Another visit to Perrywoods….

A decision to make, where to go for lunch… Those that know me have grown to love (tolerate) the need for me to look online and choose what I am going to eat before turning up anywhere to eat.  This has only got worse since becoming dairy free, in fact I would argue its more of a necessity so that I know there is something I like available for me.

So, I was looking at local websites and it here it was – Perrywoods with not only a vegan menu but a dairy free menu including dairy and gluten free options, this is great progress for those of us with dietary requirements and I would recommend taking a look at their website.  Decision made, this is where I would be going for lunch and I actually arrived with a couple of ideas in mind.  The queue was huge, yes it was half term but thankfully not too many children about and in fairness it was just after midday so a very popular time to be having lunch.  The system was organised, after queuing up to order food a table was found by one of the waitresses to enable us to get seated which I think is a great way of working a queue although inevitable there were still customers who felt the need to find a seat before ordering.

It is worth pointing out that on top of the great menus which can be found on the website, there are also specials which I believe change daily and can be found on the boards when you go into the restaurant.  I had chosen and although there was a few dishes which were tempting me to change my mind I stuck to my guns and had the sweet potato falafel salad with a sweet chilli drizzle.

Despite being extremely busy in there, with all the staff working their socks off it wasn’t a long wait for the food to arrive – and it looked delicious.  Lovely selection of salad and a generous portion of potato falafel rosti’s, as you can see from the pic it was more than sufficient for lunch (even for me).  Part of me was considering ordering  a dairy free scone, even if it was to take home for later purely because I have not found anywhere else in the area to provide this – but I was good and thought I would hold off for another visit.  Yep, I would definitely be returning.  This deserves a high mark of 9.5/10, great selection for those with dietary requirements with the ability to see what is available online and the efficiency of the staff at such a busy time was out of this world.  I am looking forward to returning very soon to try out more on the menu, that scone is still calling me that’s for sure!

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On a side note, for anyone who loves Christmas (eugh the C word) the decorations are out and its well worth a visit here to take a look around – you will do well to leave without buying something so do be warned!

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Zizzi’s

The website for Zizzi’s is amazing, you can filter by dietary requirement – I chose vegan and there is an extensive menu available, even more so had I just selected dairy free.  Once seated I was just handed the normal menu, me being me already knew what I wanted however I could have asked to see the Vegan menu had it been necessary.  The restaurant was set out nicely, the tables weren’t too close together and although when we arrived at just about 12pm it did get busy as lunch time hit and we did end up having to wait a while for our desserts once these had been ordered.

The menu had many options available for me, including a great selection of vegan pizza’s and pasta dishes such as lentil ragu which I was very tempted with.  Although I rarely have a starter I noted there was quite a few there that would have suited me nicely including spicy nuts and vegan garlic bread – maybe next time.  I was very excited to see a few dishes on the dessert side of things, something that a lot of places lack when it comes to dairy free.

Knowing what I wanted meant I could  ask for the vegan / non dairy spaghetti pomodoro dish without having to see the vegan menu, and I was able to swap my spaghetti for wholewheat pasta.  This is basically a pasta dish in a tomato based sauce which may come across as being quite plain and simple but I love pasta and I haven’t had it in a while and therefore I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Yes, it would have tasted nicer with mozzarella but I have to accept I can’t have this, it was also presented nicely.

When it came to dessert time I knew I was going to have to take a look at the Vegan menu and when I spotted both a vegan dessert calzone and the sticky chocolate & praline torte I was completely torn!  The vegan dessert calzone is described as ‘Warm sugared dough filled with banana, blueberries & strawberry & raspberry coulis.  Served with crushed honeycomb & coconut & chocolate ripple gelato’.  The sticky chocolate & praline torte is ‘A dairy-free chocolate torte with a date, hazelnut & walnut base.  Served with coconut and chocolate ripple gelato’ – now someone tell me how do I choose between these?!

Luckily enough for me, I didn’t have to because two of use ordered one each and we shared – this was the best solution for it and I was so pleased we did.  I went in for the dessert calzone first and it was very tasty, quite heavy but to be expected – the fruit was sweet and the gelato had a lovely texture and taste.  Half way in it was time to swap to the chocolate torte, O M G it was mouth watering!  Rich – yes, could I have eaten the whole thing – perhaps not, but delicious is the only word I can use to describe it.  Sharing half of each was a great move.

