Pickle and Rye, Mortlake – for sarnies

  

London was awash with sunshine again this weekend. It wasn’t warm – at one point I took my thick down jacket off and as soon as I walked into shadow had to put it on again.

Saturday had been a catchup brunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time – the afternoon was a walk around Soho to pick up some books and have a bite of Korean food. The evening was film night, which meant Sam got to choose what we watched on TV. He opted for the TV show full of fairy tales called once upon a time. I made a tart and we hunkered down.

Sam spends most of the weekend rowing in West London, up near Richmond. I rarely head west – trains are unreliable and there’s not as much to do as easy or North. But as I’ve never seen his club house and it looked like a gorgeous day, we linked arms and went for a walk up the river from Barnes to Richmond, past Kew Gardens and around the protruding loop of Kew, past Mortlake and towards Richmond Lock. 

In Mortlake Sam wanted to show me Pickle and Rye: he’d raved about this place for years. “You won’t be able to eat anything here,” he said, trying to drag me onwards. I shrugged. “No worries – you said these were the best sandwiches, let’s go on.”

He looked uncomfortable. He always feels bad if he knows I won’t be able to eat much, but I feel constantly guilty about how my stupid allergies have affected our eatin habits as a couple. I’ve always been vegetarian, but the added on allergy extras? He didn’t ask for that.

Pickle and Rye is yummy mummy central, full of privaliged kids asking for more buttermilk pancakes and the ilk. But our server was fabulous and happy, and she brought a ray of sunshine to our table. Juice and tea followed, and I opted for a club california, hold the feta cheese and basil mayo. 

  

“You’re vegan?” Asked our server.

“Kinda.” 

“Try the basil vinaigrette. It’s totally vegan and has the same kind of fragrant kick as the basil mayo does.”

“Sounds fabulous.”

My sandwich was toasted granary, with avocado, mustard cress, basil vinaigrette, tomato, and cucumber. It was zingy, fresh, and perfect for brunch.

Sam had the Cobb sandwich – lots of bacon and avocado. It set us up for the onwards walk to Richmond, and the great service and busy, bustling family atmosphere left a spring in our step.

We’ll know where to turn next time we find ourself in Mortlake.

  

Salty olives with everything



Maybe it’s because I did a lot of cycling today (and it was so windy in London so my thighs were working extra hard) but I’ve been craving olives all day.

Olives are my popcorn. I could, and do, eat them by the handful. Black and wizened or fat, green olives, as large and acidic as unripe apples.

But eating olives out of the jar is a really unappealing habit (or so I’m told) so this Saturday evening, with some free time, I made an olive tapenade (minus anchovies!) and spread it on pastry. 

It’s baking in the oven and the whole house smells delicious. Sam keeps wandering in and poking his head round the door to ask if it’s ready yet (and to check I haven’t licked the bowl I made the tapenade in clean). He’s thoughtful like that.

Update: tart was fabulous, especially with the sweet peppers and salty olive combo. It’s also so quick to make, and great with a simple side salad.

Hope you’re all having a lovely Saturday! 

Tapenade

Ingredients

A cup of green or black olives, pitted

Two cloves of garlic

A squeeze of lemon juice

A glug of oil

Half a red chilli

Method

Blitz!

Tart



Ingredients

Roll vegan pastry

Four mixed peppers

One red onion

Olive oil

Balsamic vinagar

Salt and pepper

Method

Slice peppers and onion and put in baking tray. Cover with olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic. Season. Cook for 20 minutes or until roasted.

Roll out pastry to fit the tray. Cover tray with light layer of olive oil and blind bake for ten minutes at 180 degrees.

Spread tart with tapenade and pop in the oven for another few minutes. 

Scatter the vegetables over the tart and cook for another ten minutes or until crispy.

Serve with olive oil drizzle.

A whole bunch of wraps



Wraps make the world go round don’t they? There are very good stuffs that can’t be improved by putting it a wrap; similarly there are few cuisines who haven’t adopted some kind of wrap as a national dish.

Off the top of my head- South India has the dosa, Mexico has burritos, Lebanon has hummus wrap, China has hoisin duck, and Greece? Well Greece has souvlaki and gyros- meat that’s put into a wrap and basically smothered with all things Greek. Fresh tomatoes, red onion, tzatdsiki, olives – and if you order souvlaki – some rather limp chips.



