Best for: Brunch, lunch, vegan, raw, organic and gluten-free options
After a couple of months travelling down Australia’s East Coast, It’s almost time for the ‘holiday’ part of my Working Holiday to end and for me to start looking for some work back in Melbourne. The end of this bit of the trip also means that it’s sadly time to say goodbye to my friend and travel companion and instead embark on my own new solo adventure.
However, our East Coast travels aren’t quite done yet as we haven’t reached Sydney and we still had one more place to tick of the bucket list first: Byron Bay.
Byron is infamous worldwide for being a little oasis of hippies and backpackers in Australia and as soon as we got here, it really did feel like this place is in it’s own little bubble from reality. In a way Byron is how I imagined all of Australia to be: surfers everywhere, smoothie bowls galore, great coffee, beach parties and chilled clubs. Of course all of Australia isn’t like that- and I’m glad that it isn’t but Byron Bay really fits the stereotype.
Over the past few months I’ve had a hard time justifying spending $5 on a coffee when I can cook dinner for the same price, let alone spending four times that on brunch, which has resulted in an abnormally absent presence of cafe reviews on this blog.
However its turns out that two months of scrounging for leftovers in the free food section of the hostels and debating over which peanut butter is cheaper per kg has paid off and by some miracle I have some money left so, the other day we decided to treat ourselves to brunch out, in typical Byron Bay style.
Combi, Byron Bay
Out of all of the overpriced and ‘totally me’ cafes in Byron, we decided to go to Combi because it has everything you could want out of a Byron cafe: Beautiful smoothie bowls, buddha bowls, vegan cakes and a minimalist open decor.
Combi isn’t cheap and I did have a bit of a- ‘how much?!‘ moment, when I saw the $20 veggie bowl prices, but the food is fantastic and if a girl can’t treat herself to brunch out in Byron, then where can she? When it comes to brunch I’m always divided between sweet and savoury (if it’s encompassing breakfast and lunch then I need both sections fulfilled right?) So me and my friend took the only sensible option and split two dishes. We went for Combi’s vegan veggie bowl: a really filling dish of lemony rice, tempeh, loads of veggies and an incredible peanut sauce, along with the organic acai bowl, topped with lots of fruit and granola.
If you’re after something smaller then Combi also do the most aesthetically pleasing range of vegan and raw deserts as well as a huge selection of coffees and smoothies.
Caye Caulker: A tiny island, just five kilometres in length with no roads that’s situated just off the mainland in Belize, Central America, wasn’t a place that I expected to find a good coffee shop, yet Ice N Beans was just that.
Despite its undeniably Caribbean culture I was pleasantly surprised to see that when it came to eating, it wasn’t all jerk chicken and there were a surprising amount of veggie, vegan and gluten-free cafes and restaurants with Ice N Beans by far being my favourite.
With its early opening times, good coffee, gluten-free and veggie options this cafe has really tapped into what people want making it the go to place to chill on the island.
With its location right on the beachfront of Caye Caulker there couldn’t be a more idealistic setting for a coffee shop. The entire vibe of this paradise like island invites you to chill but If you really have some work to do then the little balcony area in this cafe that overlooks the ocean is the perfect place to go and be productive and if that doesn’t scream ‘life/work balance’ then I don’t know what does.
I don’t think anywhere on Caye Caulker could be described as fancy Ice N Beans is just another place that fits in to the chilled vibe of the island. The main building is essentially a wooden hut and this cafe is tiny inside but it has plenty of seats and benches out the front on the sand. Expect there to be a queue out the door, it’s a popular place but it’s well worth the wait.
First and foremost Ice and Beans does great coffee. All their beans are organic and locally grown in Belize and they offer a huge range of hot, iced and blended coffee drinks. What sold it for me was the free hot donut that comes with every drink you order plus the multiple smoothie samples that I got handed while waiting in line: I had to start turning them down as there were so many.
With its early opening time at six in the morning this cafe is a must go for breakfast. They have lots of healthy options including yoghurt bowls that you can build your own by choosing the type of yoghurt, fruit and topping you want. They also do incredible yoghurt smoothies and protein shakes: The peanut butter and banana one was heavenly.
The cafe has a range of bagels on offer too: The Nutty Monkey with Nutella, banana and almonds was my favourite. Ice and beans mini donuts are also available to buy by the bag along with their iconic bubble waffles and rum balls.
Caye Caulker is a really expensive island but Ice N Beans is one of the cheaper places with coffees costing around £2 and bagels from £3.
