Issho tapas style dishes

“Food for thought”

After two weeks of my body telling me to be patient and take it steady I’ve spent most of the past seven days feeling a little out of touch with reality both socially and in work, wondering if anybody has noticed that I’ve been taking longer to read emails, process data and perform simple duties, all while overthinking and being a little too scared to ask for help.

It’s been a real test of my anxiety and my mood, and as a result I’ve found throwing myself into social activities rather than my usual running or yoga activities to wind down to help me switch off from the day-to-day – mainly food…and drinks!

In a way it’s been nice to be surrounded by people, and some evenings I’ve laughed harder than I have for a while – reminiscing with work colleagues as a leaver departed for pastures new – but now I’ve had time to sit and take stock I’ve realised maybe I’ve been using food to help me switch off from my thoughts. Is this a bad thing?

Not in the sense of being lucky enough to sample some delicious things (eating out for lunch or dinner or sometimes both) pretty much every day since last weekend – it’s been aided by the fact the senior members of my team were tasked with entertaining visitors from one of our overseas offices over recent days which means the opportunities to socialise with new faces has really helped transition my mood as the week’s gone on.

There’s been a lot of comfort felt in filling my stomach with food at the times my body has been feeling at it’s emptiest – and I’ve definitely regained my appetite.

But I can’t help thinking I’ve maybe over-indulged a little too much this week. But I’ll let you be the judge!

Saturday

Isso Vegan menu

Issho vegan menu

Venue: Issho

Location: Leeds city centre

Budget: ££

After not seeing my cousin for coming up to two years, we decided there was no better time to meet than when I’d recovered from tonsillitis! The scorching temperatures, Royal Wedding and FA Cup fixture really seemed to lift everyone’s spirits and naturally a trip to a roof terrace to escape the hustle and bustle in the city below, to be nearer to the sunshine above, seemed a mega attractive option – so we did!

The terrace restaurant and bar, nestled in Leeds Victoria Gate shopping centre brings a contemporary twist to Japanese cuisine offering tapas-style small plates to share. We weren’t quite sure what their options would be for my plant based preferences having not looked at the menu prior, but we thought we would chance it.

Our waiter asked if we had any dietary requirements as soon as we were seated which put me at ease not really the kind of person to make a big song and dance about the fact I only eat plant-based. The menu was cute, but appropriate for what I fancied – complemented by the soft aroma of espresso martinis (my favourite cocktail) which seemed to engulf our table – which unfortunately didn’t offer a view.

Issho tapas style dishes

Japanese tapas-style dishes

Opting for the wakame salad, pumpkin gyozas, eggplant miso bun, vegetable tempura, a zen maki roll and of course, an espresso martini we weren’t 100% sure if we’d ordered enough – prices looked a little steep and admittedly due to our surroundings, we expected smaller plates but in fact, we ordered too much – even though I finished all of my options to the final crumb.

I’m go weak at the knees for a decent steamed bun, especially when I learn that they’re vegan! The sauce was sticky and delicious, not like a spicy mayonnaise I’d had before. I was a little disappointed in myself for not learning with each mouthful of my maki roll that I didn’t need quite as much wasabi – therefore next time I’d probably avoid even popping this on my chopsticks.

It was difficult for me to determine whether the pumpkin gyozas were fried or boiled quite honestly, but either way the taste was a well-balanced sweet and savoury, and the dumplings were full. My cousin and I ended up fighting for the final bits of the salad which had us wondering if it was possible to love a salad as a much as we did with that.

I was pleased to say that the espresso martini aromas were well founded, it was safely one of the creamiest and most well curated cocktails I have ever tasted – and it was my cousin’s first which seems to have set the standard.

At a total cost of just under £40 each, the food was well worth it bearing in mind the options, the ingredients and the surroundings and I was full until it came to a Goodfellas vegan pizza post-night out.

Monday

Venue: MOD pizza

Location: Nottingham’s market square

Budget: £

MOD piizza in Nottingham

MOD pizza

Monday was a tough day – most Monday’s are difficult for me, but this was a little more challenging – my first day back after 2 weeks off, into the unknown and a pile of uncertainty. I also forgot my lunch.

