In contrast to our last post, which featured a disappointing meal at The Treehouse, comes our thoughts on The Waiting Room. This specifically vegetarian restaurant in the Eaglescliffe area of Stockton has been somewhere on the ‘to visit’ list since Mr. Canny became more interested in food groups other than meat. While it wasn’t perfect, the difference between the two meals and experiences are night and day. Not exactly local to us, we made a special trip here after hearing rave reviews from friends. With a good reputation amongst veggies and non-veggies, this further buoyed our expectations of what was on offer in this quaint little establishment. It is located close to a train station, so those without a car needn’t be deterred from visiting.
The front section of the restaurant is akin to eating in someone’s front room, while the annex is really funky. I liked the old cinema flip-down seats that had been re-purposed, and the eclectic mix of patterns and furniture. This back area hosts music and cabaret events on a Sunday evening. Having been open since 1985, they’ve definitely built up a loyal following over the years.With prices similar to that of a chain, there wasn’t an extensive menu available. The Teen was apprehensive, but it seemed like the Cauliflower Cheese Bake was a safe bet for him. The fact there wasn’t a huge amount of deliberation between us about who was going to eat what was a relief for me. We visited for lunch though, and there’s a larger choice available for the evening service.Being a vegetarian restaurant doesn’t mean they automatically cater for vegans, but means it is slightly easier for them to adapt certain dishes. Mr Canny was told that the Enchilada and Tagine would both be ok for him without certain additions to the plate, like sour cream.All of the main courses were £9.95 and came served with a table salad and bowl of sesame-coated potatoes. The portions were generous regardless, but the additional greens alongside were appreciated. The Teen wasn’t keen on the Cheesy Bake as it was laced with lentils, which I thought added to the creamy texture of the dish. The crunch of the breadcrumb topping stopped it resembling baby food. I actually ended up finishing his plate of food because I enjoyed it so much.Mr. Canny’s choice of Roasted Lemon, Fig and Courgette Tagine was probably the most authentic we’ve had this side of Morocco. It was mildly spiced, with chickpeas and sweet raisins adding an extra dimension to the serving.
My Mushroom Biryani also had an aromatic warmth. I was very impressed with the mains we were served, which were some of the most flavourful veggie-based dishes we’ve had since becoming a non-meat eating family. The dud notes were the Hummus starter, which I thought could have used a few more slices of bread to justify the £4.95 price tag. The ratio of homemade bread to dip was way off!
The desserts also failed to wow me, especially the Crumble. More soup than fruit puree, this was incredibly tart. It needed some cream or ice cream to soften the sourness of the berries, but were told they’d run out of the dairy-free option when we visited. Very disappointing. The Teen’s Chocolate Fudge Cake was well received by him, but the portion wasn’t as substantial as those we’d encountered during the mains. Again, we felt for the price (all desserts are £5.45) the serving should have been larger.
Thankfully, the lasting memory for me was the exceptional main courses. The Waiting Room showcases what vegetarian cuisine should be. We were pleased to see they had their own home brew ale, which Mr. Canny liked. He said it was CAMRA standard, and the menu explained they’d eschewed isinglass in the process. As we’ve touched on before in this blog, not all wines and beers are suitable for veggies and vegans because of the process they go through and it would be great if more places marked their lists with the symbol.
We’d say The Waiting Room is definitely a ‘must visit’ for anyone following a plant based diet, or for those who fancy something a little different to the usual meat and two veg.
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