Many chains are now offering vegan menus due to the success of promotions such as Veganuary. It has been reported this week that 7% of the population now follow a plant-based diet, a significant leap in the 1% that was previously quoted by the media. We’ll continue to see this growth over the next 12 months, especially in establishments that had historically not been so accommodating.
One such chain I’d visited in the past that I’d struggled to find more than salad or chips was Vintage Inns, part of Mitchells and Butlers. These rural pubs are kitted out in identikit fashion and have similar menus running up and down the country. The fact they now offer a vegan menu has been met with excitement in the vegan community, but is it worth the buzz?
Popping into The Badger in Ponteland on our way to Newcastle Airport recently we decided to try out this new menu, which purports to offer a full three-course menu with sides. Yes, each course also had more than one choice too. I have to say that I was a little disappointed that the usual vegan dishes were present – do we just eat couscous, burgers and falafel, for goodness sake? – which led me to muse whether any alternatives should be welcomed because we’d been overlooked for so long. Considering the breadth of Vintage Inn’s usual menu which features standard pub grub ‘classics’ like Fish & Chips and Steaks, maybe we shouldn’t be overly surprised that the meat free options weren’t as inspiring as we’d perhaps encounter in wholly vegan establishment.
I wanted to try the Vegetable Tart but it had sold out, so instead ordered the Coconut Vegetable Curry. I understand the menu stated ‘sticky rice’, but what I was served was more like a lump. The curry itself was inoffensive, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to return to the chain. Wagamama do a far better version and larger portion for cheaper than the £10.95 The Badger charge for theirs. The butternut squash that appeared charred, although thankfully wasn’t, was left on the plate. I’m not quite sure why it looked like it was burnt was cold and almost raw. Delicious.
My friend ordered the Chickpea and Lentil Falafel, which came with a dip and some bread. The sauce was lukewarm, as were the falafel. We weren’t really sure if this was intentional or the plate had waited too long at the pass.
My other friend chose the Aubergine and Chickpea Burger, which was served with the same pepper sauce found on the falafel dish. My sticky rice made a reappearance in the side, which was supposed to be cous cous but was clearly cobbled together with leftover bits and pieces. Two pieces of almost raw squash were thrown in for good measure. The burger patty was nice, but there was a serious need for chips to be included to make this a meal. Just because we’re vegan doesn’t mean we don’t have healthy appetites.
Because of the scant portions we decided to try out the desserts. I had the Chocolate Tart, which was perfectly adequate, while the Treacle & Pecan Tart needed a hacksaw to break through its tough filling. Using a knife on your pudding is never a good sign. The preponderance to use coconut in every option is also something I have to quibble over. There are so many dairy free ice cream alternatives available in the supermarkets that resorting to using a coconut sorbet was disheartening.
Considering most country pubs struggle to offer vegan options I’m sure many will say we should be grateful to find anything on the menu, let alone 3 courses and a selection of dishes. This just felt like it was telephoned in by the team at Vintage Inn. Stablemate Toby Carvery has been ahead of the gang in providing options for those with dietary requirements so I’d hoped the brand would have continued with its innovative approach to the dishes on offer. Whether I return to a Vintage Inn remains to be seen, but I might avoid for food unless I’m super hungry. This appears to be another chain trying to cash in on a trend without any real consideration for what vegans want or deserve to eat.
Thanks for reading,