One of the classiest places to get superb vegan food in Munich

Max Pett meal

Fluffy and full of flavour: the chickpea omelette at Max Pett in Munich

Restaurant review: Max Pett, Munich

For a really laid-back atmosphere and delightful plant-based food in Munich, Germany, Max Pett  is a first-rate bet.

I truly loved this place. We went for brunch on a Saturday morning, shortly after opening time, as seems to be our habit. Me, I had the chickpea omelette, which was so full of taste, fluffy and light that I’ve been trying to recreate it in my own kitchen (with little success) ever since.

In fairness, I made the better choice. My companion plumped for the white sausage with brezl, which when it arrived – two pale sausages paddling in a bowl of boiling water and a large pretzel on the side – confused us both so much that for the first time in my life I had absolutely no idea how he should approach it.

Max Pett meal

Baffling: Max Pett’s white sausage and brezl should come with eating instructions

There was no spoon, so we figured it wasn’t a soup, and the sausages came in what seemed like an inedible skin from which they required freeing. Listen, he did the best he could; after a bit of squeezing, the flayed little blighters plopped out onto the saucer next to the provided mustard, and he assures me that the bread was good. Before we left, we spotted the young woman next to us ordering the same meal, which she greeted with equal perplexity.

There was no confusion, however, surrounding the Kaiserschmarrn, an ample portion for two huge appetites of warm fruity cosy stodginess served with apple sauce, plus a creamy hot chocolate and a chai latte to drink.

The whole experience – we sat outside on the quiet street surrounded by greenery, but inside also looked like a place it’d be good to settle into and spend some time – was super-relaxing. Busy, but somehow still the vibe was very calm.

I was left with the feeling that I’d like to explore the rest of the menu. A little pricey perhaps, but friendly service and wholesome food makes it worth it.

Max Pett meal

Sweet perfection: the Kaiserschmarrn at Max Pett is truly special

Forget the overpriced hotel breakfast – here’s one of the tastiest ways to start a day in Vienna

Veggiez meal

Hot stuff: Gyros wrap and chips with wasabi mayonnaise at Veggiez, Vienna

Restaurant review: Veggiez, Vienna

Another burgeoning Austrian ‘chain’ of vegan restaurants is Veggiez, which began in 2015, currently has two branches in Vienna, and is on the lookout for potential franchise investors.

Veggiez  has a large menu, including a lot of gluten-free choices, from soups and toast options, through salads to a range of burgers, wraps and bowls. It bills itself as ‘your vegan dining rooms’ and takes pride in the quality of flavour and good quality organics ingredients. It caters for what it claims are the 13% of Austrians and 16% of Germans who lead a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle; the numbers are growing, it says.

Desperate for breakfast, and staying at a hotel virtually opposite the Opernring branch, where the €30 breakfast offered us little more than dry bread and a banana, we were pretty much standing outside the doors when it opened at 11 o’clock on a Friday morning.

Although we were the first people there, it quickly filled up. This didn’t affect our seat by the window, but meant things got a smidgen tight for some of the diners. That said, there are plenty of seats at this place, both inside and out.

Between us we ate the smokey burger and the gyros wrap, both served with absolutely amazing chips and a superb wasabi mayonnaise. The coffee was also great tasting: I had a latte with almond milk, my companion had a black Americano. Having read various reviews before going in, neither of us could resist the chocolate muffin with a crumble topping and cherry filling for dessert. We weren’t disappointed.

Add good service and decent prices to the equation and visiting Veggiez was an excellent experience.

Vegan food that sure means a thing (and it’s definitely got that swing)

Schillinger's Swing Kitchen meal

Fast and tasty: Swiss wrap and Vienna burger with fries at Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen in Vienna

Restaurant review: Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen

Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen was a consistently good source of top-notch vegan food during a recent European train trip, with a sufficiently varied menu to ensure that we returned to refuel on several occasions across a couple of different Austrian cities.

Started in January 2015, Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen  now has six Austrian branches, plus two in Berlin, Germany, and one in Bern, Switzerland, all with the same well-produced menu of fast food wraps and burgers, salads, and desserts. If ever a vegan chain were set to rival similar omnivore businesses, this place would be it.

The company is owned by the Schillinger family. Charly, whose family background is in the restaurant trade, worked for years in the financial industry, and turned vegan 20 years ago, and his wife Irene had a vision to recreate the flavours of traditional Austrian dishes in a plant-based menu, and this is reflected, for example, in their Schnitzel burger, and in an almond cake with chocolate-pudding cream topped with a nougat-icing and decorated with chocolate and almond-nougat balls. After the existing family business, the Gasthaus Schillinger established in 1793, successfully turned vegan, they began their Swing Kitchen, hoping to present environmentally-friendly burgers and other fast food to the masses.

