Life

Eating Out: I'm not saying say no, I'm just saying that saying no is certainly an option

Eat Street on the Lisburn Road in Belfast is a wholly vegan restaurant. Picture by Mal McCann
Seamus Maloney

Eat Street

231 Lisburn Road

Belfast

BT9 7EN

028 9058 2068

THIS is a negative review. Not that sort of negative review, at least not in the main, but negative because it’s on the whole more concerned with what things are not, rather than what they are.

It’s a review of a vegan restaurant, so negativity is kind of unavoidable – but not that sort of negativity.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out one thing this review is definitely not: it’s not a meditation of the rights and wrongs of producing or eating meat. Neither is it concerned with its nutritional value or otherwise – or of its plant-based alternatives.

Those subjects can, will and should be written and argued about somewhere else – you won’t need to go looking far to find it – just not here.

For a start, getting into all of that wouldn’t leave room to actually, you know, review this restaurant. But it’s hardly going out on a limb to say that it would do everyone on the planet – and the planet itself – a fair bit of good if everyone who could afford it ate a bit less meat on a regular basis.

And if people are going to do that – or maybe not eat meat or anything that comes from animals at all – the more options the better.

Even if people aren’t going to do that, the more options the better. The existence of a vegan version of something doesn’t make its non-vegan equivalent disappear. But it does annoy Piers Morgan, so fair play for that.

Eat Street on the Lisburn Road in Belfast is wholly vegan. “No animal ingredient is used within any of the dishes”, it says on the menu, most of which is concerned with what things are not rather than what they are.

There’s duck and bacon and chicken and beef that are not duck and bacon and chicken and beef. In some cases the absence of meat is denoted by punctuation’s indicator of something missing: the apostrophe. So, there’s bac’n and chick’n. There’s cheeze. With a ‘z’. Like Liza. But made out of coconuts.

It’s busy on a Saturday lunchtime and there are numerous sorrys for the wait, which isn’t much of a wait at all. As well as unnecessarily apologetic, the service is warm and knowledgeable, which is necessary to explain, to me anyway, just what seitan is and how the beef, chicken and duck can all be made out of it.

Wheat gluten, apparently, that’s gone through some jiggery pokery and – boom! – you’ve got Buffalo chicken, or orange glazed duck or shredded crispy beef.

Much of the menu leans of these sort of substitutes, but there are also dishes that simply don’t happen to contain anything from anything with a face. One of them, chestnut and pumpkin sausages with champ, caramelised spiced red cabbage and red wine gravy, is made to stand up to the winter bite in the air outside.

The sausages have a deep, earthy, slightly peppery flavour, and the texture of black pudding, though literally and metaphorically bloodless. The mash tastes impossibly buttery given there’s no actual butter in it, and the gravy is rich and autumnal, the cabbage providing enough of a counterpoint to lift everything.

It’s a big portion. Two sausages probably would have done and it was approaching something like hard work towards the end, though generosity is hardly a crime.

The crunchy leaves, powerful Caesar dressing, crisp croutons and surprisingly convincing ‘parmesan’ of the Buffalo chick’n salad is all bang on and the seitan (chick'n edition) is fine, but the sauce is missing that expected mouth-puckering vinegar hit.

The bac’n sprinkled through brought as little to the salad as it did the mac and cheeze – an excellent doppelganger for one with an ‘s’ – and of all the meat substitutes this was the one that should have stayed on the bench.

They do desserts but today afters were a couple of the impressive-looking tray bakes at the counter. A whopping raspberry ruffle square was good but overwhelmed with almond, which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but it’s not really one of those flavours you can stick in unannounced and not expect some dissenters.

The carrot cake, on the other hand, was fantastic. Light but warmly spiced under a sweet pistachio icing, it was the best thing they did.

For vegans and vegetarians, Eat Street offers something they need – no matter how well catered for they are in omnivore restaurants. For everyone else, it offers an option. And the more options the better.

THE BILL

Buffalo chick'n £7.95

Chestnut and pumpkin sausages £9.95

Mac 'n' cheeze £3.95

Raspberry ruffle £2.50

Carrot cake £2.50

Raspberry lemonade £1.95

Elderflower £1.95

Total £30.75

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