Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Top 10 Vegan Friendly Places in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Welcome to my next post about vegan places in Manchester, my top 10 vegan friendly places in the Northern Quarter, my favourite place in Manchester City Centre. After the success of my Top 10 vegan places in Manchester 2015 post recently I thought I'd write my top 10 vegan friendly places in the Northern Quarter. For clarification the boundaries of the Northern Quarter that I will use is from Piccadilly Gardens to Great Ancoats Street and between Shudehill and Piccadilly train station.

As with all of these posts, I have not visited every vegan friendly place in the area and this is just my favourite 10 places that I've visited. There are other vegan friendly places in the Northern Quarter that I haven't visited yet and there are dozens of cafes and restaurants in the Northern Quarter I know next to nothing about. Particular mentions go to Pie & Ale which does a vegan pie, and Oak Street Cafe in Manchester Craft and Design Centre which has a good few vegan options. I've heard good things about these places and I will visit them at some point.

10. Ning, Oldham Street

Ning is a Malaysian restaurant and catering company. Ning has plenty of vegan options, all of which are labelled. If you want a formal evening meal and not go to Dough, this may be suitable for you.


9. Beermoth, Tib Street

Beermoth is a specialist beer shop that has a special partnership with local brewer Marble Beers, a vegan brewery in Manchester. Beermoth has an amazing selection of beers and ales from all over the world from rare, alternative and independent breweries. If you're into beers and ales, this is certainly the place for you. I often buy people birthday/Christmas presents from here.


8. This & That, Soap Street

This & That is known for one thing, rice & 3. Rice and 3 portions of curry for a small amount of money (I forget how much). The curry changes each day of the week. There is a place just around the corner called Hunters that is similar and offers a good range. They also serve meat so if you want to avoid that, go somewhere else.

7. Bonbon Chocolate Boutique, John Street

This gem is the best place in Manchester for vegan hot chocolate, without a shadow of a doubt. They melt vegan chocolate, and add flavours such as orange freshly zested in front of you, vanilla and dark truffle. Not all the hot chocolate flavours are vegan though, although they do label the vegan options. They also have a range of chocolates and truffles, many of which are vegan and would make a great birthday present.


6. Odd Bar, Thomas Street

Odd Bar is part of a chain, that used to have 3 locations Odd, Odder (on Oxford Road) and Oddest (in Chorlton). Unfortunately Odder has recently closed down. The Odd chain is one of my favourite places to get vegan breakfasts, and is my favourite place to get a vegan breakfast in the Northern Quarter. They even call it a Vegantastic breakfast. They offer a few other vegan options, but the breakfast is the main reason to go here. Be aware that they also serve meat for those who want to avoid that.


5. Dough Pizza Kitchen, High Street

Dough is probably the place (other than Lotus in Withington) that I get told about most on social media. I had quite a number of people mention that is wasn't in my top 10 vegan places in Manchester. There's reasons why it wasn't, such as it serving meat, it being not that cheap (although reasonable for restaurant prices) and for the dessert menu being unreliable for keeping good vegan options. That being said, this is probably my favourite place in Manchester to eat vegan pizza (now that Teatime Collective have stopped doing pizza - which they may be starting up again next year). It's also one of the only places in the City Centre that I feel comfortable going out for a good quality fancy formal meal out, such as for a birthday meal. Dough use good quality vegan cheese, and has gluten free pizza dough as well. They also do vegan cheesy garlic bread. Given that lots of pizza places do vegan pizza bases and most are happy to use any vegan cheese you bring in yourself, I wouldn't automatically say that these pizzas are any better than that option (feel free to disagree). What really was the star of this restaurant was their desserts menu, which when it started out used to offer great vegan options, possibly the best in Manchester. They were provided by Lily & Dilly, a Manchester-based cake company. This included my favourite, vegan chocolate peanut butter brownies with vegan ice cream. However, to save money Dough changed their menu and started making their own desserts, and they aren't as great. Recently however they've changed and apparently improved, but I haven't yet tried them. Still not a bad place to eat out.


