My first first ‘meal out’ as a vegan. Not as daunting an experience as it could have been, given that my partner’s veganism gave me a head-start on what were the perils and pitfalls of dining out with a dietary requirement. Through sheer laziness it was New Year’s Day it occurred on, even though there was a fridge full of food to cook. I decided to find somewhere open for lunch and, as it fell on a Sunday, meant I was also looking for somewhere with a vegan main course that didn’t feature risotto. I saw a tweet from Vallum Farm, had heard excellent things about them accommodating dietary requirements from other bloggers, and decided to ask what dishes on offer were. To my delight there was no mention of salad, so we took my meat-eating sister out for the inauguration.
Located on the Military Road in Northumberland, Vallum Farm has become a bit of a ‘foodie destination’. With not much else around without a drive, it really has to be! Sycamore Gap is not too far away, but none of us were in the mood for a walk. We wanted food! We’d previously visited for markets and the like, but not for a ‘proper meal’. A restaurant, farm shop of sorts, tea room, wedding venue and now home to a holiday yurt, I’d wanted to book in for one of their Festive Friday events. Alas we had prior engagements throughout December, so it was with some anticipation I booked in for scran.
We arrived earlier as the drive up wasn’t as arduous as anticipated. We were seated straightaway and were told they knew of our veganism. The options for us were the vegetarian starter, minus cheese, and the Sunflower Loaf main course. I enquired whether there was a dessert too and was told they’d find something. My sister chose Celeriac Soup to start, followed by Chicken Supreme for roast.Our Butternut Squash opener didn’t have anything replacing the Feta, which we felt disappointed by. There was nothing offered by the staff as a replacement, like a side salad. I ended up requesting a portion of bread as a means of ‘padding out’ what we were served. The squash in itself was tasty, but for it to have been equal to any of the other starters available it needed more substance.
My sister enjoyed her luxuriously thick and creamy soup. It was hard watching her eat something I’d have normally chosen, but it’s something I’m going to have to get used to when dinign out with those who aren’t vegan.Mains arrived with a Yorkshire Pudding perched on top both mine and Mr. Canny’s plates. It isn’t completely out of the realms of possibility it was vegan, so we asked. Of course it wasn’t suitable and the staff appeared to get flustered at what to do next. I gave mine to my sister, but he sent his plate back and asked for it to be removed. What we’d hoped for was some replacement vegetables, but when his returned it was literally the same sized portion as before. This annoyance aside, the Sunflower Loaf was delicious. Rather than being dry like some nut roasts, this was moist and flavourful. Once the shadow of doubt had been cast that the team understood was a vegan was, everything we ate was then questioned however. I wondered if the vegetables had butter added to them, for example. I was always conscious when dining out with Mr. Canny in the past, but I started to feel the worry that has clearly dogged him every meal we’ve had in a non-vegetarian or vegan restaurant since October 2015.The dessert offered to me was sorbet, which many will agree is the fail safe that most restaurants will provide as a dairy and egg-free pud option. I’ve been able to produce my own Apple Crumble using vegetable oil instead of dairy items, so was saddened to see one available but not suitable. This doesn’t just affect us, but people who have a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy. I’d like to see a sweet on every menu that doesn’t contain eggs or milk in the future. It isn’t just us ‘picky’ vegans who this disadvantages. I ordered the Cranberry and Orange Sorbet, Mr. Canny declined. It was nice, but it was no Sticky Toffee Pudding.
While there were no inherent issues with the food and its execution, I felt the experience was not as it should be. In some eateries – like Cosy Dove, for example – they charge less for the vegetarian and vegan option as opposed to their meat Sunday Lunches. While I don’t suggest Vallum do this as I appreciate the quality of the ingredients they use, I feel we should have been offered alternatives or replacements when items were removed from our plates. They were informed about our veganism before we turned up. If they knew the way they were to accommodate us was to merely remove the ‘offending’ items on our plates and give us nothing in return maybe they should have told me to give them more notice and to visit another time. 1964 were given a couple of days and devised a special menu that was well-thought out. I’d prefer us not to have to ‘forewarn’ as I don’t feel dairy, egg and meat-free food should be that big a deal in a world where allergies should be taken very seriously, but hey ho. I’m pleased the Nut Roast is suitable for vegans though, which means that the options for decent grub on a Sunday are increasing for those who are plant-based in the region.
Thanks for reading,