I have got huge respect for vegans. By forgoing any ingredients to do with animals, they have to be really creative in the kitchen unless they plan on eating bread (without butter, gasp!) for the rest of their lives. Me, on the other hand, is a carnivore at heart. I will just wither and waste away without any meat. Enough about the health benefits; for someone who live to eat, I seriously don't see the point of voluntarily restricting major food groups. A bit of everything, nothing in excess is my motto.
Don't get me wrong though. I'm fully in favour of the occasional salad. It doesn't only cleanse up the palate, it does wonders to digestions too (without going into specifics). I have had some really good vegetarian meals in London before, the best in a Georgian restaurant somewhere in Wimbledon, which name has unfortunately escaped me.
After landed at the town centre in Bournemouth, I was stuck in Starbucks desperately searching for a decent place to have lunch. The notion of leaving it to chance doesn't seem too attractive anymore.
A quick search on Tripadvisor shows up over 350 rated restaurants in Bournemouth. Among the list, one stood out - Mad Cucumber, the only vegan restaurant in the whole of Bournemouth. Vegan isn't vegetarian of course, the latter is almost half-hearted compared to the former.
The reviews online are nothing short of raving - all the right words are used: delicious, friendly, comfortable, relax. Words that can nudge a carnivore to give this vegan "lounge" a go.
Kamil and Ewelina who open Mad Cucumber only in June 2013 must be the most popular Poles in Bournemouth, at least among the vegans. The lounge has a limited menu - two soups, three mains. There isn't any printed menu, everything is listed on a board beside the counter. Kamil (who calls himself 'the bald guy' on Mad Cucumber's website) is friendly to a fault. When asked which dish he would recommend, he took quite some time to make up his mind, pondering through each of the options, suggested one and changed his mind again. A nice chap, the Big-Bang-Theory sort of nice.
The lounge concept is evident. The huge bookshelf backed up on a wall has a stack of newspapers and books that you would actually read. There is even a guestbook propped up on a shelf. You read that right, a guestbook. And filled up with customers' comments, mostly encouraging.
There are people streaming in with a number of them regulars. It does help that there is a huge sofa set with a throw cast over it. With boardgames readily available and light soothing music playing in the background, it feels like the local clubhouse.
How goes the food then? The coconut based corn soup (£3.90) is lovely with its creamy texture. The sprinkle of cinnamon is a nice touch. I regret not taking up Kamil's offer of bread to go with the soup. But I am watching my carbo intake these days and think that I will reserve my allowance for the mains instead.
The main is a chickpea nut roast (£6). "When people hear roast, they think of something but it's not like that," Kamil cautions me. How should I describe it? It looks like a cake and tastes like a crumble, a mushy one at that. Mashed up chickpeas with chopped up nuts roasted. It is a bit bland to be honest. The same goes for the huge serving of diced roasted potatoes, the herbs' effect is frightfully underwhelming. I left half of that untouched.
Caramelised sweet potato slices (portions differentiated by those with sesame and those without) add a bit of colour to the otherwise dull looking dish. Interestingly, the boiled cabbages soaked in a mild curry turns out to be the winner on this platter. It provides the much needed kick that this dish sorely lacks. And there is the small cup of chutney that comes with it. That simply overpowers everything. I cringe whenever I think of that.
Suffice to say that I am not about to turn vegan after sampling Mad Cucumber's fare. But I suspect that my opinion matters not a single bit - the place feels relaxing and the staff is friendly. Besides, the vegans in the vicinity really don't have much of a choice, do they?
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Friday, 6 September 2013
Mad Cucumber (Bournemouth's vegan restaurant) - my virgin vegan meal