I am keen to come back here again at some point and try out some other options on the menu, for those of you who are not dairy free there is also lots available, from meat dishes, to pasta and pizza’s I think there is something to suit everyone.  It is also worth keeping an eye on vouchers for Zizzi’s as I am sure they offer discounts on midweek meals.

For the menu alone this place will score highly but the meals themselves are also worth a good mark, I thoroughly enjoyed my pasta with the desserts completing this meal off very, very nicely.  I am going to have to go in for a 9.5/10 -only losing half a point as I did start to wonder if they had forgotten about our desserts (not a good move!)

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Wagamamas

For anyone who loves noodles, rice, curries and freshly cooked food you should definitely take a trip to Wagamama’s. I had been here a couple of times myself, bdf (before dairy free) and had enjoyed a noodle and beef dish and a chicken curry with sticky rice – both very enjoyable meals.

This time was different, I had to look at the vegan options for safety but I was pleasantly surprised with the selection although I do have to admit I am not sure I knew what some of the ingredients was. The advantage of everything being cooked fresh does mean that I could request how I would like this cooked, in future I think this would change the choice made.

The seating in the restaurant does have a strange setup because it is done in rows you may find yourself sitting next to another person who you don’t know which to me is a little strange although this time we were lucky as it wasn’t very busy we had a bench to ourselves. I am not sure I would like to go into one of these places at a busy time as I think it would all be a bit too close and friendly for me – especially if you want to have conversations with whoever you are with.

Edamame beans with salt were a great starter, they came out almost immediately and tasted great – good one to share as it would have been too much to have on my own. When it came to the main meal and having had a chicken Katsu curry before and really enjoying it I thought I would go for the vegatsu curry from the vegan menu. This is a basic swap from chicken in breadcrumbs to seitan coated in breadcrumbs (I have no idea what this is…). I also swapped the white rice to brown which is always a bonus for me as I do like to choose wholemeal options when available. I found the dish very filling, my plate was full and there was plenty of rice.

I did enjoy the meal but having had chicken before I wasn’t quite as struck by the swap made for the vegan option – perhaps I should have stuck at chicken and just asked about it being dairy free. I will certainly be going back here again to test out other vegan options or even asking the waiter to adapt one of the meat meals to suite my dairy free requirements.

It’s a tough one to mark, the food is lovely – cooked fresh and I can’t fault it other than food choice. I have to admit I would not want to eat in here as an evening meal – I can imagine it feeling a little canteeny but I did enjoy this lunch time visit. I would grade this as a 6/10 for venue and 8/10 for food so let’s meet in the middle at 7/10.

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Bill’s Vegetarian Breakfast

My breakfast at Bill’s was very easy to choose in advance, their menu online is brilliant because you can select your dietary requirements and have all options filtered for your specific needs. This starts at vegetarian and vegan and even goes down to milk free which for me is amazing.  It gave me the chance to look through those meals just suitable for me and seeing as I was hungry I went for the Bill’s Vegetarian Breakfast, however there were a few things on there I would have been happy to try and I do plan on going back to try some others out.

The restaurant itself was quite different to where I have had breakfasts so far, I am not sure why this is other than it is not a tearoom and many of the other places have been. I am not saying it is a negative, the décor was nice and it was relatively busy which tells me it is a popular place.  I originally ordered an orange juice to have with my poached free-range eggs, roasted plum tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato hummus, smashed avocado, sweet chilli sauce, basil and toast – however, this was full of bits a too sharp for me.  I did then spot there was a fruit tea on the menu so I added this to my order.

I must admit this is one of my favourite breakfasts so far, knowing what was safe for me is always a brilliant start and it felt like I was having a proper cooked breakfast along with everyone else. No need to venture off the menu which I really liked and with a few breakfast options for me to choose from this was a great start.  The breakfast was a great size and I really enjoyed it and very different to the normal breaky I would have either at home or when eating out.  The only negative for me was the atmosphere and the restaurant layout itself which is just a personal preference down to enjoying the tearoom / café experience that bit more for a breakfast, although I think an evening or lunch time meal here would be great.

It has to be a 9/10.

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Sophie’s Kitchen

We decided to try out Sophie’s Kitchen next, although I hadn’t been in here before I have always peered in on my way past and it looked nice and I thought it would be a good spot for some people watching. I couldn’t find a menu online which I always find frustrating especially when I like to know if places can cater for dairy free luckily, I got a picture of the menu sent through to me which at least gave me a chance to see what was available.  I spotted the “play it safe” baked beans on toast as a soon as I viewed the menu although it wasn’t long before the Breakfast Bowl jumped out at me.  Greek yoghurt served with mixed berries, granola and honey – right up my street. I knew it was unlikely that they would have a dairy free yoghurt but I wanted this breakfast so much I brought my own and hid it in my handbag.