4. Go Falafel

This is just for the City Centre location of Go Falafel, not the Rusholme branch. Go Falafel just made it into my top 10 vegan places in Manchester. The City Centre location closes at 10pm while the Rusholme location stays open until 2am. Go Falafel is one of my favourite places to go for smoothies and juices. I've also just discovered that it does great salads as well, but what it's really known for is falafel. It does the best falafel wraps in the city centre. Go Falafel is 100% vegan. Brilliant, cheap, fast vegan falafel takeaway food.


3. Soup Kitchen, Spear Street

Soup Kitchen is a bar, a cafe and a music venue all in one. Beware that this place also serves meat, so if that's not your thing best not to go here. Yes, this didn't make my top 10 vegan places in Manchester but is higher than Go Falafel. This is because Go Falafel has a location in Rusholme so overall I'd rank to 2 together higher than just Soup Kitchen on it's own. The fact that this is a bar that has live music on downstairs and often DJs upstairs in the evening means that it can get busy and noisy in the evenings. During the day however, this place is a quiet place to have good food. They tend to serve food until 9 or 10pm so if you want a late meal that's not an expensive restaurant, this is the place for you. They offer jacket potatoes with vegan fillings, various curries, salads, sandwiches, fritters and cakes all with vegan options.


2. Earth Cafe, Turner Street

Earth Cafe made No 7 in my top 10 vegan places in Manchester, and has been a long stable favourite of mine in Manchester. Earth is 100% vegan, except for offering cow's milk in tea or coffee. Earth Cafe offers a range of salads, curries, chillies, pies, soups and burgers. They also offer amazing vegan cake (some of which is raw) and juices & smoothies. Apart from perhaps busy Saturday afternoons, there's more than enough space for you to get a table to sit at. I've been going to this place for longer than I've lived in Manchester and is one of the longest standing vegetarian cafes in Manchester.


1. V Revolution, Oldham Street

Obviously you knew this would be my number one. V Revolution made No 3 in my top 10 vegan places in Manchester, because it is awesome. V Revolution is the place in Manchester for vegan junk food. If you want vegan milkshake ice cream floats, go to V Rev. If you want vegan cheese chicken bacon burgers, go to V Rev. If you want vegan hotdogs, go to V Rev. If you want to buy vegan cheese, go to V Rev. If you want to buy awesome vegan chocolate, go to V Rev. Just go there already. Every single thing here is 100% vegan. They will be moving early next year to another much larger location in the Northern Quarter with a larger menu and I cannot wait! They will even be open until midnight.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Top 10 vegan places in Manchester 2015

It's been 2 years since I made my blog post about my top 10 places for vegans in Manchester. You can view it here: Manchester's top 10 vegan friendly places.. Quite a few things have changed in those 2 years. Sadly 2 places on that list have closed down or relocated out of Manchester - Safad and Anand's Vegetarian Deli (now in Bolton). A few new places have opened which is really exciting, and a lot of existing places have just been getting better and better. I genuinely believe Manchester to be one of the best places in England for vegans. I will be doing further lists of either specific types of vegan friendly places or cover specific areas of Manchester in the future but, as of November 2015 here are my top 10 vegan friendly places in Manchester:

10. Go Falafel, City Centre & Rusholme

The first new addition to this list, and the first to be a chain. This is a 100% vegan chain with just 2 locations, first in the city centre just outside of Piccadilly Gardens, sort of on the way to Piccadilly train station. The second location is at the beginning of curry mile in Rusholme and replaces Annand's Vegetarian Deli (which is now in Bolton) as the only Rusholme location on this list. Basically, this is a takeaway that does vegan falafel wraps and salads and the best juices and smoothies fresh in front of you. Really quick service and fairly cheap as well. Perfect for when you're in a rush and need to grab something cheap to eat. Since Safad closed down I'd probably tie this joint first for falafel in Manchester with Falafel also in Rusholme.


