Vegetarian restaurants in Cardiff

I’ve been living in Cardiff for nearly a year now and after reviewing plenty of vegetarian restaurants, bars and cafés, I thought it would be helpful to compile a map of the best places for veggies and vegans to eat out in the Welsh capital.

Chapter Arts Centre

Lovely light and airy café-bar, with a sunny courtyard for summer evenings. Wide range of veggie and vegan dishes available, all made with fresh and local produce. They do a particularly tasty vegetarian breakfast.

Madhav

Cosy Indian café and takeaway located five minutes away from Millennium Stadium. All dishes are vegetarian and can be adapted for vegans. They do a good selection of freshly-made Indian sweets.

Milgi

Quirky kitchen, lounge and gallery in Cathays, complete with its own yurt in the garden. All dishes are vegetarian, by popular demand. Most dishes can also be adapted for vegans. Don’t miss out on the vegetarian Sunday lunch.

Riverside Market

An integral part of Cardiff life, the Riverside Market takes place on the banks of the Taff every Sunday morning, from 10am until 2pm. There are plenty of vegetarian stalls, including Frantastic Crepes and the Parsnipship.

Vegetarian Food Studio

Vegetarian heaven! Small and cosy vegetarian café, which offers an almost overwhelming selection of Indian and Oriental dishes. Vegetarian Food Studio has won many awards, including Vegetarian Society Best Restaurant and the Guardian Food Award.

For comprehensive listings, visit the Eat Out Vegan Wales site.

Launch of Cardiff food charter

Cardiff food charter

Cardiff food charter

A Cardiff Food Charter was launched at a Sustainable Food City conference event at Cardiff University last week.

The charter aims to promote a diverse and sustainable food culture in the city and get more people buying local Welsh produce. It also hopes to provide a framework for access to healthy, environmentally friendly food, as well as building a strong local economy.

The charter’s development has been inspired by the success of similar food charters in other parts of the UK, such as Plymouth and Bristol. It has also taken inspiration from overseas projects, such as the Cowichan Food Charter in Canada.

The charter asks people in Cardiff to play their part by cooking more meals from scratch, wasting as little as possible and buying food from independent retailers. It also encourages businesses to serve healthy and sustainable food to their employees, to buy more local food and to encourage staff to grow, cook and eat fresh food together.

During the launch event, there were presentations and workshops from a wide variety of people including local food activists, action groups, academics, food businesses and government representatives.

The next stage will be to identify funding to set up a Cardiff Food Policy Council which will encourage more businesses, institutions and individuals to sign up to the Food Charter and to oversee Cardiff’s future development as a Sustainable Food City.

Video: Cowichan Green

Vegetarian Sunday lunch

Vegetarian Sunday lunch

Vegetarian Sunday lunch

Traditional Sunday lunches do not always provide ideal vegetarian fare. I always associate a Sunday roast with my grandma’s epic portions of roast beef and enough sausages to sink a small ship.

But with crispy nut roasts, traditional Glamorgan sausages and fresh vegetables, vegetarian roasts can be just as tasty as their meaty counterparts. Thegreenveggie seeks out the best vegetarian-friendly Sunday lunches in Cardiff…

Y Mochyn Du

Y Mochyn Du

Y Mochyn Du

Y Mochyn Du, meaning the black pig, is a light and airy pub, right next to Bute Park in the heart of Cardiff. This popular drinking hole is the main meeting place for Welsh speakers in the area and you will often hear a male voice choir practicing their repertoire in the conservatory on a Saturday evening.

This pub was nominated Pub of the Year in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and their slogan “for all reasons and all seasons,” aptly sums up the pleasant setting. There’s a lovely sunny beer garden, complete with patio umbrellas for glorious summer days, as well as a cosy fire and comfy sofas for chilly winter evenings.

The vegetarian option was Glamorgan sausages, which was priced at £7.75. The sausages were delicious and were clearly handmade, using local Caerphilly cheese. These traditional Welsh sausages were thick, flavoursome and coated in crispy breadcrumbs.

