Tucked away from Kendal's busy main shopping street in one of the few riverside locations in Kendal. The Waterside Cafe is hidden away on a traffic-free, pedestrianised area beside the River Kent, making it a longstanding favourite of many locals, but easily missed by visitors. It meets all the requirements of even the strictest veggies; there's a new menu everyday, vegan and vegetarian meals are cooked on the premises with Fairtrade and organic ingredients, served by very friendly staff. If the weather's good enough, eat at the outside tables and watch the river flow by. Then, after a quiet, healthy veggie lunch it will be time to get back to the shopping, or walk off your lunch with a hike across the river to Kendal Castle to see the view that makes Kendal the gateway to the English Lake District.
Step a mere 100m south from Bath Abbey and the Roman baths into one of the oldest streets of Bath and enter the finest vegetarian restaurant in Britain. There are no Cranks eating in Demuths. The food is exuberant, exciting, an act of love, reflecting Rachel’s eye for colour, texture, flavour and artful combinations as seen on her world-wide travels. The simple ingredient becomes a blissful experience. Try her potato bonda (a green chili potato ball in a gram flour batter served in a spiced tomato soup with toasted cumin oil) or the beetroot aranchi (beetroot risotto balls stuffed with Somerset brie, served with apple jelly, yellow beetroot, pickled fennel, and rocket on a pink grapefruit and mint dressing). Try the Italian bitter chocolate cake and you may hear the angels singing. There are more meat-eaters among the regulars than either vegetarians or vegans. And if still not tempted, in 2008 Demuths was awarded ‘Bath restaurant of the Year’. That means the ‘Best of ALL’ restaurants in Bath. That’s no ordinary vegetarian diner.
This restaurant is simply excellent. It serves pure vegetarian Asian food (no fish or eggs are used in the cooking) at affordable prices. The menu has over 100 dishes so you can really keep going back again and again trying something new each time. If you like tofu, paneer and dahl (to name just a few of their ingredients used) you'll love coming to this restaurant. As well as Indian dishes they also serve oriental dishes which are noodle based. My favourite dish is Masala Dosa, a huge pancake of spiced potato which also arrives with a spicy soup and cooling coconut chutney on the side. It tastes just as good as in the bustling cafes of India I remember so fondly. An added bonus is that although they don't have a drink licence you can take your own alcohol into the restaurant. Not to be missed!
A vegetarian restaurant, bar and cinema. Great vegetarian food, which is both well presented and priced. Plus they have an offer of a cinema ticket and meal for around £17-£18. The bar serves vegetarian food, drinks and has live jazz. Great atmosphere.
A fascinating market which reflects the diversity of the local population.
A stroll down Atlantic Road and Electric Avenue in the centre of Brixton will take you past well established British fishmongers and more recently arrived Portuguese grocers. Further into the market are the stalls and shops stocking Caribbean staples, salt fish, plantains, green bananas and cassava. Butchers shops cater to many different communities, some are halal some sell pig's trotters and tails. Others sell Brazilian sausages or Columbian delicacies. In the last 12 months the Brixton Village project has seen the development of previously empty market units so that there are now new shops and stalls in the Granville Arcade, sitting alongside those selling dried fish from West Africa and a bewildering variety of yams. These ventures include small independent coffee shops and pizza restaurants, bakeries and an old fashioned sweet shop. Best of all there is always something new and especially on a Saturday you never know what you may find.
Abi Ruchi, a Keralan restaurant in Church Street in Stoke Newington, is great for a cheap, healthy meal and my number one takeaway option.
There are a number of mouthwatering dishes that I could talk about here. One that springs to mind is the kadala curry (£3.75) - chick peas cooked in probably the tastiest coconutty stuff I've ever eaten. Another of my favourites is the masala dosa (£4.95). I've had rather a few dosai in my time and can say confidently that the sambar Abi Ruchi serve with theirs is of a particularly high standard, with its succulent chunky vegetables and rich flavour.
For non-vegetarians there are loads of meat and fish options that I've heard are also of high quality. Oh, and I don't know what they do to their rice but it's mighty good.
To cap it all, I always receive the warmest of welcomes when I visit Abi Ruchi. The staff insist on giving me poppadoms and pickles while I wait for my takeaway and the waiters are very knowledgeable about all the dishes, which might be unusual to those not used to south Indian food.
42 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0LU
+44(0)20 7923 4564
Talbontdrain is a country guest house in Wales that I’ve visited several times over the last fifteen years. Each trip brings me an immense amount of pleasure, for three main reasons.
The setting: The house is about four miles from Machynlleth, a charming Powys market town. Since I don’t drive I tend to walk it, each step taking me further from civillisation as the road leads me between green hills, over a trickling stream and past a thousand or so bleating sheep.
The accommodation: In gloriously stark contrast to my noisy London flat, Talbontdrain is a converted farmhouse with characterful rustic rooms, making for a very cosy stay indeed. The duvets are the most comfy I’ve ever slept under and the fire in the living room, where I often doze off reading one of many novels on the bookshelf, is hot and welcoming. It’s excellent value and beats any bog-standard B&B or hotel by a mile.
