At the weekend, I went to visit my lovely friend Jodi in Bournemouth for her birthday (she is well old, innit). So I decided to follow my own advice before I left and did a little research as to where I would be able to consume animal-free food, without the world falling apart.
And let me tell you, I’ve found the perfect little goldmine. I want to move in. I refer to the Circo Lounge, in Poole Road, Westbourne. Bohemian? Check. Funky décor? Deffo. Friendly, helpful staff? In abundance. Well-thought-out vegan menu? Absolutely. And, for the cherry on the top, a gluten-free menu as well. (OK, so there isn’t a combined gluten-free vegan menu, but that’s probably being a tad lazy, I guess.)
Relax. Confirmed carnivores have plenty to feast on too – there’s something served up for anyone who eats food. But before I get on to the menu itself, the thing I really love about this joint is its flea-market vibe, largely brought about by the kitsch lampshades, mis-matched furniture and the fact that all they’ve done to treat the walls is strip back the layers until they’ve found a section of wallpaper which was probably pasted on during the Second World War.
I can’t tell you how refreshing and relaxing it is to go somewhere without having to explain – and, in some cases, justify – my dietary foibles. I was so enamoured with the place that we went there on Saturday for lunch with Jodi’s three children, and then again on Monday to celebrate the day on which Jodi become a whole digit older than me (only for two months, but each year I make sure I get plenty of mileage out of that fact).
On Saturday, the children had fish finger sandwiches, burgers (good quality ones – no garbage for my godchildren!) and pasta, while Jodi and I tucked in to vegan tapas, including babaganoush (aubergine puree); butterbean pate; sweet potato and squash roasted in basil (I will be recreating that at home); patatas bravas; home-made hummus and falafel. On Monday, I had a sweet potato, squash and lentil curry, while Jodi had carrot and honey soup.
Who said catering for vegans was a ballache? These guys make it look like child’s play.
So, whether you want to feast on meat or veg, if you happen to find yourself in Bournemouth, head out to well-heeled Westbourne and make a beeline for Circo Lounge. http://www.thelounges.co.uk/circo-lounge/
And while I’m on the subject of restaurants, I also want to mention my recent trip to Birmingham, where I discovered the Warehouse Café, in Allison Street, tucked away in Digbeth (a five-minute walk from the Bullring). It’s housed, quite aptly, in the same building as Friends of the Earth, serves both vegan and vegetarian food and is a meat-free zone. And I also happened to overhear a phone enquiry for an evening booking, in which someone asked if they catered for raw vegans? The waiter didn’t even break a sweat. http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/menu/
…I’ve had so much to say lately that I’ve not been telling you what I’ve been eating. Just take the hot water, lemon and cayenne pepper and raw green juice as a given each morning, with the added lunchtime bonus of the following wrapped in two nori sheets (you know, the green stuff that some sushi is wrapped in): a generous spread of hummus; a spoon of pickled red cabbage; half a shredded baby gem lettuce; 3 spring onions, and a micro-sized (but thankfully ripe for once when I needed it) avocado.
If you’re looking for alternatives to bread in your packed lunch, nori sheets (by Clearspring), are worth a go. Only downside is that they’re a tad chewy, and, even if you slice them in half widthways, they tend to come undone after the initial bite. But then again, I was in a hurry, so didn’t use my brand, spanking new sushi roll mat. I will give that a go and report back (my hopes aren’t high, as no kind of sandwich I have ever concocted stays together unless I’ve sat on it first). However, it was so delicious that I didn’t care about the mess I made over my chopping board as I tucked in. Perhaps not the sort of thing you’d want to eat in front of a prospective partner, though.