And that’s exactly what they are doing. We visited the Opernring branch in Vienna, and later became serial customers at the newly-opened franchise in Graz. Between us we tried four of the seven types of burgers – honestly, they were all good and a preference would purely be based on individual taste – the Swiss wrap, which was my personal go-to meal almost every time, with its mix of hash browns and hot cauliflower, and, when we were in need of more vegetables and less fried food, the Nugget salad. The garlic dip was amazing, especially with the French fries. The meal deals worked out at around 10 Euros each and included a drink.

And all this delicious food was served in a crisp clean environment to a soundtrack of 1930s and 40s jazz/swing. Branches all have a live display above the counter of resources saved compared to a similar meat burger restaurant. Not sure how that works, but maybe it simply shows a heart in the right place, for a company that uses no plastics, Fairtrade ingredients only, and boasts that its foods all have 0% cholesterol.

We’ll be back.

Schillinger's Swing Kitchen Graz

Eat with a beat: Schillinger’s Swing Kitchen in Graz, Austria

An interview with Dr Anthony Hadj: why a whole-food, plant-based diet is best for our health and the planet

Dr Anthony HadjThe food we eat has long been used to prevent and manage health problems, and now there is a growing movement of medical people who believe wholefood, plant-based diets not only prevent but can sometimes reverse a lot of the chronic illnesses associated with western lifestyles. They believe a change of diet can treat ailments such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as, if not better than, daily drugs that control symptoms rather than offer a cure.

We spoke to Dr Anthony Hadj, pictured, a vegan GP with a special interest in management of chronic diseases (eg obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease) using a combination of modern medicine and nutrition/education. The Australian medic is passionate about the subject and spends some of his time promoting veganism as the best choice for a healthy lifestyle.

You’re clearly 100 per cent sold on the benefits of plant-based diets. I’m interested in your own path as a medical practitioner to that conclusion; at what point in your practise/training did the power of a vegan diet start to become clear to you?
I have always had a strong interest in animal welfare and, like many, loved animals. In 2013 I began to realise the horrific practices that occur in the animal agriculture industry and I made the conscious decision to be vegan from then on. There was a video that Paul McCartney made called Glass Walls, which had a strong impact on me. As I explored veganism, I was made aware of medical practitioners like Dr John McDougall, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Neal Barnard and the work they were doing with nutrition and disease. I was amazed that diet could play such a large role in not only the causation but cure of disease. From then on, I chose to include it in my practice and encourage many people to pursue this.

Did the notion of a strong link between nutrition and illness always make sense to you?
It didn’t become clear until I researched and understood the science. That was in 2013/14. Once I started to read the pioneering studies from people like Dean Ornish who were able to reverse our number one killer, heart disease, I was sold on the power of plant-based nutrition.

What we put into our bodies has always been linked to certain ailments. Having seen the benefits first hand in your patients over a number of years, you now have your own experience to draw on when it comes to using nutrition to cure western society ailments like diabetes type 2 and hypertension. What research/studies did you initially consult to guide you into your current thinking?
I read the book The Starch Solution, by John McDougall. He brilliantly covers the science of plant-based health and references many papers through his book. The pioneering studies from Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn that showed a radiographical reversal of heart disease were very convincing. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine website also has a great deal of links to studies that have shown the impact plant-based health has in treating type 2 diabetes.

Do your patients always follow your ‘go to the fruit and veg section of the supermarket’ prescription? Would some just prefer to take the tablet and eat the cheese?
Many patients of mine are very keen to follow the prescription. They are often seeing me because they have had a ‘wake-up call’ or a diagnosis that is life changing – heart disease, mini heart attack/stroke, diabetes etc. It’s at this point that many feel incapacitated but also energised to do whatever they can. When you are able to showcase the power of plant-based nutrition to them, it is very enticing. Many patients are prepared to do whatever it takes to live longer. Some people do just prefer a tablet and cheese; however, even with these patients, I have noticed that they do come around eventually.

How could I, a layperson, explain simply to a fellow layperson what the health benefits of a plant-based diet are?
Consuming plants is our natural diet. We are designed to eat plants and specifically carbohydrates. Many large civilizations have spread and prospered because of starchy (high complex carbohydrate) foods. We have a lot of evidence that populations who are mostly plant based live the longest and happiest of all. It is now beyond doubt that consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet lowers blood pressure, heart disease risk and keeps us trim and healthy looking. Websites like the John MacDougall’s, plus the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and NutritionFacts.org provide a great place for people to start.

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries are now involved in a collusion to keep the health benefits of not eating their produce quiet which rivals that of, for example, the tobacco industry in the 1960s (and potentially the alcohol industry, though that’s another story entirely)?
I don’t think there is a collusion or conspiracy. I do believe that it is just about money. They are seeing a movement like veganism take root and thrive, and it is a threat to their bottom line. They will always be able to find a study that supports their work; however, it is almost impossible to suppress the benefits of this programme. They use mass marketing to try and keep the public confused.

