The Allotment Vegan (and gluten free) Restaurant has opened in Stockport with quite a lot of noise. I’ve never known a new restaurant get so much attention without paying for it. All of this is good and very worthy. Anyone who opens a vegan restaurant certainly gets a big pat on the back from me. I believe it’s a very brave thing to do. To then make it gluten free too, maybe one too many niches are being covered. More about this later. How does it stack up against Manchester’s favourite like Simon Rimmers Greens in Didsbury?
To begin with, the restaurant is lovely and what you would expect of any start up. No fancy decor, just green walls and gardening equipment hanging up, as if you’re in the allotment! Nice. It is a BYO restaurant, so we were greeted, the waiter was quite stunned when we told him we had a reservation for 1930, seated and given our menus and some water.
The menu reads very well, and to have so many ideas and combinations of vegan food is quite an achievement. How good it all is will be in the eating. To start with we were given some marinated raw beetroot sticks with a lime hummus.
The raw beetroot was delicious, very meaty and seasoned perfectly. The hummus is a great idea, but it was quite nasty to be honest. Very dry and lime just wasn’t doing it for me. Surely hummus being the staple of a vegans diet is one thing a chef can really excel at. There was more hummus later which was equally strange. More about this later. Onto our starters then.
Kohlrabi, chickpeas, fennel, nut cream and pear. I was so excited to get stuck into this vegan food, sadly my excitement soon turned south. The flavourings of this dish were great. Spicy and punchy, especially the chickpeas, it all ate very well with the nut cream. My problem though, is that it was all fridge cold. Very al dente chickpeas, another feature of the night, the Kohlrabi and fennel tasted of nothing as they were raw. I don’t understand why they haven’t been griddled first and left in a marinade. It would make them taste far better and eat much better to. Similar observations followed from my wife with her starter.
The pumpkin terrine, with lentils and pears. The execution of the dish was excellent. Delicious lentils and superbly made terrine. Only losing a few marks as the plates and the terrine were stone cold which doesn’t go particularly well with the warm lentils.
Aubergine Autumn Grill, this restaurant boasts it can make aubergine taste better than steak. I begged to differ before I tried it, and now can point blank deny their claim. I was so disappointed with it. It was just big chunks of soggy aubergine. No zing or zang about it at all. The dish overall is fine. A buckwheat sausage just reminded me of tightly packed sawdust. Despite these two pieces being the centre of the dish, the carrots, mushrooms, pickled onions and jus underneath were amazing. They really show how well Matthew can cook. Maybe if I didn’t have any expectations of the aubergine I would of liked it more.
This looked great and smelt great. The vegetables though were again undercooked. Nearly raw sprouts aren’t good in anyones book. I could have played a set of tennis with them they were that hard. The leeks were underdone too, tasting more of an onion than a leek. One thing I can’t eat is raw onion, it really makes my stomach turn. This was very close. The pumpkin crumble was ok. It is what it is. It was the crumble that wasn’t really, that made us realise this place is gluten free. It’s things like this, making it gluten free is where they are letting themselves down. Either make it a normal crumble or find something which is a bold crunch of a texture, like my savoury granola.
Sides of onion bhajis and kale crisps. The crisps were advertised with Himalayan sea salt. It must be extra salty that stuff, as I needed 2 glasses of water to wash then down. Far too salty. The onion bhajis were beautifully made, but with added fruit and coconut were not everyones taste. They again tasted a little underdone to me. Maybe too much shallot in the mix. The hummus they were served on, was again not very nice. It had a really sour taste with a bitter aftertaste. What is going on with the hummus?
Desserts? I thought I have to try these out of intrigue rather than need. We wished we were both left intrigued.
I couldn’t wait to see this, as I have made my own Manchester Tart Protein balls and Tart which could all be a great comparison. This was so disappointing on all levels. The pastry just tasted like uncooked normal pastry. Vegan pastry can be made, why cop out of it. I’ve made this vegan pumpkin pie.
It can be done, it was super crunchy and totally delicious. Who wouldn’t want to eat it. Vegan or not. A big slice of this and some of the lovely nut butters that he makes would be great. The buckthorn coated rice pudding donut is a great idea, and quite nice if you like deep fried rice pudding. I would rather they just concentrated on getting one thing perfect than having several things without identity.
Hmm. Again why they didn’t just make a half decent chocolate brownie is beyond me. These things really are doorstops. Very dense and just not enjoyable. The taste was mint chocolatey, the texture terrible. As for the sweet potato ice cream, I admire them for making it, but it’s not going to be everyones liking and it isn’t mine. All very disappointing.
Overall, the food I think can be excellent. There are quite a few issues, which I believe could be sorted out. They might not want to sort them as they may believe it is all excellent. Believe me it’s not. It’s ok. Some things here I wouldn’t serve at home though, let alone paying public. On top of this, at the end of our meal we were just left to fester in the corner. There was only one other table in, and no-one came over to assist with the bill. I then went and got it. Another 15minutes later, no one wanted to walk the three metres to the table so I had to get up and pay for it myself. Other tables weren’t treated this way.
The crux of any restaurant is would I want to go back. I’d love to give it another go in six months to see if anything has improved. Until I’m a vegan gluten free person though, it’s just not going to happen. Why pay standard restaurant prices for a plate of vegetables?