Thursday, 20 July 2017

Vegan Fave's in Melbourne

This is the fourth and final part of my Vegan in Melbourne series. Check out parts one, two, and three by clicking the links and for more more tips on travelling, volunteering, and road tripping in Australia visit my dedicated Australia page here.

I followed the lead up to Red Sparrow Pizza's opening on Instagram and I was delighted to get to visit twice whilst I was in Melbourne. It's no secret that I'm a huge pizza fan (the fact that I don't have a pizza tattoo yet is ridiculous. Get it together Jojo!) and this place looked more than a little promising. Proper Italian style bases and multiple vegan cheese options along with a killer specials menu, what more could you want right? Well this place exceeded my expectations, the pizzas were seriously the best I've ever eaten - they had that combo of the perfect thin crust with plentiful tomato sauce and super fun toppings. We ordered from the specials board and I chose a pear and walnut pizza with aubergines and a balsamic glaze while Nick went for the Halal Snack Pack pizza.


For those of you who aren't Australian you may have never heard of a Halal Snack Pack (or HSP), I certainly hadn't. It's basically kebab style meat on chips with barbecue, chilli, and garlic sauces to top it all off. I'd have had to mess with it too much to make it a-ok for my allergies so I didn't try it but Nick gave it two thumbs up. I mean it's a pizza topped with chips, thinly sliced seitan, and a whole bunch of delicious sauces so of course he did!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Cruising from Chongquing to Yichang Vegan Style

I was about a quarter of the way through Peter Hessler's excellent book River Town when I decided that I needed to see the Yangtze River for myself. It took me about eight years to make it happen but during our travels in China Nick and I finally made it. We decided to book a three night cruise with Victoria Cruises because it seemed like the best way to see not only the Three Gorges but to really get a feel for the river. We arrived in Chongqing by sleeper train from Xi'an at around 5am and immediately made our way across the city by bus from the train station to the port. The cruise was scheduled to start boarding at 5pm so we left our luggage at the port so that we could explore the humid bustling port side city in comfort. Finding the left luggage office was a total mission filled with people insisting that they were in fact the official left luggage spot for the cruise (yeah, no.) and many detours around the construction happening literally everywhere. After about an hour of wandering in circles we found it and were more than happy to leave our bags with two official looking ladies and a cat.


After 11 years of vegan travel I've learnt not to trust people 100% when they say that providing vegan food will be no problem so our plan for the day was to eat, explore, and then find and purchase snacks for the journey. I always pack snacks for flights, day trips, and tours but I was especially focussed on my snack game this time. When the place you're going is a floating hotel with no access to shops you need to be extra prepared.

Monday, 19 June 2017

An Aussie Birthday Extravaganza

It was my 34th birthday last week and my first ever birthday in the Southern Hemisphere. I was working on my actual birthday but as I'm always up for having a birthday week I started celebrating early by planning an epic day out with Susan from Kittens Gone Lentil. Me and Nick started the day at Petrie station and travelled into Brisbane to meet Susan near her place. We even got to pop to her house to meet Dim Sim, her gorgeous black cat who I've known online for many years!


We had our sights set on eating copious amounts of dim sum / yum cha so we drove south to Gold Coast to eat at Easy House, somewhere I'd been reading about and dreaming of eating at for a while. Easy House certainly didn't disappoint, the food was freaking amazing and I've eaten dim sum in both NYC and Hong Kong so you can trust me. You can order from the menu but the lovely people working there also bring around trays of dim sum so that you can choose what you want to eat that way. So fun!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Adventures in and around Melbourne

I've written a couple of posts about eating vegan in Melbourne, check them out here and here, but what should you be doing in-between meals? There are a whole bunch of great non-food related things to do in and around Australia's second city and here are a few of my favourites.

• Go on the Official Neighbours Tour

You might not really be from the UK if you've never seen an episode of Neighbours. Many hours of my childhood, teenage years, and early twenties were spent watching the goings on at Lassiter's and Harold's, and for a while I seriously wanted Susan Kennedy to be my mum. With this deep love for the show a Neighbours tour was a must!