Last year when Levash first opened its doors on Brighton’s Gardner Street, I’ve got to admit that the first thing I thought was ‘oh great, another falafel place’. However a few weeks ago I decided to give this Middle Eastern cafe a visit and I’ve got to say it’s so much more than that.
With its array of fresh, locally sourced middle eastern breakfast, lunch and dinner options, what really makes Levash stand out from the crown is its home-baked flatbread, baked daily in its kitchen. In fact it was these that I spied while walking by one day and decided I had to get stuck into one of those. Chargrilled and spongy with just the right amount of bite, these delicious wraps form the basis of all the dishes at Levant.
The decor is cute, bohemian and exotic so basically it ticks all of the boxes for us Brightonians. It has a surprising amount of room inside and there’s also outdoor seating abalone making it yet another place in Brighton that’s prefect for a quick summer lunch.
Although the menu is small it caters for everyone from its traditional meat dish like Lahmoukoun (topped with spicy lamb mince) to the veggie and vegan wraps including the lentil and burger patties wrap and halloumi and tzatsiki. They also have a selection of platters/ open flatbread also with a vegan, veggie and meat option.
A late night cafe in Brighton’s North Laine
While primarily a lunch place, Levash is also open for breakfast on sunday, serving a selection of traditional middle eastern breakfast dishes like borek, eggs and roasted vegetables. It’s also open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday until 10pm.
Overall I was really satisfied with my lunch at Levash and with prices stating from just £6, I’ll be back.
Wagamama is always a go to when it comes to eating dinner out with my friends because be it options for vegans, veggie, fussy eaters or carnivores, it’s one of the few places that is guaranteed to suit us all.
Yesterday was a rarity because me and my best friends were not only all back in Brighton at the same time but we also managed to coordinate a free evening so we decided to celebrate with a dinner trip to yours truly.
When it comes to eating I usually try to support independent businesses but I make an exception for Wagamama because its fusion Asian menu never fails to disappoint and in all honesty, I’m a little stumped when it comes to finding independent restaurants that are open for dinner in Brighton as most of my go-tos are brunch/ lunch places.
While I have my firm favourite dishes (the Raisukaree curry and the Yasai Yaki Soba noodles) I’ve made it my mission to work my way through the menu and when I was agonising over my options last night, what really stood out was the huge selection of vegan options on the menu.
Wagamama has always had its fair share of veggie/vegan dishes; the Yasai Yaki Soba noodles, the Yasai Katsu Curry and the Kare Burosu Ramen but now on the Brighton menu are three new options.
The dish that I was really drawn to was the Cookmama. Consisting of curried Udon noodles, with shichimi-coated tofu (oh wow) and crispy coconut ‘bacon’ (double wow) served with broccoli, cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms, the Cookmama was absolutely incredible and totally vegan. Apparently the dish is a product of a collaboration with king cook of the vegan restaurant, CookDaily in London so it was highlighted on the menu with a little star making it seem extra special. For £9.50 the Cookmama is really good value and with the crispy tofu, it doesn’t ‘taste vegan’ so even the most carnivorous of people would love it. If you’re not a fan of spicy food then ask for it to be made a little milder as it is quite hot.
Also new to the menu is the vegatsu, a vegan Katsu curry which uses seitan ( like tofu) coated in crispy panco breadcrumbs and topped with the Katsu sauce so unlike the Yasai version which is based on fried aubergines and sweet potato, it’s a lot closer to the traditional chicken dish. Personally I’ve never fancied the Katsu but I really appreciate that the restaurant has worked so hard to get an authentic vegan version of one of their most iconic dishes. This dish costs £10.75.
The Harusame Glass Noodle Salad
If the hot weather has you wanting something a little lighter then Wagamama’s other new vegan dish, the harusame glass noodle salad might be for you. I first discovered glass noddle salads in Thailand in which thread thin rice noodles are mixed with fresh vegetables, sauces and served cold making for a really refreshing dish. The Wagamama version is mixed with tofu, kale, edamame, adzuki beans, mange tout and carrots which looked really good and is definitely next on my list. This dish cost a reasonable £9.50
Overall I was really impressed with the new veggie/vegan options on the Brighton menu. Of course I can only vouch for the Cookmama (I had to fill out a little form after I my meal and it was all 5/5s for me) so If you’ve tried one of the other two options then let me know your thoughts.
The Best vegetarian and vegan dishes that you need to try in Greece
Iman, Spanakopita, Gigantes and Gemista: Greek cuisine is one that’s packed full of Mediterranean vegetables, oil, beans, pulses and bread, making it one of the easiest countries to eat vegetarian or vegan in Europe.
