Eating Out: Belfast's Jumon offers innovative veggie fare to hipsters, flexitarians & anyone hungry for huge flavours
Unit 6 McAuley House
Belfast BT1 5ED
028 9023 1394
LAST week, the editor of Waitrose magazine William Sitwell resigned after a controversy surrounding comments he made about vegans in an email with a freelance journalist.
The comments were inappropriate and not particularly funny, although clearly meant in jest, but it has added to the number of jokes doing the rounds about vegans not liking jokes about vegans.
Waitrose, like every other large supermarket, has been cashing in on the growing vegan and vegetarian craze. Most of us are eating less meat these days – climate change linked to aggressive farming is undeniable unless you’re Donald Trump and most people don’t want to die in a fireball, so eat less steak.
They’ve even a name for it, 'flexitarian' which is the most hipster nonsense you're likely to hear this week.
Turns out I’ve been a flexiterian most of my life without even knowing it. My youngest has been a vegetarian for as long as she knew where meat came from, so my cooking adapted to suit that.
And, in an attempt to eat as wide a range of foods as possible, I often remove the meat from my diet.
Jumon in Fountain Street is one of a growing number of vegetarian restaurants popping up around the place. It’s situated in a space that’s had a fair few re-incarnations – in fact, this may be the third time I’ve reviewed a restaurant in this particular unit.
I’m pleased to say that this one is by far the best. It’s been given a make-over, painfully trendy with staff much cooler than I’ve ever been.
I like to think I’ve a comprehensive knowledge of all types of cuisines and ingredients, but I will admit to be stumped by a few of the items on the short and interesting menu. Worry not, for the staff are enthusiastic and knowledgeable: if you don’t know, are not sure, or just want advice on popular dishes, just ask – which is exactly what we did.
The result was vegetarian Pad Thai, that popular Asian noodle dish, and a Sayur Lodeh, which was a sweet curry served with brown rice. We also ordered a KWC from the starters to share – to explain, that’s a wonton filled with kimchi and ricotta served with a sticky black ketchup.
The food arrived looking fab, loads of colour and interesting textures. The pad Thai was hot, but not inedibly so. It was served with lots of grilled vegetable and soft tofu, courgettes, carrots and scrambled egg – making this a vegetarian but not vegan dish – and it had a rich, deep tamarind reduction.
This sounds all very fancy but it’s really just a big delicious bowl of noodles.
The Sayur Lodeh was a beautiful thing to look at, served with a little Japanese teapot of sauce, but this is one sweet dish, full of fruit and chilli and grilled vegetables. The wonton were crispy and delicious with a sticky dark dip.
There is a small selection of deserts and by small I mean three. The Dark Moon was a bitter chocolate fondue with fruit and ice cream and all sorts of other lovely things. The Halo Halo was just bonkers: four glass shots of honeycomb and fruit, a chocolate soil with salted caramel, one with a jelly and fruit sauce, and a rich rice pudding. You scoop as much or as little of each onto a plate and either eat separately or together.
My advice is to share this – there is far too much for one person to tackle alone.
There’s a fairly good drinks menu with some unusual Asian beers and a few decent wines, and the service was friendly, swift and informed.
There was an issue with the tills on the day we visited, so they were taking cash payments only and provided a handwritten receipt that will delight the Irish News accounts department, but that was hardly the end of the world.
You don’t need to be either vegan or vegetarian or even flexitarian to enjoy Jumon. It's a brilliant, innovative restaurant in its own right, with huge flavours that more than make up for the absence of meat on the menu.
It’s also at the cordon of the Primark blaze. Holding on to any new business under those circumstances can't be easy, so go lend it your support – try something new and be all hipster for few hours.
Pad Thai: £11.50
Sayur Lodeh: £11.50
Dark Moon: £6.50
Halo halo: £6.50
Glass of Pinot: £6