Unsurprisingly all but one person who'd been dragged along by a friend was British and everyone was enthusiastic about the tour. You get to visit Ramsay Street and check out the studio lot where a bunch of the other location sets are which was so fun. Many photos were taken! Our guide was both knowledgeable and hilarious and we learnt a whole lot of stuff about how the show is filmed including how they always make it look sunny in Erinsborough when the reality of Melbourne is a little different.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Vegan Adventures in Xi'an

After spending seven nights in Beijing Nick and I took the train to Pingyao, spent a couple of days exploring the ancient walled town, and then travelled onwards by train to Xi'an. I'd say that one night in Pingyao would have been enough, it's got enough to keep you occupied for a full day's worth of sightseeing but after that there's very little else to keep you amused. The area is very touristy during the day - the roads are crammed full of Chinese tour groups, but at night the roads are quieter and, in my opinion, more of a real reflection of what the town is like. Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, was on my mist visit list because it's the home of the famous Terracotta Warriors but after reading Alys from The Wild Life's posts about the amazing food in Xi'an I was almost more excited about getting some serious eating done. The city is pretty stunning, surrounded by an enormous city wall (apparently the biggest in the world) and with bell and drum towers that are beautifully lit at night it's a joy to explore. 


On our first day in the city we decided to head out to see the Terracotta Warriors which was surprisingly easy but the site is large and 20km from the city so be prepared for a long day.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Cheap Eats in Melbourne

There's no doubt about it, Australia is an expensive place to visit. It's not the most expensive country I've ever explored (I think Finland might take that crown) but it's far away from almost everywhere so getting here is going to cost you a fair chunk of change and neither accommodation nor food are cheap. Whilst Nick and I were in Melbourne we rented an Air B&B in Collingwood. Collingwood is situated right next to Fitzroy, the alternative area in Melbourne, where the majority of the cities vegan food spots are located. There are a lot of benefits to Air B&Bing but my favourite is that you have access to a kitchen. Being able to grab some crumpets, cereal, and soy milk from the local supermarket cuts down your breakfast expenditure to a few dollars a day and the Air B&B we chose was within walking distance of a Cole's and a Woolworths. Brunswick Street is like a vegan playground with multiple options on almost every menu; fully vegan spots are located just a few store fronts apart, there are many different cuisines to choose from, and the dessert options are ridiculous. You can even get a vegan friendly tattoo from a vegan artist!

Vietnamese food abounds in both Fitzroy and Collingwood but Trang Bakery and their signature Bahn Mi's stand out from the crowd.


Trang Bakery aren't 100% vegan but they have four exceptional vegan options; vegan chicken, vegan duck, vegan pork, and lemongrass marinated tofu.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Smith & Deli Melbourne

Vegans everywhere will have heard of Smith & Daughters, their cookbook is available at all good independent book retailers (Foyles and Herbivore are two of my faves), and their super instagrammable merch can be seen decorating vegan denim jackets across the globe. I'm more into quick, delicious, filling eats than fancy sit down dining so their sister spot Smith & Deli was my favoured stop during my visit to Melbourne. I'm not kidding when I say that I ate here almost every single day they were open during my 10 day visit so I was able to try a fair amount of their seriously epic menu.


Taking up two whole blackboards epic is really the only appropriate word to describe the sandwich menu here and they range from simple grilled cheeses all the way through to ridiculous seitan and cheese stuffed masterpieces. They have an impressive range of sides and snacks to choose from including pies and sausage rolls and their specials seem to change almost daily. The other rad thing about Smith & Deli is that it's also a store, whilst you're in line waiting to order you can browse fridges, freezers, and shelves full of vegan deliciousness from local vegan cheeses to imported faux fish.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Vegan in Beijing: Part III

Two of my very favourite things about Beijing were walking along The Great Wall on one of the most beautiful days of our whole trip and eating delicious vegan food at SUHU Vegetarian Tiger. Visiting The Great Wall had been on my travel wish list for quite some time and I was super excited to plan our day trip out there. We really did choose an amazing day, the sky was blue, there was no smog hanging around, and it wasn't too hot. It was basically perfect and I'll tell you more about it right after I show you the delicious eats from Suhu Vegetarian Tiger! 