You might think of the country’s meaty dishes when you think of Greek cuisine however Greece actually has tons of plant-based dishes too. Last summer I went Greek Island hopping ( I apologise that I’ve only written this post now) and when it came to eating we found it was the vegetarian dishes that were the tastiest, healthiest and also the cheapest.
Here are some of my favourite veggie and vegan dishes in Greece
Humble beginnings: The Greek salad (veggie)
Don’t ever think that a greek salad is boring. In Greece, a country where the tomatoes are so sweet they make a fantastic meal on their own when drizzled with olive oil and salt, a real greek salad is something else. There’s nothing I love more than ordering a big bowl of it with freshly chopped veg, salty capers, a glug of extra virgin oil and a big slab of feta on the top.
Imam Baylidi (Vegan/Veggie)
The story behind the Imam dish is that an Islamic leader, an imam, tried the dish when visiting Greece and it was so good that he fainted after he ate it. (I’m not sure if that’s true but either way I am a massive fan of this aubergine based dish). To make it large juicy aubergines are stuffed with tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices and then baked in a hot oven with loads of olive oil (Extra helpings of bread to mop up the juices is essential). It’s either served plain (vegan) or topped with feta.
Spanakopita and Tiropita (Veggie/ Vegan option)
Spanakopita is one of my favourite meals ever and it’s really cheap one too. This spinach and feta pie is a bakery staple and a big slab of this makes an ideal breakfast or lunch and will never set you back more than a couple of euros. The traditional version comprises of spinach and feta mixed together and binded in crispy filo pastry. Other variations include the nistismo version without cheese (which is totally vegan!) or Tiropita (just plain cheese and saves the awkwardness of having spinach stuck in your teeth maybe?)
Gigantes are traditional Greek baked beans (although they’re much better than tinned Heinz ones- sorry guys). Giant white beans are cooked in a rich tomato sauce with loads of diced vegetables and served with bread. In their traditional form these are completely vegan although some places add meat so just be sure to double-check.
Gemista (stuffed peppers) (vegan or veggie)
Gemista are essentially greek stuffed peppers and it is one of my favourite dishes to order in Greece as it’s really healthy, filling and generally very cheap. My favourite version is the traditional vegetarian/vegan one in which the peppers are stuffed full of a tomato flavoured rice, chopped vegetables and herbs. Some versions of gemista do contain meat so just make sure before you order.
I have memories of visiting my family in Cyprus when I was younger and tucking into a great big stodgy slab of cold pastitsio and I guarantee you that once you get the taste for this dish you’ll get what I’m talking about. Pastitsio is a little like a hybrid between a Greek moussaka and a mac and cheese. It’s made out of tubed pasta (that looks like long macaroni tubes) and is baked with a white sauce flavoured with nutmeg before being cooled and cut into big slices. One of my absolute favourite dishes.
Vegetarian Moussaka (veggie)
Moussaka isn’t all about the meat you know. Most restaurants that I’ve eaten at do a vegetarian version of this greek staple dish and to be honest I think the substitution of vegetables for meat brings a welcome change to what can otherwise be quite a heavy dish. For the vegetarian dish, mediterranean vegetables are baked in the oven with a layer of tomato sauce and bechamel sauce on top. (A little like a lasagna but without the pasta).
Aubergine Saganaki (veggie)
I got so obsessed with this meal in Greece that I kept making it constantly when I got home. This dish comprises of melt in your mouth aubergines that are pre-cooked in olive oil and then layered with feta cheese and rich tomato sauce and baked in the oven. I don’t know if life gets much better than this with a glass of wine.
Revithia sto forno (Vegan)
This greek dish of baked chickpeas isn’t widely known outside of the country however it’s a really good vegan dish to order when you’re out and even recreate at home as it only has a few ingredients: Chickpeas, olive oil, onions and rosemary which are all baked together in the oven and served with bread.
I love Greek Mezze. It’s the perfect solution to my food indecisiveness. You can order it in pretty much most restaurants and it comprises of lots of small dishes that you pile on your plate and eat with lots of bread and oil and the best thing is, there are loads of vegetarian options.
Veggie/ Vegan Mezze dishes you have to order:
Dolmades (vegan): Dolmades are made by picking vine leaves and then stuffing them with tomato flavoured rice. They may sound a little odd but believe me, good dolmades are out of this world.
Kolokythokeftedes (Zucchini balls) (veggie) : I fell in love with these when I last had mezze in Greece and I couldn’t believe that I’d never had them before. For these soft courgette is mixed with salty feta and rolled into small balls and fried.
TomatoKeftedes (vegan or veggie): Similar to above but with tomato instead. Also fantastic.
