Being a lifelong vegetarian and a passionate supporter of Altrincham, I was really excited to be asked back to judge this year's entries for #VegOutAltrincham. Conveniently coinciding with National Vegetarian Week and organised by ATCP's Angela Stone, the competition's main purpose is celebrating all that Altrincham has to offer and really showing off what a diverse and fantastic selection the town has due to its many and varied eateries. With all judges being prolific tweeters, it's not only great publicity for the establishments involved but also highlights to followers what's available in the town and maybe, just maybe, might convince a meat-eater to give a veggie option a spin.
Eating meat and fish has never really appealed to me (although apparently as a toddler I was rather partial to a salmon and cucumber sandwich!) and it's really great to see vegetarian options becoming more and more prevalent in recent years. In a health-conscious world, I think people are starting to become more aware of what they're eating and the food industry has really had to up its game with providing healthy, delicious and nutritious meals. Altrincham has no shortage of cafes and restaurants and is fast becoming a bit of a foodie hub of the North so it's not hard to find something suitable to satisfy your stomach.
It was great to join not only Angela but other Altrincham supporters Alex McCann and Judie Collins, as well as Vegetarian Society's Dan Gibbon-Walsh on the judging panel. As the competition was assessing breakfast, lunch and dinner options, there had already been a heat the night before and I believe those judges had been incredibly well fed!
There was a mix of both chains and independents in the competition and Wetherspoon kicked the morning off with a hearty vegetarian breakfast. Although not my go-to sort of food, it couldn't be faulted and you can't really go wrong if you've got Quorn sausages on your plate. I rarely frequent a Wetherspoon and I was really surprised with how nice, and what good value, the food was.
Oxford Road Cafe is a firm favourite of mine - although, I'm not going to lie, usually for the Nutella waffles! - and I wasn't disappointed with their offering. Entering both the breakfast and lunch categories, we were presented with a breakfast power wrap and their gourmet veggie burger. I'd never have normally considered a wrap as a breakfast option and it was amazingly tasty but it was the burger that really wowed me. Put mushroom and halloumi in front of me and you're onto a winner anyway but this burger was absolutely something I'd eat time and time again.
Oxford Road Cafe is a hard act to follow but King's Cafe Bar did an amazing job. I'm a really big fan of this place anyway - it's my go-to place for meeting my clients - and the food was as super as any other day. The veggie breakfast was great (it included a refreshing change from the Quorn sausage) and was by far, in my opinion, the best vegetarian alternative to the traditional full English I tasted that day. I'm not a massive fan of curry, so their chickpea curry dinner entry wasn't my favourite, but nevertheless I could appreciate what a lovely dish it was. The roast pumpkin wrap, however, was right up my street - it was honestly my favourite tasting of the day. I absolutely love hummus and feta and, despite worrying the pumpkin may be a little hard, the third component worked so well. An absolute must to try if you're in Altrincham for lunch.
Who doesn't love a burrito? I was really excited to try Burrito Picante's lunch entry as I hadn't yet been in and had heard really good things about them. Their spicy 'naked' burrito hit all the right spots and I really liked the hotness of it. The 'naked' bit means it comes in a box without a wrap so it's a slightly healthier option too - winner!
I've been such a fan of what EAT:kaizen has brought to Altrincham ever since I attended their launch party a few months ago. Everything they serve is delicious, healthy food that fuels your body and works to put you in the best state of mind. I've tried some of their food and smoothies before and it's honestly so nice to have really healthy options available that taste really good. They submitted both a breakfast and a lunch option and both were fantastic. The superfood salad was something I'd have definitely chosen off the menu and it didn't disappoint - I loved the pecan nuts and the mint and tahini yoghurt dressing was the perfect flavour to accompany the greens. In all honesty, I wasn't really looking forward to their spirulina scrambled egg breakfast at all. Although I'm not vegan (I'm actually trying but I just love cheese too much!), I don't really eat eggs if they're on a plate in front of me - in a cake, absolutely; on a plate, no thank you. I've just never really enjoyed them and they don't really appeal to me. So, although I probably wouldn't pick it off the menu again, I can't help but say I was blown away by Kaizen's breakfast. The scrambled eggs were, hands down, the nicest I've ever tasted, the salad was lovely and I just absolutely loved the coconut, it was such a nice flavour in the dish.
The last stop was the Slug & Lettuce. Although a regular haunt of some of the panel, again it's not really a place I'd naturally think to go for food. The good old Quorn sausage made an appearance again in their vegetarian breakfast and all in all it was a really lovely plate. Their lunch entry was, again, right up my street - a really tasty halloumi and avocado ciabatta that I would definitely have again. (Are we seeing a trend here that I just love halloumi? Absolutely.) Their pièce de résistance, a vegetarian sharing platter, wasn't, if I'm completely honest, something I really enjoyed - it was a bit too deep-fried and 'American' for me - but what I will say is that the rest of the panel enjoyed it very much and it was really great value for money if you're out with friends.
It never fails to surprise me what amazing businesses there are in Altrincham and there's certainly no shortage of places to go if you're feeling a little peckish. Next time you're out and about, here's where you can find this heat's entrants:
J D Wetherspoon: 1-7 Ashley Rd, Hale, Altrincham WA14 2DP
Oxford Road Cafe: 19 Ashley Rd, Altrincham WA14 2DP
King's Cafe Bar: Kings Court, Railway St, Altrincham WA14 2RD
Burrito Picante: 47 Railway St, Altrincham WA14 2DD
EAT:Kaizen: 84-86 Stamford New Rd, Altrincham WA14 1BS
Slug & Lettuce: 31-33 Stamford New Rd, Altrincham WA14 1EB
Head over to Angela's twitter @ATCP1 for details of the Tuesday heat's entrants and for news on the winners!