Nick and I ate at Suhu quite a few times during our stay in the city and I would highly recommend it. The menu is large and varied, the front section of the menu is where the larger more expensive dishes are to be found but if you're travellers on a budget like us you'll want to flip towards the back of the menu where the staple dishes are located.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Vegan in Australia - Volunteering at Farm Animal Rescue

I still have a bunch of posts about China to finish and I'm right in the middle of putting together some great round ups of Melbourne's epic vegan scene but I was having a think yesterday morning and I really felt like writing about where I am and what I'm doing right now. I always feel weird when my blog stops being in chronological order so I did a little Twitter poll & it turns out that nobody else really cares about that - y'all just wanted to see where I'm at so here we are!

Just in case you haven't been following me on social media I'm in Australia, Queensland to be precise. Nick and I have wanted to visit Australia for ages, since the very beginning of our travels in fact, but making it affordable was a real sticking point. We also desperately wanted to get more experience volunteering with farmed animals (#lifegoals) and felt a little unsure about whether we should be travelling more right now or focussing on the future - thankfully I came up with a cunning plan to combine the two when I discovered Farm Animal Rescue in Dayboro, and here we are, exploring Australia and spending time with these beautiful animals, learning how to care for them, and getting an in depth look at how the sanctuary works. 


We arrived from Brisbane on Wednesday so I've only worked three full days so far but I'm loving it. My work day starts at dawn and ends at dusk and I really thought that I might struggle with the early starts (I set my alarm for 5:40am and am outside working by 6:15am) but it's a tiring job so I hit the hay pretty early and I'm waking up before my alarm most days. I love being more in touch with nature and dawn has always been one of my favourite times of day. I'm not usually awake for it but I have some wonderful dawn related travel memories - exploring NYC hunting for bagels, watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat, waking up with the birds and the call to prayer on my first morning in Thailand... the list goes on!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Vegan in Beijing: Part II

When Nick and I were trying to choose where to stay in Beijing we decided to pick somewhere within the second ring road close to a Line 2 Subway station. Beijing is huge and Line 2 runs in a loop around the central section of the city. There are also loads of connections to the other subway lines from line 2 so it's super convenient. It stops at Quianmen (an easy walk to Tiananmen Square), Beijing Railway Station, and Yonghegong where the Lama Temple is located. This was one of my favourite spots in the city, it was touristy of course but it was being used as a temple by local people as well and it had a lovely atmosphere.


We also visited the nearby Confucius Temple which we enjoyed but if you only have time for one then the Lama Temple would be my choice. After exploring the temples we'd planned to go to a restaurant called Fairy Su which was / is located just around the corner but when we arrived it appeared to have sustained some serious fire damage.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Vegan in Beijing: Part I

My fascination with China started way back in 2009 when I read Peter Hessler's book River Town; from there I delved into all sorts of China related non-fiction from Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang to Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker and getting myself (and, more challengingly, Nick) to China became kind of an obsession. I couldn't wait to see everywhere I'd read about with my own eyes so as soon as we needed to choose somewhere to spend a month before heading to Australia I started to campaign pretty hard for China. As you can see I won! A month seemed about right for what I knew would be a challenging country and whilst we could have hit up a few more spots our itinerary was pretty perfect for us. Over time I've learnt that I like to travel slowly - I like to have the mental energy to digest my experiences as well as making sure that I have time for the odd chilled day.