Saganaki (veggie) : Saganaki is the most self indulgent mezze dish and I can hardly resist ordering it every time it’s on the menu. For this, salty Kefalograveria cheese is fried and served with lemon juice.
‘Hold the Taramasalata’
Dips are big business in Greece and almost all of them apart from the pink coloured taramasalata (made with fish roe) are veggie. Here are some of my favourites.
Tzatziki (veggie) : What is a meal out in Greece without starting with a plate of tzatziki? I totally overdose of this garlic yoghurt and cucumber dip when I’m in Greece so much so that I’m usually already full by the time my meals comes. Real greek tzatziki made with thick greek yoghurt is so much better than the watery shop bought stuff you get at home.
Hummus (vegan): What vegan doesn’t love a plate of hummus? Luckily Greeks do too and you can usually find this on the menu in restaurants or at deli counters for a cheap lunch.
Olive tapanade (vegan) : Another vegan dip I love this fantastic puree of black kalamata olives spread on hard rusks or rustic village bread.
Fava (vegan): I laugh about the time when at 18, me and my friend found ourselves in a far too fancy restaurant and I pretended to totally know what the waitress meant when she asked if we liked Sanatorian fava. However it turns out I really do like it and the great thing is it’s totally vegan. This popular dip is made by blending soft fava beans to a smooth paste (until it looks a little like hummus).
Melitzanoslata: (Vegan) This traditional Greek aubergine dip is completely vegan and a really great way to incorporate another vegetable into your diet. Aubergines are grilled until soft and then mixed with roasted garlic, lemon and seasonings.
Who needs to eat meat when all the fantastic sweets in Greece’s bakeries and restaurants are there to indulge in? I’ve listed a few of my favourites but feel free to check out my guide: Foodies guide: What to eat in a Greek bakery if you want to know more.
A couple of my favourite sweet treats are:
Baklava (veggie): Sickly sweet, fragrant, flakyand so indulgent, baklava is the ultimate sweet treat and there are so many variations on it. My favourite are the large triangular slabs made with layers of filo party binded with pistachios and drenched in honey and orange syrup.
Halva (Vegan or veggie): This sweet can be bought widely throughout Greece and the best thing about is that most versions of it are vegan (just be sure to double-check the ingredients). Traditionally halva is made from tahini, pistachios and honey so it’s free from refined sugar and actually a good source of protein too.
Loukamades (veggie): These are one of my guilty pleasures particularly if I’m visiting Athens (where there are lots of vendors selling them with coffee). Loukamades are a type of mini round donuts served drenched in honey syrup with cinnamon and nuts or chocolate. Once you get the taste for them it’s impossible not to go back for more!
There are many more vegan and vegetarian Greek dishes but these are my favourites and probably the most easy to find. I really wanted to write this post because after searching on the internet I found it interesting that a lot of people still seem to think that veggie and vegan food is hard to come across in Greece.
I hope that I’ve shown you that finding plant based food is actually effortless and you can find plenty of options in any taverna or bakery so you don’t have to go and search out specific vegan friendly places either.
I loved Tulum in Mexico so much, partly for its beaches, partly for the bike rides, partly for our hostel but overwhelmingly for the food.
Before we got to Tulum we were a little disappointed with what Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula had to offer. After a week of travelling around Cancun and Playa Del Carmen what we’d seen of Mexico had in all honesty seemed a little tacky, Tulum had a lot riding on it.
Tulum: Sure it’s not that culturally enriching and it’s not that cheap but Tulum is one of the most hedonistic and bohemian beach side towns that I’ve ever visited and I loved it from the get go. Split into the main beach area and the town, days in Tulum are best spent renting bicycles and cycling along the beautiful beach road overgrown with greenery and spending your days hopping from one beach lounge to the next and of course eating, lot’s of eating.
If like me, you’re an absolute sucker for every cafe and restaurant with food that promises to ‘nourish your body’ and swings to sit on while you drink green juice then you’ll find yourself in paradise in Tulum.
The best places to eat at in the day are the beach bars along the main road strip, and there’s plenty of them to choose from. Here are a few of my favourites.
The Raw Cafe at Ahau Beach Bar
Probably the most zen of them all is the Raw Love Cafe at Ahau Beach Bar. Just minutes walk away from the beachfront this cafe has everything from superfood smoothie bowls like the ‘chocolate dream’ with cacao, banana, maca, vanilla, dates and coconut milk to maki rolls, coconut milk lattes and raw desserts. (Everything on the menu is gluten-free too) .We both got two of the raw vegan cheesecakes, passionfruit and lime and strawberry and white chocolate flavour. Sure I would have loved a slab of normal cheesecake but like I said, I’m a sucker for all this stuff, and occasionally I like to indulge myself and buy into the dream.