You’ve been vegan for three years. Before that what was your own diet like?
My diet was very poor, with a preference for high-fat foods of an animal nature.

How would you counter the suggestion that plant-based is the current fad. I grew up in the 70s and saw my mother try high fibre, low fat, high fat and highly restrictive calorie-controlled diets among others, all in the space of a decade. What makes this different?
It is a very sustainable diet. We will feel full when we consume a vegan diet (generally) because it is high in fibre. We thrive and feel better because it is a diet focused around antioxidants, macro/micro nutrients that helps to keep our body healthy and well. Many fad diets in the past have failed Continue reading →

The Birds is a perfect nest for peckish vegans in Leytonstone

Vegan meal, The Birds, Leytonstone

What a glorious find The Birds pub on Leytonstone High Road is. The menu is mainly vegan and it’s ridiculously cheap to craft a good meal.

Between two of us we had the chickenish popcorn with garlic mayo, salt and pepper tempura cauliflower, and a macncheese each, all for under £15, plus two pints of lime and soda and a vegan ‘Snickers’ to share, which came in at less than a fiver.

Vegan dessert, The Birds, Leytonstone

We went earlyish on a Thursday night, and this E11 pub – the name of which is a nod to Leytonstone’s most famous son, Alfred Hitchcock – was quiet, though I’m guessing weekends are a different story.

Loved the food, but, honestly my favourite bit was the gentle birdsong piped into the ladies toilet.

 

The highs and lows of afternoon tea and cake at Shakespeare’s Globe

Vegan cake stand at the Swan, Shakespeare's Globe, London

When I can, I steer clear of omnivore eating establishments, but something about an afternoon at the Swan, a pub and restaurant attached to the Globe theatre in London, appealed to my latent luvvie.

Having booked a vegan tea, there was no problem when I arrived, and even the included cocktail, which normally contains honey, had been changed to accommodate me.

Cocktail at the Swan, Shakespeare's Globe, LondonThe initial waiter bent over backwards to make me feel special, which was appreciated; to me, afternoon tea is always as much about the gloss as about the taste. No disappointments on that front as my food arrived, along with my pot of oolong, looking suitable pretty and colourful. Mine looked every bit as well prepared as my omnivore companions’ cake stand.

It felt as though a lot of thought had gone into the sandwiches, which were dainty and filled with combinations of roasted peppers, vegan mayo and cheese, smidgens of cress and thinly chopped cucumber.

After that, it went downhill. The scones were dry and actually quite unpleasant to eat, and, though two of the chocolate-based cakes were delicious, the small glass containing a hefty blob of jam sprinkled with muesli was a real lowlight.

I’m going to give this experience a silver star for effort but, at £40, they really do need to try harder with the sweet stuff.

A vegan stalwart, one of the hidden gems of Porthmadog

vegoniaI’m just back from a road trip through Wales with my family, all three of us vegan. Having learnt from experience – a recent similar venture through the East of Scotland – we decided we had three choices when it came to food: spend our days glued to the Happy Cow app, with hunting as a primary focus of each day; take whatever food presented itself (the approach we took in Scotland, which we knew to be a hit-and-miss, often grim, choice); or go Airbnb and self cater.

At this point, let me clarify – I’m not saying it’s impossible to get food in these countries – I know there are many great places if you do your research or stick to cities – but we were going off-grid a little and wanted to make good food part of our journey, and not a central focus.

We plumped for self-catering – a wise move, which meant we spent less money and expended less energy searching for suitable places to eat. That said, I kept a close eye on the web, just in case we missed one of those lucky vegan finds; one such place was Vegonia Wholefoods in Porthmadog.

This independent vegan and vegetarian wholefood store carries over 3,000 lines including chilled, frozen and ambient foods, organic, gluten free, pet and baby foods, hot and cold drinks, vitamins, minerals, remedies, toiletries, household cleaning, and home brew products. I know this because I’ve done my web research, but that’s pretty much all there is about this place on the internet.

Slap bang in the middle of this small town in North Wales, Vegonia started up over 20 years ago, and though it’s listed in all the usual places, it has zero web presence of its own. There is no website, and only an automatically-generated Facebook page based on what users are interested in with no affiliation to the shop itself. And yet it has kept going since its opening in 1997.

In a world so often dominated by Holland & Barrett (and here’s a shout-out for that company’s own plans to become increasingly vegan-friendly soon), a long-standing independent shop, which has survived with virtually no internet presence while keeping so true to its original vision deserves a mention and a visit if you’re ever in the area.