Described in the Vegan Wales guide as “the best place in Wales for vegans to eat out,” this restaurant had a lot to live up to.
Vegetarian Food Studio looks somewhat unassuming from the outside. Nestled between a printing shop and a newsagent on Penarth Road, it resembles an old-fashioned café, but don’t let looks deceive you.
As you walk inside, you’ll notice that the walls are absolutely plastered in awards: The Guardian Food award, the Vegetarian Society Best Restaurant, the South Wales Echo Top Ten Eco-Friendly Restaurants, the list goes on… And this charming, quirky restaurant more than deserves every one of its nominations.
The restaurant is run by the Patel family and has a warm, friendly atmosphere. Raj Patel said: “My son Neil started cooking at the age of eight and has never looked back.”
Value for money
The menu is exceptionally varied and, as a vegetarian who is used to having a choice of only one or two suitable dishes on a menu, I found it very difficult to decide what to order! Luckily, the waiters are clearly used to this and have made life easy by creating the Gujarati Thali Special, which lets the inexperienced and the indecisive try a little bit of everything.
This was also excellent value, as we were able to try two starters, the curry of the day, rice, daal, rotli, poppadoms and a sweet dish for £5.99. The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol, but you can bring your own for a £1 corkage charge.
The starters were delicious. We had bateta wada (potato fried with coriander and spices) and mixed vegetable petis (crispy potato balls filled with peas and spices.) These were mild and contrasted well with the spicier daal and curry.
Rich and spicy
The curry of the day was corn and patra nu saak, which was sweetcorn cooked in a thick tomato and peanut sauce. This is not something I would have chosen to order, as I couldn’t imagine sweetcorn and peanuts going well together, but in fact, the sweet, salty and spicy flavours thoroughly complemented one another.
The daal was spicy and rich in flavours. Mr Patel explained that it is cooked in a traditional curry pot, which allows the rich flavours of the spices and vegetables to infuse. It was served with rotli (flat bread made from wheat flour.) My only complaint was that these were very filling and maybe a bit heavy to be served in addition to the rice.
Sweet and aromatic
The sweet dish was a gulab jamun, which is a deep-fried dough ball, soaked in sugar syrup. The syrup was sweet and aromatic, with hints of saffron, cardamom and rose-water.
All in all, it was a magnificent meal in a warm, friendly setting. Mr Patel takes a genuine interest in every one of his customers, which is shown in the array of gifts displayed on the walls, including an Aussie hat, signed by his first ever Australian customers.
Welsh Curry House of the Year 2012
Vegetarian Food Studio has been nominated for the Welsh Curry House of the Year 2012. However, in previous years, they have been unable to win, as they refused to cook meat for the competition.
Mr Patel said: “I don’t see why we should be obliged to cook meat. We have been told we have to cook with Welsh lamb, but I don’t see why we can’t use vegetables that have been grown in Wales, like potatoes or onions.”
To vote for Vegetarian Food Studio, visit the Welsh Curry House of the Year site.