Taqueria La Eufemia
One of the best places we ate at was at the taqueria at La Eufemia beach bar. This taco restaurant was always packed but for good reason: The taco’s were incredible.
Like most places in Mexico, you order per taco, starting from just 20 pesos each ($1.30) each and I’d recommend ordering 2-4 depending on how hungry you are. We tried the veggie one, prawn and the grilled fish (which was my favourite). When the tacos came we went up to the bar and helped ourselves to toppings choosing from fresh herbs, onion, guacamole, fresh tomato sauce or sour cream. We also loved the fish ceviche (a salad with chopped white fish and vegetables) which was so fresh and citrusy.
Pasha, Turkish and Arabic Cusine
One restaurant we stopped off at was Pasha and there couldn’t be a more ‘tulum’ restaurant than this. We had to pull up our bikes and stop for food here when we saw the hippie decor and low seats in this Turkish restaurant and it’s a good thing we did because the food was incredible.
There are tons of vegan and vegetarian options here and I could have eaten everything on the menu all day every day. The mezze platters looked especially fantastic. Pasha does quite possibly the best falafel I’ve ever had as it was so fresh and fragrant. I went for the falafel pita which was fantastic. It came with tzatziki but you could have just substituted this for another dip to make it vegan.
There are great restaurants and cafes everywhere in Tulum, not just at the beach. I loved Prieto cafe in the main town which we stopped in for coffee a couple of times. They did fantastic coffees and the Iced chai latte with coconut milk was particularly good.
You really need to rent a bike to get around in Tulum. Unless you want to pay a small fortune and actually stay in one of the beach bars then you’ll end up staying in the main town which is really the best place to be in the evening anyway.
The other option is to take a taxi but it’s much more expensive and one of the most fun things was just cycling along the beach road and stopping off whoever we saw somewhere that looked good to eat.
I hope that this post has given you a taste of just how foodie a place Tulum is. Know any other fantastic vegan and vegetarian places in Tulum? Be sure to let me know.
Before I actually got to El Salvador in Central America, I wasn’t too sure what I was actually going to blog about. I didn’t know much about the country, I was only going to be there for a couple of nights and in all honesty in comparison to other countries I was travelling to like Guatemala and Costa Rica I wasn’t as excited.
However as soon as we arrived in Suchitoto, a sleepy colonial town, a new food obsession was triggered and I knew what I had to write about. Pupusas’s are basically the national dish of El Salvador and I’m totally obsessed.
So what actually are pupusas?
Pupusas are very simple stuffed breads filled with a variety of fillings and cooked on a hot grill. The best way to describe these El Salvadoran staples is likening them to a flat Italian calzone however they’re so much better (maybe because they’re so cheap).
A meal for just one USD
You’ll find these all over the country in restaurants and cafes but the best places to eat them are at one of the many street side pupuserias where you can enjoy a pupusa for just one USD (although it’s practically impossible not to go back for seconds or thirds).
The main dough is made out of either rice or corn flour that is then rolled into small balls. You can choose from selection of filling such as pumpkin, prawns, refried black beans and cheese or spinach which are then pushed inside the dough before they are patted down and baked on a sweltering hot grill until speckled and bubbling. There’s only one rule when it comes to eating pupusas- No knives and forks allowed.
Pick your sides wisely
I think the best thing about these staples are the sides that they come with. The main accompaniments usually include curtido, ( lightly fermented cabbage), salsa or fresh tomato sauce, so a couple can make a substantial meal, or one makes a good afternoon snack.
Veggie, Vegan, Meaty or Gluten free?
For those of you with dietary requirements the other hidden bonus of pupusas are that almost anyone can eat them. Depending on the fillings that you choose pupusas can be vegan or vegetarian and if you opt for the corn-based pupusas, which in my opinion are the nicest anyway, then they are also Gluten free so even Celiacs can eat them.
If you’re not already online booking your flight tickets to El Salvador now then I’ll just say this- pupusas aren’t just food in El Salvador, they’re an integral part of the country’s culture. Whether you’re standing by a small stall at the side of the road, or a chaotic and bustling Pupuseria, there’s no better way to fully get to grips with El Salvador’s culture, than joining the queue for dinner.
Winning pupusa combinations you have to try: (GF optional)
Prawn, garlic and cheese
Prawn and pumpkin
Refried beans, garlic, jalapeno (Vegan)
Cheese and loroco ( An edible flouring plant native to El Salvador) (veggie)