Friday morning and we've (R and I) arranged to visit some student halls in the heart of Bloomsbury. We were due to meet at noon, but I misjudged my travelling time and arrived a half-hour early at Russell Square tube.
Instead of getting cold in the late morning drizzle, I decided to snoop around the Brunswick Centre nearby. As I walked around, being girl-y and admiring the various pretty things I can't afford, I spied a little chocolate shop. Chocolat, Chocolat is an homage to, yes, you guessed it, chocolate. As I walked in, I was transported to my last visit to a small chocolatier in the Marais area of Paris - a lady was rolling out thin slabs of chocolate at the little counter while another was tidying up. At about £3.50 for 100 grammes, the chocolate was about three times as expensive as my usual fix of mainstream brands and I must admit, I'm not really a chocolate connoisseur. But I decided that the caramel-flavoured milk chocolate slab looked too good to miss. I asked for a small 50g piece and the friendly serving-lady cut out a shard and charged me about £1.80. While I waited to pay, I tried the freebie chocolate coated hazelnuts.... oooooo....oooooooo... very good !! Then I marched around the centre nibbling on my shard of chocolate..ahhhhh...AAAAAMAZING...... Within a few seconds I was in chocolate heaven and happy with life, the universe and everything. With my cravings appeased, I didn't even need to indulge in any retail therapy !!!! (Oh and I checked, the shop has a clear list behind the counter listing the veggie-friendly chocolates, and it is a nice long list). I headed back to Russell Square to meet R with only a tidgy edge of the chocolate shard in tow.
When he arrived, we went back to the Brunswick Centre for a spot to eat. The first place to catch our eye was Giraffe. I checked the menu. Yes, they did have several veggie options and soon we were seated in a fantastic little booth by the friendly Aussie waiter.
R ordered the veggie falafel burger and I went for the veggie burrito. I also had a papaya-based smoothie (it didn't really taste of papaya at all !!!). When R's burger arrived, I immediately reached for the chips that came alongside. As I chomped on my first bite, I realised it had been fried in the same oil as some meat. Uh-oh !! Not wanting to be too fussy, I set it aside and dug into my own order of the burritto... and a vague fatty taste assailed my senses through the strong tomato sauce. I waved the waitress over. "Yes, the chips are fried in the same frier as the chicken", she said apologetically," but the burrito is vegetarian". Once she'd confirmed my suspicions about the chip, I could no longer eat the burrito. I don't know what was inside it, but it certainly had a meaty flavour and I suspected that was down to the contents being fried or cooked in a dish that still had meaty leftovers. That said, that could have just been my suspicions.
R tried to cheer me up by offering me his burger, but now I was sure that if the chef hadn't been able to correct the cross-contamination on the chips, he certainly wouldn't have bothered using a different oil for the falafel.
While R finished his meal, I located the manager near the till. So I walked up and explained very gently why I was a bit disappointed that their vegetarian dish wasn't really suitable for vegetarians and why I thought the cross-contamination on the chips was something vegetarians might find difficult to deal with. She was pleasant and apologised, even offered me another dish instead. But I wasn't really keen to eat at Giraffe any more, so I politely declined. Soon we were ready to leave and our bill arrived. We had only been charged for one meal and the drink . The very chatty waitress said to me " I understand how you feel; I don't think it's really fair if we say something is vegetarian and then cook it with the meat. But that's how things are done in the kitchen. Maybe I should suggest that we have two separate friers" I was impressed. They had goofed up, but her empathy with my sentiments made me feel a little better about the place.
We paid up and left. I'm certainly not going back until the management team begin to realise that putting a "v" sign against dishes on the menu is sheer trickery if the dishes aren't really suitable for vegetarians. I'm hoping a few other veggies like me will complain to them about the cross-contamination and these guys will start taking notice because I certainly would have liked to go back to this friendly place.
Giraffe, Brunswick Centre, near Russell Square tube
ph: 0207 812 1336
Note re: Giraffe : FussyVeggie has been reliably informed that the central management team assert that separate fryers are used for meat and non-meat /non- fish dishes and that staff members may be misinformed. This review, however is based on information provided on the day of the visit.
Note re: reviews : FussyVeggie reviews are based on information provided by staff rather than centralised literature to ensure that the reviews reflect realities on the ground or what restaurant staff know/ believe to be true. FussyVeggie does not usually have kitchen access (in order to aid anonymity, no one knows of reviews beforehand). So as its hard to check the veracity of corporate statements through a kitchen visit, FussyVeggie relies heavily on answers to polite questions and points re: veggie-friendliness are based on unrehearsed answers from staff or personal experience / other immediate evidence.