I was sceptical about Giraffe, it has to be said. Restaurant openings in Grey’s Quarter seem to be a weekly occurrence but I put those feelings aside to grab lunch with the Teen during one of our shopping jaunts. Vegan options are thin on the ground, which is something they mentioned when they extended the invitation to me. The only main course options I could find were the Indo-Coco Curry or the San Fran Super Salad, with starters limited to Edamame Beans and Olives. The website is really useful for filtering out allergens, so credit where its due, but to not have anything other than nibbles is a poor show. I think some other dishes – like the Spiced Roasted Aubergine or Nachos Nirvana – may also be suitable if the dairy toppings can be omitted, and this could be checked in the restaurant before ordering.
It made me think how easy catering for vegans is with a little bit of thought and how lucky we are to have restaurants who do it so well. I started my meal off at Giraffe with their vegetarian Sweetcorn Fritter Tacos (£4.50) which, in essence, are similar to those we recently encountered at Chaophraya (and were suitable for vegans). I asked if they could be served without sour cream to make them vegan but was told no, so presume egg must be used as a binding agent. There’s definitely a growing market and demand for allergen-free dishes, and I hope Giraffe take this feedback on board. The fritters were tasty, although I personally thought they were heavy-handed with the cream in assembly which made it quite bland. I was warned the chipotle packed a punch, but actually felt it needed more heat to balance the dish out.
The Teen ordered Halloumi Skewers (£4.50), which arrived on a spoonful of quinoa. This was far too healthy for him so I polished it off after he’d eaten his griddled cheese. The portion seemed a bit measly, it has to be said.
Our mains fared a bit better, with me enjoying the vegan curry option (£9.95) a lot more than the starter. The lentil, red pepper, potato & chickpea mix served with basmati rice was a hearty dish and it had a aromatic warmth.The Teen’s Halloumi and Falafel Burger (£10.50) prompted a ‘debate’ between us about whether he can stick to a vegetarian diet in the long term. I’m of the opinion that he has to find his own path, although at home he has to eat the vegan meals I prepare for the family. He complained about the lack of meat-free dishes that appealed to him at Giraffe, and almost ordered steak for the first time in over a year. Although he’s nearly 15 he’s still a way off from liking lentils and tapenade, so understand his frustration. Examining the options for younger kids, there seemed to be a few choices for veggie youngsters (Salad, Cheese Quesadilla), and Sausage or Fish Fingers for those who aren’t.
The table we were sat at gave us great views of what used to be known as the Hippy Green, which was great for people watching. I was feeling a little let down by the food on offer and, having read other bloggers sing the praises of Giraffe, was hoping for a more inspired menu offering. I felt it must be attributed to the fact we don’t eat meat that we weren’t wowed by what they are serving up.
I was not going to bother with dessert but the Teen informed me he was still hungry, so I reluctantly took the menu. Our server – who were all lovely – recommended the Chocolate Brownie (£5.50). I asked whether the sorbets were vegan-friendly, as these appeared to be the only options for those who are dairy and egg-free. She returned to tell me they were, but it seems a shame this is often the only option vegans have when other chains have put in thought to devise at least one that is suitable.
I duly ordered the Brownie (this was pre-veganism, by the way!), wanting something chocolatey to cheer me up having spent a silly amount of money during our shopping trip. With a gooey crust and crispy centre, they were exactly as they should be. He chose waffles from the menu, which was topped with cinnamon bananas and lots of sauce.
With the likes of Chaophraya and Tapas Revolution now open in Eldon Square, and Bella Italia offering a good selection of vegan dishes – including a delicious chocolate pudding – places like Giraffe really need to be conscious of their offering to ensure they can attract punters. Perhaps meat eaters fare better than veggies here, and with 3 courses from a set menu on an evening for just £15.95 I’m sure many will still give it a try.
Thanks for reading,