The sausages were served with a generous portion of Yorkshire pudding, fresh vegetables and golden roast potatoes. The bar also had a wide range of local ales on tap, most of which were suitable for vegetarians and vegans. A great place to meet up with friends or family.

The Robin Hood

The Robin Hood

The Robin Hood

The Robin Hood is a friendly, bustling pub, tucked away in the leafy heart of Pontcanna. The shady awning and pretty window boxes give the pub a European feel and the front patio provides some excellent people watching opportunities.

The Sunday lunch menu did not offer much choice, with only three or four options available and only one vegetarian dish. However, the quality of the food more than made up for the lack of choice.

The vegetarian option was a generous slice of nut roast, served with a small silver jug of vegetarian gravy. The nut roast was crispy and packed full of different herb flavours. A large bowl of fresh vegetables was brought to the table for us to share. This included carrots, broccoli, parsnips and roast potatoes, which were all cooked to perfection.

The pub also offers a free bottle of wine if you book a table in advance, making Sunday lunch at the Robin Hood excellent value for money. A great place to take the parents.

Woods Brasserie

Woods Brasserie

Woods Brasserie

This contemporary restaurant, situated in the pilotage building in Cardiff Bay, had a very modern feel. The glass roof and minimalist decor provided a pleasant setting, which was just as well, because the service was incredibly slow.

The menu at Woods Brasserie was slightly pretentious, offering the sort of dishes where you either need a foreign phrase book, or are obliged to ask the waiter to interpret the unnecessarily elaborate and over-fussy descriptions.

On the plus side, there were several vegetarian dishes to choose from. For a starter, I tried fregola with ewe’s cheese, artichokes, pine nuts and lemon. Just in case you’re wondering (I certainly was) fregola is a type of pasta, made up of small, round beads, with a  couscous-like texture.

Although I appreciated the originality and presentation of the dish, the execution was disappointing. The fregola and artichokes were poorly cooked, with some chewy, raw pieces spoiling the otherwise light and delicate flavours.

The main course was carrot and cumin fritters with smoked baba ganoush, basil and shallot. The classic combination of carrot and cumin worked well, but the fritters were overwhelmingly oily, which made them heavy and soggy.

I had never tried baba ganoush (which is made from mashed aubergine and olive oil) and based on this experience, I would not be inclined to try it again! Like the fritters, the texture was very oily, which did not help the wetness of the fritters, and overall, the main course was mushy, with a riot of conflicting flavours fighting for the attention of your taste buds.

The restaurant was also more expensive than the previous two, with lunch costing £20 for three courses. However, after two disappointing courses and ridiculously slow service, we decided not to stay for a desert. A sunny walk around Cardiff Bay seemed more appealing!

Photos: Ewan Munro, Dom Stocqueler, John Dixon

Happy Gathering

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

Chinese cuisine is not always ideal for vegetarians. I’ve often ordered a vegetarian chow mein, only to discover a rogue prawn hidden beneath the noodles. But Cardiff’s Happy Gathering provided an extensive vegetarian menu.

Exceptional food

Situated in Canton, Happy Gathering was named “Cardiff’s finest Chinese restaurant,” by the Independent. From the outside, the shabby neon sign certainly didn’t distinguish this restaurant from the countless Chinese take-aways on Cowbridge Road East, but the food turned out to be exceptional.

The restaurant was bigger than it appeared from the outside and was traditionally decorated, with a dark red and black colour scheme and oriental prints and drapes. A grand piano dominated the room and live music added to the lively atmosphere.

Extensive vegetarian menu

My guests were all keen meat-eaters and were spoiled for choice with fish, duck and beef. I was expecting to have to settle for the only vegetarian option on the menu, but to my surprise, there were many vegetarian and vegan dishes available.

I opted for vegetable spring rolls as a starter. These were beautifully presented on a rectangular glass plate, with the salad artistically crafted into a flower. The spring rolls were filled with fresh vegetables and were deep fried, to give a light, crispy texture.