We arrived around 9:30 / 10ish and the place was empty, there is plenty of seating and I have often seen it full at lunch times so I was surprised that there was no one else in there. The bonus of this was that we could choose any seat we want which meant we were positioned against the window with the view of the High Street to people watch the morning away.  It also meant I didn’t feel so silly for asking them to use my own yoghurt.  I also had a pot of fruit tea which is a great option to have with breakfast and not always available so I was pleased with this.  I really enjoyed the breakfast, I thought the menu was great as there was lots to choose from and the breakfast bowl is something that is not usually available.

I couldn’t help but look at the cakes available behind the counter, there were so many to choose from all looking delicious but I do find it disappointing that there wasn’t any dairy free or vegan options. This is something that a lot tearooms lack in and I’d like to see this improve which I am sure it will over time, just like the gluten free availabilities.  I would like to come back here again, perhaps for lunch or another breakfast although I am not sure what options would be open to me so would need to consider this further.

Because the menu was so good and the layout and set up of the tables was nice I would like to give this an 8/10, however due to the lack of options for dairy free / vegan customers I am going to put this down at a 7.5/10.

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The Lock Tearoom, Heybridge Basin

The next breaky stop was at The Lock Tearoom in Heybridge Basin, having been there numerous times before I knew the parking is easy, the location and tearoom is lovely so it’s always a nice place to go. I hadn’t had breakfast here since becoming dairy free and my normal choice would either have been the full fry up (with adjustments as it’s made fresh to order swaps can be made) or scrambled egg on toast.  On this occasion I decided to play it safe with beans on toast without the butter and explained I was dairy free.  The waiter was very helpful and said they do have dairy free spread which is what I opted for and always makes the classic meal of beans on toast that bit tastier, I also had the choice of either white or granary bread.  I appreciate this isn’t the most difficult of breakfasts to cater for but it was very nice, the menu is good and they accommodate my dairy free requirements well.  I am not sure if there are any cake or sweet options available in a dairy free range but it is something I would hope to check out in the future.

I would recommend coming here for breakfast, it’s a lovely setting to have something to eat, parking is free with plenty of spaces available and you could follow up with a walk along the seawall. I can’t say it blew me away which to be honest could be down to the fact I had standard beans on toast, but it is a solid 7.5/10.

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https://www.tiptree.com/index.php/tiptree-tea-rooms/menus.html

 

Breaky no. 2 – The Oakhouse

 

Oakhouse was our next stop, I’d heard the breakfasts here were good and I had wanted to get on the website to take a look at the menu before arriving but unfortunately the breakfast menu isn’t on there. I haven’t eaten in here for such a long time but I was looking forward to testing out the breakfasts.  We didn’t book but when we arrived at 9:30 there was plenty of seats available so this wasn’t an issue, we got a nice spot in a booth although the seats are a little on the uncomfortable side.  Two of us got the chance to order our drinks and take a look at the menu before the others arrived and as soon as I had spotted poached eggs on the menu I knew this is what I would be asking for.

It was no hassle asking for poached egg on toast without the butter which wasn’t actually on the menu but I explained I was dairy free and there were no questions asked which is always good. Once again, I just had water, however there was a peppermint tea, normal tea and a milkshake also ordered and I think everyone seemed happy with these drinks.  My water however had a funny taste, it was almost like I could taste the red bull from a Jager bomb I imagine had been in there the previous evening – not great but I didn’t comment to the waitress so I guess it can’t have been that bad.  The others at my table had ordered the eggs royale and eggs benedict and although the service was quite slow this is probably because everything is cooked fresh which I wouldn’t complain about.  My food was nice, I love the way the poached eggs looked as they came out and it was all presented well.  My only criticism would have to be down to how the egg was cooked and I know this is all down to a personal preference.  I had hoped for some runny egg – there was no running yolk, now I know I am really quite picky when it comes to how my eggs are cooked as there is a fine line between getting the yolk runny and having slime on my egg.  However, I would have liked to have seen some runny yolk spread across my toast, as you can imagine without butter this actually makes it quite dry.  I am sorry but for me it would have to be a 6.5 / 10 due to the funny tasting water and the non-runny egg.

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