No animals were harmed in the making of this article...
IT's National Vegetarian Week this week (14-20 May), so a perfect opportunity to put down the poultry, hide the ham and generally veto the meato, as juicy fruit and vibrant veg take centre stage. If you prefer your food without a face, you’ll go nuts for these abundant salads, flavoursome curries and sexy sandwiches... either that, or you could simply use it as an excuse to eat dessert three times a day for seven days….
Triple six, Firebird Hope (£6)
Seitan is not the work of the devil, it’s a popular meat substitute made from wheat. Pop up poultry perfectionists Firebird Hope, who are in the early days of a three month residency in Hatch on Oxford Road, have spent months perfecting the ‘Triple 6’ - a vegan friendly version of their chicken sandwiches using the wheat meat. Their home made seitan fillet has been coated with a crispy polenta crust and topped with vegan umami mayo, quick pickled veg and agave slaw to make arguable the best crispy chicken-less chicken sandwich in a sourdough bun.
Firebird Hope, Hatch, Oxford Road, M1 7ED
Cauliflower dhal, The Rivals (£6)
Anna Fysh at The Rivals in the Royal Exchange is providing some of the city centre’s more interesting food. Cauliflower dhal with cauliflower pickles, crispy shallots and a charred lemon on the side is wonderful. The dhal is glorious even while it looks drab in that inimitable way so much Indian food can. But the flavours are superb - as long as you like cauliflower - all evidence of the flair and imagination come from Fysh’s kitchen. A portion for six quid makes for a decent lunch and better than anything in those dreary Prets. It’s a great place with interesting decor next to the grandest room in the region.
The Rivals, Royal Exchange Theatre, St. Ann's Square, Manchester M2 7DH
Black sesame tofu, Shoryu Ramen (£6.50)
The waiter at Shoryu Ramen tried to warn our writer Ruth Allan off the black sesame tofu: “Its a Marmite dish, nothing like normal tofu” he told her. Glutinous and vaguely sweet - like something in the air - the tar-coloured jelly reminded her of the Thai rice pudding at Siam Smiles, or those wobbly-skinned mochi ice creams from Yo!, yet still really savoury. Topped with a steamed tenderstem broccoli spear and sweet miso paste, it's a gothic delight.
Shoryu Ramen, 1 Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, M1 1RG
Hot and cold mezze, Comptoir Libanais (£3.45-£6.25)
When you think of traditional Lebanese food, your first thoughts might be charred chicken on skewers or lamb cooked over an open flame, but this rich food culture also includes a wide variety of meat-free mezze dishes made with whole grains, pulses, herbs, spices, olive oil, toasted nuts, garlic, fresh vegetables and zingy fruit such as lemon and pomegranate. Armed with a basket of warm pitta bread, you could make an excellent vegetarian meal from starters alone; hoummus, smoky aubergine baba ghanuj, roasted red pepper muhammara, labné, stuffed vine leaves and loubiah as well as salads like tabbouleh and fattoush….phew!
Comptoir Libanais, 18-19 The Avenue, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3HF
Masala Dosa, Indian Tiffin Room (ITR) (£3.50-£4.95)
ITR specialises in authentic food inspired by the bustling streets of India, and both the owners are strict vegetarians who have been brought up without eating meat. Even though the regular menu offers a number of halal meat and poultry dishes, a plentiful array of veggie delights include typical street food snacks such as samosas, beetroot kebabs and three types of pastry puri. You’ll also find kebabs of tandoor broccoli and mushroom tikka, along with South Indian staples from steamed rice and lentil idly dumplings to giant crispy dosa pancakes filled with spicy potato masala – of which they have no less than seven types.
Indian Tiffin Room, 2 Isabella Banks Street, First Street, M15 4RL
Breakfast Hash, Pen and Pencil (£7.50)
In amongst their signature NY-inspired brunches, steaks and sarnies are some unexpected vegetarian delights on Pen and Pencil’s new menu. ‘The Breakfast Hash’ is actually completely vegan, and is served until 4pm allowing customers to take their time over this comforting bowl of wholesomeness. It’s a rich, delicious melange of much more than your five a day including pinto beans, potatoes, bell peppers, squash, courgette, mushroom, onion, chilli, paprika and garlic all cooked together in perfect harmony.
The Pen & Pencil, Fourways House, 57 Hilton Street, Manchester, M1 2EJ
Super sizzlers, Lily’s (£8.99)
Lily’s might only be a small and humble café in the shadow of IKEA in Ashton, but the food coming out of their kitchens certainly punches well above its weight. You’ll find traditional home made samosas and bhajis, along with puris and items rarely found outside India like idly, uttapam and dumplings, as well as chaats, giant paper thin dosas, curries, biryanis and naan breads all so packed with flavour - the fact that it is all entirely meat free is almost incidental. Their three different sizzling platters are something to behold. Our favourite? The 'Cheesy Chips Indo-Chinese Style', obviously.
Lily’s Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, 75-83 Oldham Road, Ashton, OL6 7FD
Bundo Chaat, Bundobust (£4.50)
Popping in for a quick Chaat takes on a whole new meaning in this basement shrine to Indian veggie snacks and sacred beer brands. A cold confection of torn samosa pastry, spuds, onion, turmeric noodles, yoghurt and tamarind chutney - if there was ever a dish that is better than the sum of its parts, it is this one, in all its sweet and sourness crunch and creaminess.
Bundobust, 61 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2AQ