9. Mod's Veggie Cafe at Thirsty Scholar, City Centre/Oxford Road

Situated just off Oxford Road, 2 minutes away from Oxford Road train station, Mod's Cafe at Thirsty Scholar is one of the longest running vegetarian places in Manchester (if you also count the previous locations of the cafe) and has been somewhere I've been visiting since before I even moved to Manchester. It has been the venue for Manchester Vegan Society meetings and Christmas meals for years and years. In the last few years, it has been holding a monthly Meat-Free Mondays rice & 3 (where you get rice and 3 different portions of curry for a set price, various places in Manchester do this). If you're into cheap decent simple vegan pub grub then this is the place for you.

Thirsty Scholar website:

8. Sanskruti Restaurant, Withington

Another new addition to this list is Sanskrurti, a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Withington. I believe it was opened in 2013 to my memory (correct me if I'm wrong). At the time there were only a small handful of evening restaurants that were any good for vegans in Manchester, especially for formal meals out so this sort of thing was sorely needed. This is the only place I've ever visited that serves vegan korma! Everything here is vegetarian and they label all vegan options, and even have vegan deserts. Ideal if you're in the mood for South Indian foods. If you don't know Withington very well it can be difficult to find, especially travelling by bus. It's a 5 or so minute walk from Mauldeth Road train station however.


7. Earth Cafe, City Centre

Another long-standing vegetarian cafe in Manchester that I've been visiting since before moving to Manchester. Really good wholesome food freshly prepared. A good selection of salads, curries, roasts, cake, and juices. The specials here change almost daily. It's 100% vegan, with the exception of offering cow's milk in hot drinks. Plenty of gluten free options as well. Situated in the heart of the Northern Quarter, Earth is ideal if you're spending time in the City Centre, either after a long day shopping or before an evening out.


6. Fuel Cafe Bar, Withington

Arguably the best vegan home made pub grub in Manchester. Fuel is a vegetarian cafe situated in the centre of Withington, and is a bar, a cafe and a venue all in one. The upstairs is used a lot for all sorts of events from quiz nights to gigs. For a long time, this was one of the only places to eat out for vegans in the evening, and you could argue is still one of the best places for vegans to go out for a light bite to eat and a drink out with friends. Fuel is also home to one of the best vegan breakfasts in Manchester. I will do a top 10 vegan breakfasts in Manchester list at some point, and Fuel will come up high on that list.


5. 8th Day Supermarket & Cafe, University/Oxford Road

8th Day is one of my favourite places in Manchester and massively shaped my experiences of Manchester as a teenager and young student. 8th Day was the first workers co-operative I had discovered, the first vegetarian supermarket and the second vegetarian cafe. Upstairs is a reasonably sized supermarket full of all sorts of really ethically sourced goods, most of which are vegan. Discovering 8th Day allowed me to boycott Holland & Barrett as I could get vegan cheeses and meats and chocolates from a much more ethical business with frankly a larger selection. The deli at the supermarket has a large selection of pasties and pies that can be warmed up as well as cake, so I frequently had lunch here. Downstairs is a good quality cafe. The cafe is not too dissimilar to Earth, in that it serves really wholesome food and amazing vegan cake. The cafe also does one of my favourite vegan breakfasts in Manchester, if not my favourite. Manchester Animal Action, Manchester Vegan Society and Manchester Vegetarian and Vegan Group have all held their monthly meetings here. Really worth a visit.


4. Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, Withington

Lotus. The highest placed new entry into this list, and well worthy of it. If my memory is correct, this opened in early 2014 (correct me if I'm wrong). In my opinion this is the best place to eat out for an evening meal in Greater Manchester and possibly beyond. Lotus is a vegetarian Chinese restaurant with amazing vegan fake meats. They do the best vegan king prawns, prawn toast, spare ribs, beef, fish and duck I have ever come across. Trust me, this place is amazing. They do lunchtime offers as well. There is basically no excuse not to visit this place. I would not be surprised if in 5 years time this restaurant has moved to a larger premises, on a weekend both downstairs and upstairs are pretty full. It is a little bit expensive, but that's to be expected from a posh restaurant for evening meals - so think of spending possibly £15-£20+ on a meal out with drinks, but I promise you it is well worth it.