Feeling like my body needed a hug from the inside I thought pizza would solve this so I headed over to MOD pizza in Nottingham’s Market Square – they offer a great dairy-free cheese option and a variety of toppings – as many different combos and options as you can choose – it’s also quick!

I opted for the 11 inch size pizza, no special dough request and a barbecue sauce base with sundried tomatoes and rocket.

I seem to have developed a mild dislike for mushrooms since being poorly – which is odd considering how much I loved them prior so no mushroom for me, but everything else went on including olives, tomatoes, peppers, sweetcorn, pineapple (yes) and artichokes – no chillies or onions!

Taking just 10 minutes to cook, they popped it in a box for me – I paid £7.87 and opted to sit and eat in the Market Square in the sunshine. Delicious, quick and filling I ate it all but I’d definitely suggest it as more of a Friday treat than a Monday one, I couldn’t eat dinner that night!

Wednesday

So hump day presented options to eat out at lunch and dinner!

Wagamamas vegan menu Nottingham

Wagamamas vegan menu

Venue: Wagamamas

Location: The Cornerhouse

Budget: £

Wednesday was a good food day, the first day of my overseas colleagues visit too! My team members and I, with our varied dietary requirements or preferences opted for Wagamama for lunch, two of us (vegan) suggesting more so to taste the new additions to their vegan meu – the much anticipated Vegatsu curry!

A friend of mine had attempted to try this last year at the Wagamama’s taster pop up that opened in London and had expressed his disappointment when they chose not to roll it out when they released their vegan and vegetarian menus.

Whenever I visit Wagamama, admittedly I usually order the yasai yaki soba with rice noodles because I know I can never go wrong – oh, and the gyozas.

Steamed buns at Wagamamas

Vegan steamed buns at Wagamamas

Wagamamas vegatsu

The Vegatsu at Wagamamas

However, this time I opted for the vegatsu and of course, the steamed buns! Steamed buns, never, ever disappoint and admittedly I preferred these to Issho’s offering the Vegatsu however wasn’t too tasty, was a little chewy and lacking in sauce. There was far too much rice – but not being a huge rice fan, that’s probably an obvious thing to write.

I would honestly consider my own seitan recipe to be better than the one I had at Wagamama and I’ll be publishing that soon!

At just over £10 for both, I’d say they were reasonably priced, but again I’d suggest both as an evening meal rather than lunch – I flagged a little in the afternoon.

The Alchemist menu nottingham

The Alchemist menu

Venue: The Alchemist

Location: 11 King Street, Nottingham city centre

Budget: ££

Once again we opted for The Alchemist for its varied menu, having spotted some recent additions of the vegan variety in recent days. I’d previously visited The Alchemist for cocktails earlier this year, and they seem to market themselves on the science and dramatics of the cocktails design and creation – which seems to explain the high price tag which comes with it.

The food is just as highly marked up, with all mains absent of accompaniments, unless directly stipulated on the menu – and while I wasn’t absolutely starving, I ordered sweet potato fries to accompany my cauliflower steak which I was really excited to try!

Service seemed slow and sluggish, and it annoyed me slightly how nibbles and starter plates were pushed upon as an “upsell” before we’d even had time to take off our jackets and get comfortable! The dishes that were being served around me though, smelt good and looked great so I had higher hopes of the food.

Caulifower steaks in The Alchemist

Cauliflower steak and a side of sweet potato fries

After waiting a lengthy 40 minutes for it to arrive, my jaw dropped – and I’m not just talking in the figurative sense. Presented with a plate of 3 (maybe you could say 4) marinated cauliflower florets on a bed of salad I found it hard not to air my disappointment that for £11.50 (just for the main) I could’ve served up 10 very similar looking dishes. I wondered if we were paying for the surroundings – the artwork and architecture of the building the restaurant sits in is stunning – but it wasn’t enough for me to justify that price tag!

I was a little grateful I’d had a bigger lunch.