The welcome: Hilary is a landlady with a difference whose quirky manner means she’s the ideal host for a laid-back and friendly stay. She’ll chat, make me tea, offer advice on the many walks surrounding Talbontdrain and run me into town if she’s going. She’s also a truly brilliant cook. Man, those fruit crumbles of hers are good …
Talbontdrain, Uwchygarreg, Machynlleth, Powys, Wales SY20 8RR
Google map: bit.ly/dEtNUt
Tel: 01654 702192
Nearest rail station: Machynlleth (on the Birmingham to Aberystwyth line)
Roots & Fruits is a vegetarian institution. This unpretentious cafe in central Leeds offers a warm and homely welcome and a menu full of fresh and delicious fare which appeals to veggies and non-veggies alike.
My favourite starter has to be the goats cheese fritters with onion marmalade, and the full breakfast is equal to the task of conquering any hangover you care to throw in its path.
Situated in the Grand Arcade, and open until 7pm, it is also a good choice for a pre-theatre supper. The drinks menu includes an unrivalled choice of teas and fresh juice, but if you fancy a glass of wine then you’re welcome to take your own.
Doncaster Market has been at the heart of the town since medieval times. It covers a large area with inside and outside stalls. It consists of a general market where any manner of non perishable items can be purchased but the real treat for foodies are the outdoor fruit and vegetable market and the indoor fish and meat markets. Who would have thought that a walk through Doncaster town centre would lead to the opportunity of buying the best fresh ingredients for any meal you could possibly be considering cooking. Local produce is available as well as the more exotic items now popular as the community becomes more diverse. Stallholders are great Yorkshire folk always ready to chat, offer cooking tips and advice (whether you want it or not).
It's an amazing place, very friendly outgoing staff, vegi food all locally sourced with a Mediterranean"twist", approved by the Vegetarian Society. Free live music at weekends in gorgeous surroundings showing arthouse/niche and mainstream movies in a state of the art, comfy cinema, all in the English Lake District town of Ambleside!
Squeak is by far my favourite restaurant and the best place to get your hands on delicious vegetarian food. The restaurant has a very homely, 1970s feel, decorated with warm colours and mismatched furniture. The menu changes on a regular basis, and is always inventive and exciting, with lots of choice for both vegetarians and vegans. I visited with a large group of meat eater friends for a birthday one year and they all loved the food and were very pleasantly surprised with how tasty everything was. Alongside great food, there is also a fantastic selection of both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, including organic and vegan beverages.
23-25 Heathcoat Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AG
+44(0)115 955 5560
Google map: bit.ly/hk9afN
Squeek, in Nottingham, is my favourite vegetarian restaurant. The a la carte menu offers vegetarian and vegan variations of the kind of meals that are definitely treats and not something that could be easily made at home – there’s no vegetarian cannelloni or pasta bakes here. The prices are affordable, a two course evening meal is about £15 and a three course around £17.00 and the comprehensive wine list offers a large of choice of vegetarian, vegan and organic wines and beers.
I definitely recommend the December meze menu – served with either mulled wine or non alcoholic punch.
The atmosphere is relaxed and the clientele mixed; its definitely a restaurant that you feel comfortable in whether you’ve dressed up or just rocked up as you are.
23-25 Heathcoat Street, Nottingham NG1 3AG +44(0)115 955 5560
Google map: bit.ly/hk9afN
The Diwana is my favourite Indian restaurant in London. There are three reasons: the first is the fond memories it evokes of childhood trips to London, which invariably featured a re-fuel here. The second is the quality of the food - speaking as a British Asian it is the only place in London I have found which rivals my grandmother's cooking (although in case she ever reads this, it still comes off second best). The third is the value for money. If you go at lunchtime, for roughly £8 plus a drink, you can enjoy the sumptuous vegetarian buffet. This features dahls to die for, delicious saags, soul-nourishing channa massalas, more salads than you could possibly wish for, home-made raitas, freshly baked naans, pooris and parathas, and a fantastic selection of deserts. The gulab jaman are especially good here. The menu is of the same high standard but for the full experience I would wholeheartedly recommend going at lunch. If you do, don't eat any breakfast, and don't make dinner plans. You will be too full and in too high a state of food nirvana to want to eat another bite for the rest of the day.
121 Drummond Street, London, NW1 2HL
+44(0)20 7387 5556
Google map: bit.ly/f9NPgj
A European style cafe/bar, Tragos is a great place for a rainy day with children. It has a plentiful supply of board games, a community book swap, a children's menu, and child sized 'babycinos' (warm milk with marshmallows and dusted with chocolate) which our children love. Added to that, for parents there are newspapers, good coffee and tea (or alcohol) and very reasonably priced food which is excellent. It is full of character, so feels independent, but is actually part of a chain, mostly located in the Southwest of the UK. Check their website to see if there is one near you. I recommend their brunches, served all day, especially the "lounge eggs" - absolutely delicious.
