Vegan Bar Review
Written by: Deepa & Meera (Instagram: @eavithus)
Restaurant Instagram: @veganbar.uk
This new opening in Leicester curated by Jaimon Thomas (of Kayal and Herb restaurant) takes its inspiration from Donald Watson, founder of The Vegan Society in 1944. The bar boasts an extensive menu of vegan spirits, wines and beer alongside a small plates menu of South Indian tapas dishes.
-Allergens to be discussed when placing your order
-Fully wheelchair accessible, with accessible bathroom
The bar is decorated in keeping with the other South Indian offers within the franchise: stylish and classy, you are transported to Kerala from the moment you walk in. Exposed grey brickwork and mahogany wooden panelling with some quirky flourishes and ambient lighting create the perfect backdrop for this bar. The level of detail put into the decor creates several focal points and provides plenty of instagrammable photo opportunities. Seating is comfortable, keeping with the ambiance of the restaurant, and reasonably spaced out. Muted chart music was playing in the background, providing a soundtrack for the evening but still allowing conversations to flow without the need to raise voices, helping to provide a great atmosphere and relaxed vibe – exactly what you want when you’re going for drinks.
South Indian Tapas
There is a carefully curated menu of South Indian Tapas dishes to accompany the drinks. We were lucky enough to try the whole menu… Here’s what we tried, and what we thought:
Saucy Chips (£4.95) Quite possibly the best chilli chips we have had in recent years. The chips were lovely and fluffy inside and the sauce had the ideal balance of garlic, chilli, tang from the tomato and spicing of the sauce in general – a difficult ratio to perfect.
Soya Pepper Fry (£4.95) These soya chunks are perfectly peppery, stir fried with vegetables that enhanced the flavour of the pepper, yet didn’t leave your tongue burning. A meaty, moreish texture, full of flavour, yet 100% vegan and very delicious.
Herbal Cocktail Idli (£4.95) This was another favourite. Fluffy pillows of deliciousness – perfectly soaked up the spices of the sambar. The option to add chutney according to your preference allows you to personalise this dish to suit your own heat level. We love idli anyway, and these bitesize portions were just perfect as a light option to have alongside drinks.
Chilly Tapioca (£4.95) – These wedges of tapioca (mogo / cassava) were the perfect carriers for the robust salsa that they were coated in. Tapioca typically has a bit more bite than a potato, but a similar mellow flavour, which made it a perfect base for the salsa which gave hits of ginger, garlic, chilli and pepper, along with sliced onions giving these wedges a bit of oomph, and the dish its own unique flavour.
Sweet Potato Varattiyathu (£4.95) This was Meera’s favourite dish. Chunks of sweet potato, in a thick curry marinade with hits of ginger, garlic, curry leaves, mustard and onion with coconutty notes. A little sweet and a little spicy.
Tofu Ularth (£4.95) Masterfully cooked and flavoured pieces of tofu, faultlessly textured in a sauce made up of Kerala spices and coconut shavings. Absolutely delicious, with a flavour not comparable with any of the other dishes.
Watson’s Burger (£8.50) This is a great burger. The patty is made in house with soya, and has enough aromats and spice to lift its flavour. The burger retains a fairly meaty / chunky texture, without having a dry mouthfeel. Accompanied by cooling salad and a deliciously spiced relish / salsa. Served alongside plain fries and a tangy yet spicy dipping sauce!
Chips (3.50) – Does what it says on the tin. But executed flawlessly – crispy exterior, fluffy interior – what more do you want?!
There is a Tapas offer of 3 dishes for £12.95 and 5 dishes for £19.95 which excludes the Burger and Chips but includes the remaining 5 dishes.
Currently the introductory menu comprises 5 Signature Cocktails and 8 Classic cocktails, with prices ranging from £6.50-£9.50. The mixologist team are in the process of developing more cocktails to add to the Signature range, with the aim to eventually have an extensive menu boasting 50 signature cocktails, unique to the Vegan Bar. This is truly exciting as they are happy to whip up cocktails off menu and can absolutely cater to your tastes. Beers, wines and spirits are of course also on offer too! We tried a range of cocktails and mocktails, mostly off menu and full of flavour and dramatic flare – we will do our best to give you a snapshot of what we tried! For visuals of each cocktail, do check out our reel on our @eatvithus page.
Cocktail 1 – Very fragrant, flavoured with ginger and a side of dry ice drama. Poured from a teapot. Super delicious
Cocktail 2 – Served by the mixologist with spectacular flair in a smoking tiger! This was a tropical number with flavours of passionfruit, coconut and a playful hint of banana. I’d never EVER order a cocktail with banana in it… But this actually turned out to be one of my favourites!