My choices came to a rather costly £20 (as I decided to wash the food down with a *very* small glass of red – and admittedly it left me with a rather sour taste.

I’d like to at least have seen some creativity put into a dish – the carnivores, omnivores and herbivores I ate with,  also felt pretty similar!

Friday

As the final day of my overseas colleagues visit, I headed out for lunch with my team, not bearing in mind the birthday meal I was heading out for later that evening with family…

Venue: Annie’s Burger Shack

Location: Broadway, Nottingham

Budget: ££

As one of the most famous eating establishments in Nottingham (if you’re from here), Annie’s doesn’t really need a formal introduction but it shocks me at hearing just how few people have still actually not eaten here.

In groups of friends or teams of people you very rarely find dietary preferences are shared which is where Annie serves as a great option offering meat, vegan and vegetarian options of all of their burgers – and there are a LOT of choices – more than 30 in fact with some very unique flavour combinations. Pair that with their real ale options and you have the literal recipe for success.

I usually opt for the same burger every time, because much like my visits to Wagamamas I have a fear of change meaning I will end up not liking my digression from the known. This time, rather than opt for The Vermonter, which involves a vegan burger patty layered with maple syrup, vegan bacon rashers and pancakes (yes pancakes!) I was feeling the taste for something a little more traditional and opted for the vegan North Carolina a vegan patty topped with slow cooked barbecue “pulled-pork” with melted cheese and crispy fried onions.

North Carolina burger at Annie's Burger Shack vegan

The lesson I learnt here was that sometimes switching things up a little can pay off, because I think I found my new go-to burger!

The “pulled pork” was definitely jackfruit which I have never tried to cook myself but actually love the taste of – the cheese was melted perfectly and the onions were really crispy.

I can never eat Annie’s burgers with my hands though – it gets too messy – and usually opt to leave the top bread bun to ensure I only have room for the food with flavour, rather than the bread – that’s my tip anyway – or else you’ll be sent over the edge.

Fear of feeling too full though never stops me from ordered a dairy-free, American-style milkshake though – I opted for chocolate!

Venue: Cafe Coco Tang

Location: Byard Lane

Budget: £

So I went from seeing my cousin for the first time in almost two weeks last Saturday to seeing her again for her birthday meal with Nottingham family yesterday! As a fan of Vietnamese food we thought Cafe Coco Tang would offer the perfect mix of good food with a party atmosphere.

I had wanted to sample their menu a little sooner on my own birthday, but having called ahead and at that time being told they didn’t cater to my preferences, I had to opt for elsewhere – turns out they do!

Nine of us sat around a circular table on the roof terrace, coincidentally, again surrounded by indoor gardens with a good view of the kitchen. The slight annoyance was having to walk down three flights of stairs to order food and drinks – there is no table service but an even bigger annoyance was having to wait for service at the bar.

Spring rolls and fried tofu bowl at Cafe Coco Tang

On a Friday night, you’d anticipate wait times, but expect there to me more than two bar staff working the bar for what is clearly a high capacity restaurant – this saw us ordering two drinks at a time to ensure we were well lubricated in advance of our meal.

However, the food. Oh. My. God! Unsure if I saved the best until last but my main of a spring roll and fried tofu bowl was the perfect mix of spice, saltiness and textures in the perfect proportions.

Although the vegan options weren’t abundant – the menu itself is small and I’d anticipate it changing seasonally so look forward to more new  plant-based additions – as you’d expect with more plant-based converters *hint hint*

Priced at just £8, with cocktails at happy hour prices I’ll be returning to Cafe Coco Tang on Fridays more often – not just for birthdays – especially as there is easy access to the basement nightclub which lives just underneath.

2 thoughts on ““Food for thought”

  1. BlissfullyGrateful says:

    We all need some food indulgence from time to time/ All the dishes look yummy and delicious *drooling* Plus, if you end up by having a great time whilst connecting with interesting and like-minded people, then that is all that really matters at the end of the day xx

    Like

    • Nadya says:

      You’re totally right! And thanks for taking the time to comment. I should beat myself up for eating nice food every now and again especially when it’s kind food. Have a great day!

      Like

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