Beijing was our first stop and I'm so glad that we decided to start there. Familiarising yourself with a new country in a city with good train and bus links is a smart plan and we were also able to give our China Mobile Hong Kong sim card a whirl to test that it worked before we ended up staying in places without wifi. I can't recommend that sim card enough, we got the data only package which works out at about £2 a day but being able to use Happy Cow on the go, whip out Google translate whenever we needed it, and to use Apple Maps and their surprisingly excellent transit info made everything so much easier than it would have been otherwise. If you're travelling to China via Hong Kong you can pick up one of these sim cards at the airport but if not you'll have to order it online. You wont be able to buy it in China!


Beijing has some iconic landmarks and Tiananmen Square was one of our very first stops.
We headed there on our first evening to watch the flag lowering ceremony and then we were there again the next day to check out the area in daylight. One thing that I hadn't realised about the square (and about China in general) is the high level of security you have to go through to get in there. Whenever you go onto the subway or into a train station anywhere in China you need to scan your bags through an airport style scanner and entering Tiananmen Square is no different. Local people need to show ID cards and everyone needs to get their bags scanned. I also received a bit of a pat down by security. Obviously this level of security means that there are lines and it would seem that certain entrances to the square will be closed, when we went there were only two open entrances so lines were long and you just kinda need to go with the flow but expect there to be a queue.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Green Kitchen

I was so stoked when I first heard about Green Kitchen, totally vegan cafes aren't the easiest to come by - most of Brighton's best brekkie spots are veggie with vegan leanings - but what makes this spot stand out even more is it's location. You'll find Green Kitchen just beyond Preston Circus on Preston Road which is a first for a veggie eatery let alone a completely vegan one. 


I visited on a Saturday morning and the place was busy with an eclectic clientele and a frankily mind boggling amount of Deliveroo orders which was only annoying due to the fact that the drivers kept leaving the front door wide open ruining the cosy atmosphere and letting in the chilly March air.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Mae Deli, London

I'd been contemplating a visit to Mae Deli for a while but when a reader from Taiwan got in touch to let me know that she'd love to see a review before her trip to London I headed there as soon as me and Randi could make our schedules line up. The Mae Deli is definitely a healthy spot and I was surprised to discover that it isn't entirely vegan or even vegetarian. I was under the impression that the whole Deliciously Ella brand was plant based but they serve chicken and fish at both Mae Deli locations. That being said they are sides and everything else was vegan when I visited. I was also under the impression that Ella was all about clean eating (insert rage emoji here) but the staff said that they try to avoid that term preferring to call the food honest and healthy which are two things that I can get behind; as someone with allergies it was so nice that the staff were able to tell me exactly what was in each dish as soon as I asked - that definitely doesn't happen everywhere!


Lunch and dinner are set up canteen style and you make your plate by choosing four of the options on display. The choices are all healthy fare ranging from veg dishes like Asian Broccoli and Bok Choy to leafy green salads, and from grain filled options like the Olive and Sundried Tomato Quinoa to the Courgette and Sweet Potato Stew that comes with brown rice.

Monday, 3 April 2017

LARDER

Larder is the most recent addition to Gardner Street's impressive roster of vegan and vegan friendly eateries. They went vegan for vegnuary and due to the popularity of the dishes decided to stay that way for good. SO COOL! 


I visited on a Saturday afternoon and they were steadily busy with all sorts of people, vegans and non vegans, looking to try out their plant based fare. I was waiting for a friend so I had a little time to peruse the menu before she arrived and I enjoyed a can of Cawston Press whilst I was waiting. The rhubarb is my favourite but cloudy apple comes a close second.


I'd basically decided on a toasted sandwich with avocado, beets, coriander, and red onion chutney when I realised that they had mac and cheese balls on the menu! I think I'd ignored the Mac and Peas balls assuming that I'd be allergic to the BBQ sauce (correct!) but as it comes on the side I was able to switch it for mayo.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Coffee Counter

Having lived just one street away from The Coffee Counter's location for almost ten years I've seen a huge number of businesses open and close in this spot. The difference I can see here is that The Coffee Counter is warm, inviting, and moving with the times with their vegetarian and vegan menus so hopefully they'll be a permanent addition to the area.