Traditional and authentic

The chop sticks added to the authenticity of the restaurant, but eating spring rolls in a socially acceptable manner with these awkward utensils proved a challenge. Fortunately, a few drinks made the whole thing much easier!

For the main course, I ordered fried bean curd in chilli and black bean sauce with egg fried rice. This dish gave new life to the tofu, which is so often dull and flavourless. It had been marinated in chilli and then lightly fried, making it spicy and succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Ginger and chilli

The black bean and chilli sauce was delicious, with a mild spicy flavour and hints of ginger and garlic. It went well with the egg fried rice, which was cooked to perfection and served with peas to add to the colour and lift the presentation.

Although the rice was served in traditional small bowls, the portions were just right and we all left feeling satisfied. The meal was good value, with the starters priced at around £5 and the main courses priced between £10 and £15. A vegetarian set menu is available for two or more people to share, priced at £13 per person for a starter and main course.

Photo: Robyn Lee

Riverside Community Market Association

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Riverside market has, for many, become an integral part of Cardiff life. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than enjoying a leisurely coffee on the Fitzhamon Embankment?

But with recent reports that fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families has fallen by 30 per cent, how is the Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) coping with current financial and commercial pressures?

Preconceptions

Gareth Simpson, Enterprise Development Manager for the RCMA, said: “People have a lot of preconceptions about our markets. Many think it’s beyond their means, but actually, buying fresh produce directly from the traders can be cheaper than going to a supermarket.”

He added: “It’s never been about trying to get people to do their weekly shop at the market, but if more people thought about buying some of their fruit and vegetables from our stall holders on a regular basis, it would make a whole world of difference.”

Social enterprise

Although Gareth has only been working for the RCMA since last May, the social enterprise has been running since 1998, when the Riverside Real Food Market was first launched. Since then, the project has expanded, and now runs farmers’ markets in Llandaff North, Rhiwbina and Roath, as well as co-ordinating the Riverside community allotment and a variety of outreach projects.

Gareth said: “The aim is to bring the countryside to the city. Many people have never had the chance to grow their own vegetables and we are trying to spread the message of growing in a fun way. The community allotment allows people to get their hands in the mud and really get involved.”

Weather dependent

However, as with all outdoor events, the markets are highly weather dependent.  Gareth said: “Footfall suffers in the driving rain.” At present, there is little shelter at the market, but he is hoping to introduce a covered area for live music.

“I always try to create a buzz at the markets,” he said. “It’s not about just filling your shopping bag, it’s very much a social event.” Recently, Gareth created a buskers’ corner at Riverside Market, which gives local musicians the chance to show off their talent and entertain the crowd.

Innovative

The RCMA also tries to bring a wide variety of products to the markets. Gareth said: “We avoid putting similar stalls together, so new products have to be quite innovative. We don’t like to turn people away, but sometime we have to. A little competition can be a good thing.”

Two new stalls have recently joined the Riverside market. Greens of Glastonbury is a traditional farmhouse cheesemaker, while cnwd is based near Carmarthen and produces patés and terrines.

For more information, visit the RCMA website.

One Love Veggie Foodival

Valentine's cupcake

Valentine's cupcakes

Calling all Cardiff veggies! Don’t miss out on Milgi Lounge’s One Love Veggie Foodival this week, which will be celebrating all things vegetarian, vegan and organic.

The shenanigans will be kicking off tonight with a Valentine’s Day French bistro (ohh la la!) followed by a 100% vegan and raw food evening tomorrow. Then on Thursday, we can look forward to a special “feast from the east” supper club, ahead of Friday’s spicy Reggaetarian Jamaican Thali.

And don’t forget to leave some room for Saturday’s seasonal pizzas and Sunday dinner, which will be accompanied by acoustic sessions in the yurt. We can’t wait!

Milgi Lounge is located on City Road in Cathays, Cardiff. For more information, visit the Milgi website.

Photo: smittenkitten