13 July 2015

Coach & Horses Pub, Pints & Plant-based Plates

Busy weekends often mean my healthy eating goes to the dogs (speaking of which there are cute pub dog photos in this post FYI). This is partly intentional. It's no secret that I like to eat a vegetarian diet during the week and eat the unhealthiest foods possible at the weekend, you know, like a lady in the week and a freak at the weekend.

However, this weekend was not my usual throw vegetables to the wind and scoff as many burgers and as much ice cream as possible weekend, albeit there were burgers but these were made of vegetables. And the only ice cream I ate was vegan, this is big for me because I love ice cream and I turned down a white magnum twice this weekend. I don't think I've ever turned down ice cream before. I mean who would right? Well I have the answer to that one, vegans.

So when I went out on Saturday with Steff, one of my closest friends from university, who turned vegan just after we got back from Hamburg 6 months ago (it was all the bratwurst we ate that did it), I suggested we try The Coach and Horses on Greek Street in Soho, London. The Coach and Horses used to be your normal everyday boozer whose menu became solely vegetarian and vegan back in 2012. Don't mistake me, this is still a pub, although there is a swankier dining room upstairs, there are pickled eggs, pints galore and a sticky bar top, but there is also simple and delicious vegetarian and vegan food on offer. They've got vegetarian and vegan alternatives to the classic pub dishes we all know and love, Tofush and Chips anyone? But they're not trying to emulate pub food, more like make vegan and vegetarian comfort food that should be classics in their own right. Plus they have ice cream...vegan ice cream.

With both of us being highly experienced in the art of navigating London, we thought we'd find this place easily. The problem was there are several Coach and Horses pubs in Soho, only one of which is veggie, so we kept getting thrown off course by google maps telling us we'd arrived outside a steakhouse. Never one to force plant-based eating upon anyone, Steff kept looking at the menus and saying we could eat here there is one vegan option. But I wouldn't give in, we had the promised land in sight! 

Eventually we found it, and grabbed a table downstairs by the bar. It reminded me of the pub I used to work in at university, small, wood clad, with an array of bottles of booze behind the bar and old photos adorning the walls. Oh and there was a piano. In fact the only thing it was missing compared to my uni pub was a ceiling covered in beer mats, and they don't serve cheesy chips and gravy. As a student I practically lived off the stuff, that and beer.

As we were now starving we ordered at the bar straightaway, a couple of pints of coke, vedgeree aka veggie kedgeree for me and a pesto burger with onion rings for Steff. Firstly before I go on to talk about the service, which was really weird by the way, let me just say the food was excellent. Their pesto burger is possibly the best veggie burger I've ever had when eating out, and the vedgeree was really fresh, and I haven't even told you about the puddings yet.

Ok, now I've praised their cooking, I can talk service. Occasionally you get bad service, it happens sometimes but rarely in London, with the Coach and Horses the service was really mixed. After ordering, we were given a pint of water with a top of coke, when asked to change it the barmaid refused because she heatedly said we wanted ice, and because  the ice had melted in the bucket she'd poured the ice water in. Common sense suggests she shouldn't have done that and should have just changed it, but it took a more experienced barmaid to step in and tell her she was wrong. The same barmaid then bought out one set of cutlery and another didn't know what the symbols on the menu meant when asked. It's ok, everyone's been new at something once, but lose the attitude! I'm not forgetting it's a pub, but as Steff and I have been barmaids in the past it doesn't take a lot to say 'I'm sorry I'll replace/get/find out that for you'. The staff changed while we were there, so for the last part of our meal the service was really pleasant.

Rant over, the food was spot on. The vedgeree was zingy and refreshing, with cauliflower and edamame beans as a nice point of difference, of course I had yoghurt and a boiled egg on the side because I'm greedy. Steff's pesto burger was amazing, it had courgette, chickpeas, peas, all the goodies, it was really meaty in the whole it's a filling dish way rather than the it has meat in way, and the onion rings were perfect crispy onion ring delights.

We couldn't walk away on a hot Saturday without sampling some lemon and basil sorbet, and a coconut milk panna cotta topped with poached rhubarb and a brandy snap (my ultimate favourite biscuit in the whole world). We got two vegan desserts so Steff and I could share, and although both of them were delicious, the lemon and basil sorbet was by far our favourite. I'm loving herby ice creams at the moment, I recently had some lemon and sage gelato from Gelupo and have been hooked since. It is so refreshing and just awesome. The panna cotta was everything it should be, creamy with a little wobble, and if Steff hadn't been there I would have eaten the brandy snap in one.

Steff said she has put on a bit of weight since going vegan, at first I laughed but now I understand why. When faced with so many tasty vegan dishes it's hard to not eat them all. Especially when those dishes are in a pub, where they serve beer. I confess I had a cheeky Sol. I'll be back for a bit of Sunday Roast in the near future, and have to try the Tofush and Chips!

What is your favourite pub food classic? I'm often told I'm a weirdo for eating cheesy chips and gravy, but honestly it's the best. If anyone has any vegan restaurant recommendations drop me a comment below.  

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