From my vantage point on the 1st floor of Quick Wrap, I could see the bar below where the chefs were throwing ingredients together to make wraps. Greek ingredients are like the brother to a vegan’s sister, but mainstream Greek cuisine barely offers vegetarian food other than the moussaka or the Greek salad. Vegan food, unless you crave wet, pale chips, or huge platefuls of roast vegetables (which can be insanely good), is thin on the ground. Which is why it’s a shame that even with all this plentiful food- zingy red onions and plump tomatoes, they can’t even offer a vegan option.

So I made my own. I ordered a massive salad of tomato and rocket doused in lemon juice and salt, a portion of pitta and a bowl of olives. Then I whacked them all in the pitta pocket and liberally poured green olive oil over the bread pouches.



Washed down with a can of diet coke, this meal was just so simple, and so fabulous – as any meal is in a country where fresh vegetables and fruity olive oil are in vast supply.

This place, this Quick Wrap, was probably just like Chilangos or Chipotle in London, but the place highlighted to me how vegan’s here have to dig a bit deeper to find the treasure.

 Oh, and put it in a wrap. That helps.



How not to be bitter: Venetia, Athens

Few coeliac vegans are lucky enough to be with a partner who is also burdened by similar afflictions. At best your other half or group of friends could be vegetarian which might make a trip to Athens easy for them.



“Oo halloumi!” They might say. Or, if you’re my carnivorous partner: “Yay, souvlaki, I’ll take extra pork please!”

Yum.

But especially on holiday, the last thing you want be is burdensome, so I bet most of you try to be understanding to your friend’s needs. I find this especially when we get to a menu where the only thing I can see to eat is the side salad. Meanwhile everybody else is reacting with delight over the pigeon stuffed with rosemary or whatever.

Cue five concerned faces turning towards me. “Is this ok for you?”

If I answer no the response will be politeness at best, and at worst, a ruined evening. “Oh yeh, man that menu looks great.”

As expected, everyone cheers up and you plan out your second dinner from what’s left in your fridge door as you chew morosely on the lettuce like a cow cuds grass.

So I fully expected that in Venetia, a local neighbourhood italian near our airbnb apartment in Plaka. It had had just started to rain and we were tired after walking around all day.

“Looks fine,” I said, not even looking at the menu.

And it was! More than fine. There were at least four things I could have eaten on the menu and that’s without alterations. 

It was incredible and, compared to central London where I live and work, wonderfully, amazingly cheap. Bread came as per – a chewy brown slice with the most wonderful green, fragrant olive oil I’ve had in a long time. We ordered a half carafe of wine, a big plate of grilled mixed vegetables, salted little roast potatoes and some sausage orzo pasta risotto dish.



Venetia is a place to go if your friends are bored of eating vegan for you and you just want to eat in a friendly, none healthy, macrobiotic place. Much as I love vegan restaurants I feel guilty indulging because I’m not “living life” or whatever the kooky slogans can be.

But here the atmosphere (and the light fittings shaped like cutlery) is great, the hubbub of noise and the fug of cigarette smoke, and the wonderfully friendly service would see me back again tomorrow. That and the mixer vegetable grill with parsley, olive oil and a balsamic glaze – heavenly.

Vegan in Athens, Greece: Avocado

In the land of souvlaki, gyros, and BBQ-ed meat, I hadn’t expected to be able to eat anything. At the airport I was contemplating buying the entirety of WH Smith’s stock of hummus.

But 24 hours later I’m demolishing the largest burger I’ve ever eaten, and it’s totally vegan. Sam’s making his way through a cauldron of Goan soup: “This is perfect for this weather- it’s so warming.”

Contrary to popular belief, Greece is cold. I hadn’t expected Athens in March to be colder than London, and certainly not as raining,

So finding this gem of a cafe on Happy Cow (my vegan restaurant bible) was a delightful surprise. There’s enough food to sit and plough our way through for a good hour while the drizzle stops, and the menu is as extensive as any vegan restaurant in London.

I ordered the avocado burger without cheese (it’s a veggie restaurant) and out came a mountain of fresh red onion, an inch thick lentil burger, a cm of avocado, a fair mound of potato chippings, chipotle sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. I’m in heaven.

The fresh orange juice is just as good as expected from a city where oranges grow on trees along the pavements.

Service is great and the staff speak perfect English. The ambience is very much bare wood and chilled, Bob Marley style music. But it’s the menu, the vegan chocolate tart, the quiche, the salads, and the amazing sound smoothies – cocoa and almond milk anyone – that would have me back in a shot.

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