better than nothing but sometimes you can just tell when you are going to hurt in the morning.

Overall: 8/10. Chocolate flavour is preferred, and a bigger bag would be ideal. But definitely a top runner for protein!

T xxx

Gregg’s vegan cheese and ham baguette

My local store has finally stocked the vegan cheese and ham sandwiches! I had heard that these were coming sometime in early June but it is only now that I have actually found one.

Now strictly speaking it is not anything special at all. It is literally Quorn ham and violife cheese slices. So that is exactly what is tasted like. I think I would prefer it heated up, as the bread was quite stodgy and Violife cheese is normally a lot better when it is slightly melted. But other than that it is a good sandwich option.

It is also HUGE. I couldn’t even fit it in one picture it was that big. So for £2.50 this is easily one of the better options out there for a lunchtime sandwich.

I am more excited because it means that there is now a cheap and easily available option for me should I forget my lunch or want something a bit more filling. It is also nice to see a vegan sandwich that is plain and simple: no fancy ingredients or special sauces, just your run-of-the-mill basic sandwich. Which is also good if you are out with fussy eaters or are on a tight budget and don’t want to spend £4+ for a really posh and complicated sandwich.

Hopefully as time goes on and veganism begins to be more and more widely catered for, simpler options will start to be available. Plus it is also nice to have a break from the sausage rolls and steak bakes!

Overall: 5/10. It’s nothing special, but being cheap and easy to find what more could you want?

T xxx

Plant Based salmon

Today we have a weird one. We finally made it down to the Vegan Butcher counter at our local Asda store and I really could have bought everything. They had so many things: They had burgers, cheeses, tempeh, seitan, pizzas, ‘meat’, tuna, shrimp, calamari….honestly so many options that I literally had to pull myself away. If you find yourself near a Vegan Butcher counter, definitely check them out because they are truly special. Plus, the staff we spoke to seemed really passionate about the products and gave us some really good recipe ideas to try out, so it is worth it just to talk to some passionate foodie vegans.

We decided to try some vegan salmon slices. I think I maybe had a salmon and cream cheese bagel once in my life, but everyone talks about it pretty highly. So we gave it a go.

These are very odd.

They look like salmon, and they have that really weird fishy texture, but somehow it just tasted like a really, really, really watery carrot. I even tried a slice on it’s own – just in case the cream cheese was overpowering the flavour – and it was like eating a really thin slice of carrot that had been sat in a bowl of water for three weeks. Like I said the texture was spot on, and it obviously looks like salmon, but….it doesn’t taste of anything. It was actually really disappointing.

Now again I think I have only had salmon once and it was now at least over 10 years ago, so my memory may be a bit hazy as to what salmon actually tastes like. But…it does taste of something right? Or is salmon meant to be a super watery type of fish? If it isn’t then this is even more disappointing, but if it is, I really don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Although it has given me some inspiration to try and make vegan salmon, as apparently it’s quite an easy thing to do with carrots. I mean I say it’s easy now….I’ll let you know once I have actually tried a recipe!

Overall: 1/10. Texture good, but everything else bad.

T xxx

Bon Bag Vegan selection

It was my partners birthday in June and one of his lovely colleagues gifted him this huge bag of vegan sweets. So naturally I had to try at least SOME of them.

Now this bag was huge. It was 800g and it was filled to the brim with candies. There was also a really good selection: gummy bears, sugar gummy bears, sour rings, cola bottles, milk bottles, bubblegum bottles (lots of bottles basically) and spaceman gummies. They also had strawberries and wine gum type gummies. So definitely a really good selection of different sweets.

I think all in all in took us about a week and a bit to get through the packet, so they definitely are not something you can eat in one sitting. Well…I mean you probably COULD eat it in one sitting but I don’t think you’d feel too great afterwards. I always find that vegan sweets are a lot tougher than the non-vegan kind: The gummy is more like a wine gum than a jelly baby. If that makes sense. As such, they are pretty darn chewy so probably not the best option if you have braces/fillings.

As these were a gift, I am not sure where they were brought from so don’t know how much they actually cost. Having a quick look online, it seems you can buy this bag, for example, for about £12. Which is actually a lot cheaper than I thought it might be considering the huge size you get. If you want to buy a decent vegan gift for someone these are definitely a great option.

That being said, while these are great for a gift, you can get smaller packets of vegan sweets in most supermarkets without having to spend a lot of money. Tesco, for example, have 3 for £1 deal on their sweets, and there are about 5 or 6 accidentally vegan options to choose from. Also, a lot of products are now being made to be vegan friendly – such as wine gums – or were always vegan – like skittles. I imagine this type of packet though would be a good idea to give to someone that is either just starting their vegan journey and wants some ideas, or to someone who is still questioning veganism to show them just how many options are out there these days.

Overall: 7/10. As a gift idea it would be 10/10, but it’s probably not something you would buy for yourself on too regular a basis.

T xxx