The vegan menu is pretty substantial and offeres vegan versions of most of the things I'd be interested in eating on the meaty menu.


You get to choose your bread and I went with sourdough because it's the best bread. I also obviously ordered a reuben because it's the best sandwich.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Vegan in Brick Lane

I was meant to spend yesterday eating my way around Brick Lane with my buddy Jenny but an unfortunately timed sinusitis flare up combined with some suspiciously flu like symptoms meant that I decided to spend the day at home with a nasal spray and some sub par painkillers rather than risk flying to China whilst sick! Brick Lane is definitely one of my favourite places to hang out at the weekend, the vibe's pretty great, it's fun to scope out the market stalls, the vegan food options are plentiful, and there are lots of places to sit and chat.

One of my very favourite spots is new kid on the block Vida Bakery who recently opened a pop up on Cheshire Street. It seems to be going well for them so far if the amount of love I see directed their way on social media is anything to go by. The space itself is the perfect size with plenty of seating and it's seriously so cute inside.


As well as cupcakes Vida Bakery offer layer cakes, including (if you're there at the right time like I was!) freaking rainbow cake. RAINBOW CAKE! That's basically my dream cake.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Up and away!

So as you may have noticed 2017 has been a little light on the blogging front. Sure, I've been working  a lot which has meant less time for adventures, and I've been living somewhere that isn't really conducive to cooking projects or food photography, but I've also been trying to work out where on earth this life of mine is going. Back in January I told y'all I was taking a job at Lush in central London but I knew that that wasn't where I wanted to be long term. Nick and I came back from our travels with an idea in our heads, we learnt a lot of about ourselves whilst we were away and we decided that what we want to do with our lives is hang out together, spend more time in nature, work with animals, and promote a compassionate vegan lifestyle. Simple. Kinda. We had our hearts set on moving to Scotland with dreams of a farm sanctuary at the forefront of our minds but for a whole host of complicated reasons, most of which are totally beyond our control, now is just not the right time so we had a little rethink and have decided to re-pack our backpacks and head out into the world again.


With our #lifegoals in mind we've decided to spend the next year or so embracing our freedom (I have a sneaking suspicion that running our own farm sanctuary will put an end to travel for quite some time) and getting experience working with farmed animals. This seems like the perfect combo and I am pretty freaking excited to tell you all that we're heading to Australia!!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Happy Maki Vegan Sushi

I'm always happy to return to Brighton but never more so than when a new vegan place opens its doors to the public. 100% vegan sushi spot Happy Maki has been on my radar for a while now and I finally made it to their new brick & mortar spot last week. Based in Pool Valley within a stones throw of the pier and practically next door to Boho Gelato they've picked a great spot to open a vegan business. Concept wise the peeps behind Happy Maki want to show people what sustainable sushi can look like - totally fish free, zero cruelty, leave the oceans alone please and thank you.


The menu is small but varied, there's something for everyone here, from the mock meat fan to your vegetable loving pal. Nick and I ordered the Fully Loaded roll and the Thai Sweet Potato roll to share and grabbed a side of inari tofu too because nobody should see inari pockets on a menu and take a pass.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Oh Hey 2017!

Hi friends! I thought it was about time for a little life update. I'm still working at Lush - they offered me a permanent position after my temporary contract ended and I had to say yes. I have no idea how long we're going to be in this part of the world for but earning some money and seeing one of my favourite ethical brands from the other side seems like a good thing to do with my time. Unfortunately the major downsides are the commute into London - I spend around 3 hours a day getting to and from work - and, it turns out that I'm super allergic to Lush! This doesn't surprise me, I'm allergic to everything from dust to chilli and from cats to pineapple but finding the right meds that work and don't make me drowsy has taken a while and a lot of my days off have been spent in bed dealing with hideous sinus pain. Stupid body! The major bonus, and I mean major, is that my work is only a ten minute walk from Yorica!


This Soho vegan ice cream spot just gets better and better, I can confirm that the crepes are blooming excellent and I will be going back for more soon.