It is not immediately obvious how to find it, but once you do, the new View Tube; café, classroom, fledgling art space and bike hire, located on the Greenway adjacent to the stadium offers something alternative. A structure made from recycled shipping containers, this low-key green building solution puts into focus the monumental building project just feet away in the Olympic Park.
An Aladdin’s Cave of 20th Century memorabilia, housed in the atmospheric old market building. Starting with the Victorian and Edwardians, visitors progress through the war years, to the 1970's, via a total of 32 displays. Every aspect of life is represented: toys, clothes, food, furnishings, music, cosmetics, cigarettes, haberdashery, transport and more. For adults it’s a nostalgiafest; for children a fascinating immersion in the stuff of the past. My 11-year-old daughter was engrossed by the Wartime exhibits; her eight-year-old friend preferred the sweets and chocolates of yesteryear. Be prepared to answer questions though: “Did you really wear clothes like that in the Sixties dad?” Er, yes I did.
On a weekend head to the Winking Prawn cafe on North Sands, Salcombe. It's right on the beach with great views rain or shine and a fantastic big breakfast buffet - served from 8.45 am for the early birds. We usually scrape in at 10.30 so it can be more like brunch ... There's even the chance to read the paper as the kids can busy themselves with the wonderful wacky selection in the dressing up box. Nicely full then head onto the sands for a game of footie, rockpooling, chasing waves, digging in the sand or whatever takes your fancy till you're too cold too cope. Next head to Overbecks National Trust property just up the hill. It's a remarkable and intriguing little Edwardian gem with enough for the kids to love too. Unfortunately the house is not open in the winter but the warm and yummy tea room is and after warming up there it's well worth exploring the exotic garden (it looks so tropical its almost enough to convince yourself it's not winter), with its hidden paths and many levels, stunning views across the estuary and even giant Jenga to play on the lawn.
Wrap up warm and hop on the Keswick Launch that chugs around Derwentwater, in the heart of the western Lake District. It sets off from a pretty bay near Keswick’s theatre by the lake. There are plenty of jetties to run along and ducks to feed should you be early.
People can hop on and off the boat as they please. Cat Bells (home to Mrs Tiggy Winkle) is the fell on your right as you head towards the first stop, Ashness Gate, from where you can walk up to the much-photographed Ashness Bridge. But children may be less excited about an old stone bridge so best to stay onboard until Lodore, from where you can climb up through the woods to the impressive Lodore Falls.
Our favourite route involves staying put until High Brandelhow. From here we walk a few miles along the lakeside path which takes us through old woodland, across fields, over stiles and bridges to Nichol End. Kids can race ahead, hide in hollowed-out trees, explore the woods, hang off jetties, splash in the lake and check out the huge wooden hand. Dogs (which are welcome on the boat) will have a ball too.
At Nichol End Marina there is a fantastic little café on the lake shore. Great home-made soup and saucer-sized scones await you. After lunch the kids can play on the shore (more jetties and ducks) while parents enjoy a coffee.
The boat stops here before heading back to Keswick. For those with a bit more left in their legs, there is a pleasant walk through the village of Portinscale before joining a footpath which delivers you back to Keswick.
Dawlish carnival is one of Devon's largest carnivals. It's in August, with various events taking place during the week including a fair, battle of the bands, competitions, sporting events and fetes. The highlights of carnival week are the Dawlish International Airshow featuring the Red Arrows attracting around 80,000 visitors, and the carnival procession itself.
The Bridgwater Carnival takes place on the Thursday before Bonfire night and is the largest of several carnivals which tour towns in central Somerset, to celebrate the anniversary of the 1605 gunpowder plot, when Guy Fawkes failed to blow up the English Houses of Parliament.
Taking place at night, the Carnival is a dramatic, illuminated procession of about 100 floats, each lit by thousands of light bulbs and playing music - they are powered by huge generators housed in trailers behind each float. Although a good idea to wrap up at this time of year, the warmth generated by all those lights and the fact that you can't help but dance the night away will all help to keep you warm! Each float is built by a Carnival club representing a town, pub or place of work in the area, with widely varying themes. It claims to be the largest illuminated carnival in Europe, attracting over 150,000 visitors.
A unique feature of the Bridgwater Carnival is the tradition of 'squibbing', which takes place after the procession. Squibs are huge hand-held fireworks, and about 100 are lit at once in a dramatic display. (The practice gives its name to the English expression of 'a damp squib')
The entire event is organised by volunteers and raises money for charity.
Google 'Bridgwater Carnival' - the web-site gives full details of how to watch the procession (early arrival is essential as many main roads are closed for the event) and alternative venues and dates in the different towns of the circuit - Burnham-on-Sea, Wells, Glastonbury and Weston-super-Mare. The web-site also has a photograph gallery from previous processions and video clips of squibbing.
Wikipedia has an excellent review of the history of the Carnival with some great photographs at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Country_Carnival
Put it in your diary now and make sure you come and see for yourself the most amazing carnival in Europe - you won't fail to be impressed and it will light up your winter!
Bridgwater, Somerset, UK
Google map: bit.ly/ijn26L
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