Cocktail 3 – This little blue number served in a martini glass was so intriguing. I wasn’t able to place the flavours, so the mixologists told me it had hendricks gin, violet and blue curacao (amongst other flavours) in it. Half of the glass was dusted with bitter orange powder. My mind was blown when I was told to try the cocktail from a straw, then again from the rim dusted with the powder. It was like drinking two distinctively different cocktails out of the same glass! Genius.
Cocktail 4 – I could drink this one all day. Did not taste of alcohol at all. I was asked what I thought it tasted of (bearing in mind I was 3 cocktails in at this point)… I came up with almondy? Lemony? It was actually popcorn flavoured… And once they told me, I could certainly taste it! This was my favourite drink of the night!
Cocktail 5 – This tall glass tasted floral to me. Reminded me of springtime in a glass. Again, I couldn’t put my finger on what was in it, and the mixologists said flavours of passionfruit, lychee, violet and pineapple.
Cocktail 6 – This was a cocktail that again I had trouble identifying the flavours in (indicating the end of the night was nigh)… I described it as ‘sweet with a tart and slightly spicy aftertaste’. The mixologists said that this was their take on a singapore sling with the sweet but tart note coming from cherry brandy!
Cocktail 7 – The last cocktail of the night was a watermelon cooler. The watermelon taste of this was undeniable, and it was possibly the sweetest tasting cocktail of all – it reminded me of trips to the USA and the Jolly Rancher sweets!
Mocktail 1 – The mixologist came to the table to finish the pour on this cocktail, adding bitter lemonade via a copper mixing spoon to temper what would otherwise have been a harsh zing. This smooth mocktail had flavours of coconut and lime. It was super refreshing, and tasted like summer in a glass.
Mocktail 2 – We struggled with labelling the flavours in this one, as it was like nothing we had ever tasted before (in a good way) and had a spicy little note at the end! The mixologists said it was flavours of violet and lychee.
Mocktail 3 – This one was playfully served in a Tiki glass and we were told it was likely to be called Mai Tai at the Movies. Unmistakably the flavours of Mai Tai without the alcohol and a hint of popcorn. Meera was so impressed as she’s never been able to try a Mai Tai (due to not drinking alcohol), although before we were told the name she thought it tasted a bit like kinder bueno!
Mocktail 4 – This was the mocktail version of the ‘State of India’ Signature Cocktail – coconut and muddled chillies with lime. Meera initially could taste the chillies and said it wasn’t too spicy. But then soon came the ‘nevermind’ as the chillis provided a growing heat at the back of her throat. This mocktail came with a little cooling ‘dessert’ that was flavoured with pineapple, almond and pomegranate seeds. It had the texture of a granita and provided sweetness and coolness to balance the heat from the chillies.
Mocktail 5 – This little bubbly number contained coconut, passionfruit and lychee. And Meera really enjoyed it. Which I found to be hilarious, as Meera really doesn’t like the taste of lychee normally.
Service was impeccable from start to finish. Nothing was too much trouble, and the mixologists provided such a personal and personable service throughout the evening. They were happy to answer any questions we had about the drinks and flavours and clearly really know their stuff, and are super passionate about making new, interesting and delicious drinks. What a talented bunch! The tapas dishes also came out quickly and were served piping hot. Full marks here, without a shadow of doubt!
Value for Money
Whilst a lot of drinks we tried were off-menu, and so the pricing is not yet published, I would imagine they would be in keeping with the established prices on the menu currently in use – which are really reasonable considering the taste and quality of the cocktails and mocktails. The tapas dishes are really well priced and are generous in their portions considering this.
The overall experience was just unreal. I’d go as far as saying it’s the best bar experience we have had. Being teetotal, Meera often doesn’t have much choice when it comes to mocktails, and usually it’s the same few variations on a mojito or daiquiri that she gets to have. The range of different options that she got to try at Vegan Bar were truly impressive – and better still, they tasted perfectly balanced (not like someone had forgotten to put the alcohol in, as can often be the case).
The range of cocktails that are in development is truly mind blowing! Our experience here just scratched the surface of what the team at Vegan Bar are planning.
The tapas dishes were all delicious in their own right each, with their own flavour profiles and distinct tastes. You could quite easily pop in for just a drink and tapas dish on the fly, or have a few sharing plates and drinks with a group over the course of an evening.
For us, it certainly ticks the boxes for everything: tasty and authentic food, check. Extensive range of drinks, check. Aesthetic interior, check. Relaxed vibe, check. Dramatic flare, check. I think I have truly found my happy place… And will possibly be permanently reserving a corner table so that I can make my way through the cocktail menu, get my regular fix of South Indian deliciousness, and just take in the atmosphere at this truly unique offer!
Don’t forget to check out our Reel on Instagram @eavithus
Deepa & Meera