While out shopping with my sister in the Metrocentre recently I got a real craving for pasta. There aren’t a huge amount of Italian restaurants in the shopping centre now the Mediterranean Village has ceased to be – who remembers Romano’s? – it falls on the shoulders of Carluccio’s and Bella Italia to sate a craving for carbs with a touch of Tuscany. I decided to try out ASK Italian instead, having heard that they were amongst a few who had a specialist vegan menu on offer too.
Upon arrival we were given a tot of Lemonade, although once I asked for the vegan menu mine was taken away as it wasn’t SFV. The wax on the lemons was referenced as the reason I couldn’t give it a try. This attention to detail made me feel confident that ASK understand veganism in a way that maybe other restaurants fall short in.
I wasn’t aware that ASK offered dairy free cheese on their pizzas and it gave me the conundrum of what to choose for my main course. I was definitely wanting to try Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese, while there was the appeal of checking out how their cheese matched up to the likes of PizzaExpress. Rather than ordering one of the starters for the menu I opted for a full-size pizza instead with the idea I’d take whatever I couldn’t manage for supper.
It seems like ASK are using Mozzarisella – the same dairy free alternative that PizzaExpress and local bar Dat Bar use – as there’s the tell-tale creamy topping on the pizza. I recently heard that Zizzi have moved away from this brand and have had mixed reviews on social media for the new alternative they’re using (from Rondanini).
I do like Mozzarisella, although it has a ‘gloopy’ consistency. You can pick up to three toppings for your pizza – choose from marinated artichokes, sautéed mushrooms, grilled aubergines, caramelised onions, roasted peppers and olives. The base seems similar to that of Zizzi in that it lacks ‘bite’ in places. Whether this is why they moved away from this particular cheese substitute and are trialling something else remains to be seen, but the use of Mozzarisella does lend itself well as a pizza cheese. I managed to show some restraint and half was boxed up for later.
My sister choose Garlic Bread with Mozzarella for her starter and classic Linguine Carbonara for her main. Both were generous and filling portion sizes for her.
The mixed vegetable and lentil ragu of the Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese had a smoky flavour and I enjoyed the plateful. Definitely one for the winter months and bound to be a popular dish. Again, it reminded me of Zizzi’s version save they use linguine pasta instead of spaghetti here. Even the little green stickers seemed familiar! It is no surprise to learn they are sister companies, which is why there appears to be a lot of crossover.
Knowing there was a vegan dessert on offer other than sorbet, I knew I was going to have to stretch to three courses during what was supposed to be a speedy and ‘light’ lunch.
The Chocolate and Blood Orange Tart certainly didn’t disappoint. Served with a scoop of raspberry sorbet to cut through its richness, this decadent pud was everything a vegan dessert should be.
My sister chose the non-vegan Baked Chocolate Gnocchi to round off her meal. These chocolate stuffed dough balls were also served with a ganache, a chocoholics’ heaven.
ASK – like a lot of chains these days – have raised the bar in terms of vegan expectations. It has become too easy to opt for high street chains over independents, especially when you can walk in off the street and enjoy 3 courses without having to telephone in advance. With more than one option for each course too, there’s never been a better time for vegans in terms of choice.
Thanks for reading,