Vegan Restaurant Week 2018 – your next cultural adventure!

So you all know I’m queen of championing Independents in the region and that’s one of the reasons I love Newcastle Restaurant week; an opportunity to eat my way across the city, explore new places and support lots of independents. You may have heard of Newcastle Restaurant week – but have you heard of next week’s Vegan Restaurant Week? You may not have – but you absolutely need to fall in love with it, like I have.

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So you may be vegan and this week may be music to your ears! Or you may not be vegan and think – “eh – why would I be interested in this!?”. Well let me tell you, I’m not vegan either. But I’m a cultural adventurer – I absolutely love stepping out of my comfort zone, trying new things and I’m eternally curious. Vegan food when done well means beautiful colourful plates and lush tasting food. There are lots of vegan versions of your meaty favourites, plant based soul soothing dishes and if you’re feeling naughty, well there is even vegan junk food.

So if you have the misconception that vegan food isn’t tasty or not for you – well firstly, you’re absolutely wrong and secondly, give it a try! You’ll be pleasantly surprised – I promise, especially if you like your spice like me.

Lots of Independents are getting involved in Vegan Restaurant Week so it’s an opportunity to not only to try something new but also to visit and experience somewhere new. Last year, I had the pleasure of attending Kommunity’s Vegan supper club run by Mama Zen and it was beautiful. Each mouthful so full of flavour and all great with a gin and tonic on the side.

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Kommunity Ncl

If you’re after a recommendation from me – I’d say get yourself to Thought Foundation who are hosting a foodie pop up night with the Calabash Tree on 12th January; you need to book in advance so nab your place and have a taste of the Caribbean. Or, go to Kommunity for Wildflower’s Pop-Up for some lush home-made food at lunch time Thurs-Sat!

So enough from me – I recently caught up with the founder of Vegan Restaurant Week – all round mega babe and Culture Vulture favourite and friend Emma Phillips.

So Emma, tell me and for those that don’t know; what is Vegan Restaurant week?

Vegan Restaurant Week is a celebration of plant-based food here in the North East. It first started in 2017 and was the first event of its kind in the world. Since we launched a state in the US ran a similar promotion, so it must have been a good idea!

What was the inspiration behind starting it?

Vegan Restaurant Week came to being because I wanted to show how easy it was to find plant based food here in the North East, despite misconceptions! I think we were never considered as very ‘forward-thinking’ when it came to cuisine, but times are changing. We have a thriving restaurant scene, especially in Newcastle, but I also wanted to show support to the local independent restaurants and cafes that have accommodated those who don’t eat animal products over the years.

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Is it the only UK Vegan restaurant week?

This is the only event of its kind in the UK, and I feel proud VRW has been able to showcase what we have to offer in the region. I would love to be able to take this to other areas in the country as it is a fantastic way of bringing the community together, especially during Veganuary.

So it’s in its second year – what was the reception like to the week last year?

The reception last year was fantastic. Any event is a concern, especially as we had no marketing budget. But the community rallied round, and many restaurants were fully booked during the week.

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Who is Vegan restaurant week for?

VRW is for everyone. I was clear from the outset that the week was not just aimed at vegans within the NE. I hoped many people would be interested to try out vegan food, even if it was on account of the special offers that many cafes and restaurants ran during the 2017 event.

I’m heading out with my vegan friend next week – we are massive foodies and love colourful plates. We both like spice and see food as a mega social treat – where do you suggest we go?

I would recommend trying out the pop up event Thought Foundation are hosting on Friday night with Calabash Tree. The menu features Jerk Butternut Squash, Curried Chana Aloo, and for dessert a Spiced Rum Almond Cake.

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I’m also taking my friend out with her little boy – she’s a massive meat eater and loves BBQ-esque food and I want to prove her vegan food can absolutely hit the spot – any suggestions?

Somewhere like Grumpy Panda or Junk It Up will be a huge hit with those who like BBQ and/or junk food. Think burgers, Southern Fried Fricken and doner kebabs. This is not what people imagine vegans eat and I love the surprise on people’s faces when they tuck in!

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Grumpy Panda

You know me, and you know I’m not a vegan. I love trying different foods and I was one of those people that through curiosity discovered that vegan food can be so yummy. What would you say to those curious about vegan food?

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what vegans eat. I am by no means a healthy vegan and couldn’t exist on salads alone. I think VRW is a great opportunity to try out something a little different, especially if you’re trying to cut down on your meat and/or dairy intake. There’s a huge array of alternatives out there, and you might actually like them.

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Common vegan misconceptions

I’m the queen of seeking out the hidden gems, somewhere I haven’t been before; what is your hidden gem suggestion?

That is a hard question to answer as we want to support everyone involved in the event! Pulp Fiction are offering an All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet which I think will appeal to those who are trying to be ‘good’ during January. I think many will be surprised to learn Darcey’s in Central Station have vegan grilled cheese and sausage sandwiches on offer, and Chaia in Gosforth have a lovely afternoon tea for just £10 too.

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Well thank you Emma – mega excited to eat my way across the region, one lush vegan dish at a time! For the full list of participating restaurants head over to the official website!

Until next time Culture Vultures!