Many people might scoff at vegan food – and sometimes it’s for a good reason.
It’s more or less the same old menu for someone with a plant-based diet: dry falafel stagnating in a bowl filled with unidentifiable seeds topped with some vibrant – but tasteless- rainbow veg fanned out in an obnoxious pattern on top.
People might picture those who are vegan hungrily gnawing on a plain lettuce leaf whilst chugging a pint of oat milk, and when you look at some restaurants’ vegan menus, you wouldn’t be far off.
It’s the same with a lot of restaurants around the UK – the lack of creativity, time, effort and actual flavour that goes into plant-based dishes really gives veganism a bad wrap.
So when I heard that a restaurant in Plymouth has been crowned the number one vegan venue in the city, AND the UK, I had to try it for myself.
Would it be the same-old boring chickpea mush, or would even a meat eater be converted?
The Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards were released recently, and saw city eatery Cosmic Kitchen right near the top of the list.
Described as the ‘Best of the Best’, the awards are the highest honour Tripadvisor bestows and are based on millions of reviews from around the globe.
Tripadvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the winners, taking into account the quality, quantity and recency of reviews and opinions submitted by tourists on the site over a 12-month period.
With the top two spots on the world rankings taken by Vegan Beat in Greece and Blu Bar in Spain, Cosmic Kitchen also becomes the number one venue in the entirety of the UK.
Described as a vegan bistro by owners Lucia and Gabriela Evangelou, the menu is 100% plant based and committed to providing delicious and affordable food for everyone to enjoy.
The twin sisters ran Cosmic Kitchen as a pop-up before moving to their permanent residence at the St. Thomas Mission Chapel on Palace Street in January 2020.
The family business has a small, dedicated team of staff including younger sister Elani who works as a chef in addition to her burgeoning music career.
30-year-old Lucia Evangelou said the Tripadvisor result was ‘really, really amazing.’
“Tripadvisor only called Gabriela literally two days ago to say where we were on this ranking.
“We had an email that I hadn’t seen that explained there was exciting news and that we’d won a couple of awards,” she said.
“I can’t quite believe it to be honest, we were really chuffed and over the moon. We didn’t think small little us in Plymouth could compare with some of the fantastic restaurants that are all over England and the world.
“In the world I think it’s Greece, Spain and then us, but that means we’re number one in the UK which is ridiculous.”
So it was time to put this vegan nirvana to the test once and for all.
As a vegetarian, I’ve had my fair share of bland hummus and flavourless salad bowls – I was ready to have my mind blown.
The taste test
Cosmic Kitchen offers a fantastic dining area where you can sit and relax in their courtyard or inside on rainier days and enjoy the chilled atmosphere.
I opted to try out their takeaway service, and was immediately greeted at the door by a friendly face who gave me a lengthy menu to peruse.
There’s a range of different tasty treats, a lot inspired by Greek cuisine, and I felt spoilt for choice – a rare occurrence if you’re a vegan at a restaurant.
In the end I had to narrow it down to a few. I went for the Reuben Pastrami, the Jackfruit Gyros, Dolmades, a homemade double chocolate brownie and a Doukissa. Disclaimer this is not an advert and I paid for all this food myself because I am extremely greedy, and was extremely hungry.
After carrying my order home like my first newborn, excitedly anticipating my delicious choices, I was ready to dive in.
First up was the Reuben toastie which looked crunchy, cheesy and to die for.
It consisted of rye sourdough with ‘pastrami’ style seitan – which is common in vegan recipes and made from wheat gluten. Vegan ‘cheese’ was lathered on top of the fake meat, alongside pickles, capers and mustard mayo.
I love these kind of North American style sandwiches, and immediately got stuck in.
The tangy hit of capers alongside the pickles married perfectly with the sourdough, and the gooey cheese (which I can’t believe wasn’t actually dairy!) was heavenly.
Served beside it was a classic side salad with a mixture of leafy greens, tomatoes and red onion.
Wow – I’d definitely started off with a bang and would go as far as to say this is the best sandwich, vegan or otherwise, I’d ever tasted.
Next was the Jackfruit Gyros – pulled marinated jackfruit, beet hummus, tzatziki, pickled red cabbage, leafy greens, Cosmic chickpeas, coriander, garlic mayo and chilli sauce served in Mediterranean flatbread.
I was apprehensive about this one. I’ve had jackfruit a few times and have often found it too sweet and without flavour.
But never judge a gyros by it’s cover as it was a taste sensation.
The sharp flavours of the pickled red cabbage and the creamy tzatziki harmonised with the jackfruit perfectly, mellowing the sweet flavour it can sometimes have.
I was starting to see why this restaurant was the best in the UK, and think any meat eater would thoroughly enjoy these tasty treats without realising it was plant-based.
It was time for me to try the Greek-inspired side I’d ordered: dolmades.
These are one of my favourite snacks – stuffed vine leaves filled with rice.
The dolmades were incredibly tasty and accompanied by a generous tub of tzatziki with huge chunks of cooling cucumber.
If you’re looking for a light lunch or a delicious snack, these tasty fingers would be the perfect remedy for hunger.
Now it was time for dessert – and I’d picked up two mouthwatering baked goods to sink my teeth into.
First I went for the Doukissa, which after a quick Google I found was a no-bake, Cypriot chocolate flavoured biscuit cake. It was complete with coconut shavings, yum.
As soon as I bit into this delicacy, I knew I loved it. It was incredibly moist with a delicious chocolate aftertaste. It was soft, spongey and light – an ideal dessert after my two vegan mains.
Finally, it was time for the double chocolate brownie. I really wasn’t expecting much from this, especially after the Doukissa.
But I was wrong again – this is one of the best brownies I’ve ever eaten.
It was rich, thick and chocolatey with an almost peanut butter taste running through the middle. This was the total package and I wish I’d bought two.
I think this restaurant could easily convert a meat eater – albeit momentarily – to enjoy a vegan meal.
It’s great to see venues like this pop up in the city; it’s a nice alternative option and something new to try if you want to dip your toe into the plant-based waters.
And it’s great to see a local business climbing the TripAdvisor charts nationally and internationally, and they certainly deserve it.
The food was delicious, the staff extremely friendly and the Greek influences in the dishes delightful.
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