Eating Out: Cow Bog is as down to earth as its name suggests – but tastier, thankfully
2 Waterloo Street
IT’S not what you think. They haven’t found the worst Tripadvisor comment and made that the name of their new restaurant. No, apparently, Cow Bog was the original name given to Waterloo Street. Still, it’s not the most appealing name you could choose.
Could have been worse though. The good burghers of olde Derry might have called it Salmonella Boulevard, or Stomach Pump Lane. Not that you’ll find any good burgers here, mind, because it’s a vegan and vegetarian café. (Yes, I know you can get veggie burgers, but the joke barely works as it is, never mind with a footnote).
Talking of jokes that barely work, the premises here at the top of Waterloo Street used to be a bicycle shop. If Cow Bog takes off, perhaps they’ll open a chain.
Actually, obvious associations aside, the name suits the café. Apart from being deeply rooted in the city, it’s original, down to earth, and honest, which isn’t a bad description of the food here. For a fuller description, you’d have to add very good indeed, tasty, and prepared with love and dedication.
Cow Bog is owned and run by Kerri and Mark, who already have quite a following in Derry for their fine work in St Jude’s café in the Yellow Yard. Trouble was, they didn’t have a kitchen there, so the menu was pretty limited. In order to expand, they had to move.
While I’m sure their departure will leave a big hole, I have to say I’m glad they did. And, judging by the number of customers coming in on this Thursday lunchtime when my brother and I visited, I’m by no means the only one.
When we were there, Cow Bog had barely been open a week. The welcome was warm and the atmosphere relaxed, but you could tell the flippers were going nineteen to the dozen beneath the surface, so taken aback were they at the instant popularity of the place.
There’s a sense of the basic – in the white walls, bare floorboards, and odds-and-ends furnishings. And there’s a sense of the off-the-cuff about the menu. You know those Mother Hubbard times, when you just chuck whatever you can find between two slices of bread? Well, there’s an element of that here, but in a very, very good way.
The cupboard’s never bare, but the menu changes daily to reflect what has come in from the local suppliers, and also because the chefs here are constantly looking for new inspirations, new things to do with what they find in the veg box. So, instead of getting a turnip and brown sauce barmcake, you get something bright and inventive, clever and homely, albeit with the slightly surprising addition of a fried egg at times.
We ordered a variety of things and then fought over them as they arrived at the table. The potato and chive cake was thick, earthy, and sweet, with a nicely crisped top into which the egg oozed invitingly. The accompanying avocado cream was smooth and subtle. Another fried egg popped up alongside the vegetarian sausage roll. I’ve never seen the two combined before, but a good fried egg is a thing of beauty, and never to be sniffed at.
The sausage roll was lovely – a soft pastry wrapped around a combination of leeks, breadcrumbs, and herbs, full of flavour and light as you like.
I liked the chilli wrap most of all. There were good, friendly chunks of well-cooked vegetables generously coated in a sauce that kicked. And talking of kicks, the sides of fermented carrots and beetroot really made you sit up.
The cakes were moist and soft, although the chocolate was not as rich as I was expecting and the rosewater washed away any evidence of pistachio. The pancakes were completely lovely, however, especially the fig and honey – sweet, light, fruity, and delicate.
Whatever you might think when you hear cow bog, it won’t be this. Earnest, committed, ethical, delicious – tick, tick, tick, and, without doubt, tick.
Vegetarian sausage roll with fried egg £5.50
Vegan GF chilli wrap £5.50
Vegan potato and chive cake with vegan avocado cream and fried egg £6.50
Vegan pancake with raw organic kefir cheese, fig, and honey £1.50
Vegan pancake with banana and vegan peanut butter £1.50
Rose water and pistachio cake £2.80
Chocolate and vanilla cake £2.80
Total (for two): £26.10