Hidden away in the old, industrial Digbeth, Birmingham, is The Warehouse Cafe, a restaurant offering a range of delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. My best friend Chelsea and I went a few weeks ago to celebrate her 19th birthday and as she is vegan, I knew she would love it if we could go to a proper vegan restaurant, as opposed to the chain restaurants where options apart from meaty/dairy-filled meals are incredibly limited.
Upon entering The Warehouse Cafe, Chelsea and I were greeted by genuinely kind hearted and bubbly members of staff whose enthusiasm for their job and working environment shone through. Whilst the cafe is a converted warehouse (hence the name), it had such a warm and cozy atmosphere that was aided by its rustic decor of wooden furniture, low lighting and black chalkboards, giving the cafe a relaxing and homely feel. For a cafe that is nestled away from the city centre amongst industrial buildings, it was very busy and just by first impressions, everyone seemed so happy to be there.
As a meat eater who can usually be seen stubbornly pushing vegetables to the other side of her plate, I was wary that there would be little for me to choose from on the menu. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised to find that vegan dishes are appetising, filling and- importantly- healthy alternatives to meat dishes that offer an abundance of rich, natural flavours.
Chelsea and I visited the cafe a few weeks before Christmas, so we were able to pick and choose food off the Christmas menu. To start, I had spiced pumpkin and chestnut croquettes with roasted garlic and carrot puree. The only way I can describe it a mix of mostly sweet flavours with herbs and spices thrown in to give it a bit of a zing, coated in breadcrumbs and topped off with the garlic and carrot puree which kept the croquettes from being too dry on their own. To me, I tend to think of carrots as being quite watery and lacking in flavour, however the puree was sweet and had a lot of flavour when combined with the garlic.
In my ignorance of knowing very little about vegan food, I assumed that the only physical alternative to meat could be quorn; however my main course of Halloumi Fish and Chips taught me otherwise. Halloumi is a white cheese that originates in Cyprus and with a distinctive, layered texture and salty taste, it is reminiscent of fish. I loved how, covered in a rich batter, it tasted just like fish you would buy from the fish and chip shop, yet it was considerably healthier and saved an animal in the process. What I loved even more was the fact that I was able to eat my food with Heinz ketchup! I've never blogged about my relationship with Heinz before, but... we go back. Heinz has been a part of my life for so many years and for some reason unknown to both Chelsea and myself, I thought it wouldn't be allowed in the vegan diet. So knowing that I could carelessly slather it over my food as I did when I first discovered my love for Heinz as a four year old, I was incredibly happy.
Without a glimmer of hesitation or doubt, I then opted for the mango and cinnamon cheesecake with caramelised oranges and coconut shavings for desert. I'm a massive fan of cheesecake anyway, but combining it with my favourite fruit AND favourite spice was a winning combination. Cheesecake is one of my guilty pleasures in that it puts me in a mild state of euphoria, but the creaminess of the filling can leave me feeling really heavy and sluggish. However, the juicy mango of my vegan cheesecake left me feeling energised and when I got to the filling, it was a lot lighter than that of normal cheesecakes, so by the time I had finished my food, I wasn't clutching my giant belly for dear life and instead felt ready to do some serious Christmas shopping.
I loved my meal at The Warehouse Cafe; in the last few months I've decided to say YES to more things and I am so so so glad I said yes to trying out a vegan restaurant. Above all else, it was so much fun having a giggly, relaxed, food-filled catch up with my best friend and then having a monster shopping spree after (did you see that we met Father Christmas!?). As well as offering luscious food and a buzzing atmosphere, it has definitely expanded my mind and helped me to realise that there is more to a meal than just a slab of meat on your plate and vegan food offers rich and delicious flavours. I will still remain a meat eater, however I look forward to future trips to The Warehouse Cafe and trying more vegan dishes.
What's your favourite restaurant to go to? Do you like to sample foods out of your comfort zone?