3. V Revolution, Northern Quarter, City Centre

V Revolution has become one of the most famous vegan cafes in the country, and not without merit. If since turning vegan you miss fast food and other junk foods, this is the place for you. Brilliant vegan double bacon cheeseburgers. Wonderful vegan ice cream milkshake floats. A range of vegan sweets and chocolates and cheeses that will blow you away. Their current location is on Oldham Street (my favourite street in Manchester, home to the shop Vinyl Exchange (second hand record shop), Afflecks Palace, Rockers as well as the venues Night & Day, Gullivers and Castle Hotel and much more) and after roughly 3 or 4 years there, in early 2016 they are planning to move about a 5 minute walk away, closer to the city centre but still in the Northern Quarter. The new location will have much larger kitchen facilities and so they will be able to offer an expanded menu and will be able to serve food even quicker. I'm most looking forward to the addition of chips, something they have sorely missed from their current menu. I believe they will also have a larger seating area, which is great because on a Saturday afternoon V Rev can be pretty busy.


2. Teatime Collective, Hulme

Located in Hulme, Teatime Collective is an entirely vegan cafe. Since my last top 10 vegan places in Manchester Teatime have given up offering cow's milk so are now 1000% vegan, which is amazing news! In a way, this is quite similar to V Revolution in the fact that it mostly serves vegan junk food, but there are some notable differences. The menu is larger and changes more frequently. Most things are made from scratch, including their own vegan ice cream parlour, cakes, pies and much more! They also cater outside events such as festivals, and on occasions will stay open late into the evening for private bookings, for example during Christmas time they do a special Christmas menu and if you've got a minimum of 8 people you can book out the cafe for the evening. You can also order specialised cake from them for your friend's birthday.


1. Unicorn Grocery Workers' Cooperative, Chorlton

If you know me, you'll know how highly I value Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton. This is my favourite food shop that I've ever visited. Unicorn is one of the largest workers' coops in the country, which is one of my favourite things about this place. Every permanent member of staff owns the business, receives the same hourly wage, is a director of the business and has an equal say in how the business runs. The shop is an entirely vegan supermarket, with all their products sourced as ethically as they can. The shop is perfect for buying vegan wholefoods to cook with at home. It has pretty much most things you could want for your average weekly shop, and at affordable prices too. In the last 2 years, they have expanded their second floor (which just had offices and staff rooms) a lot and built a brand new kitchen in there. As well as a deli, Unicorn stocks a large range of vegetables, fruits, wholefoods, bread, condiments, groceries, household products, alcohol, juices and more. Situated about a 5 minute walk from Chorlton tram stop, which is about a 20 minute tram journey into Manchester City Centre.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

2015 Young Greens Co-Chairs Election - why I am supporting Chris Jarvis and Hannah Clare

Every year the Young Greens elect their National Executive Committee, their Structures & Procedures Committee, and the Co-chairs of the Regional Senate. I've been an active Young Green for over 5 years now, and every year the election to these national bodies gets better and better with more and better experienced people putting themselves forward for selection. I honestly believe that for the Co-Chairs of Young Greens, we have by far the best and tightest election ever. Five amazing, experienced, dedicated and talented members have put themselves forward. I would be proud to call any of them Co-chair of the youth wing of the party I belong to. However, I am backing Chris Jarvis and Hannah Clare as my first 2 choices for Co-chairs, and this is why.

Chris Jarvis

Chris Jarvis is someone I first met at the Young Greens convention in Sheffield in 2012, and have seen him at conventions and national party conferences ever since - longer than any other candidate standing in this election. As a student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) he ran a food co-operative, spent over a year as President of the Young Greens student society and a further year as Equality & Diversity Co-ordinator. Not only was he secretary of the University's People & Planet society, but he was also the People & Planet South East Regional Organiser. He has been elected twice onto UEA's Student's Union officers as Campaigns & Democracy Officer. Chris also has experience being on the Young Greens NEC, having previously been the Membership Support Officer.

Chris is intensely dedicated to the Green Party, the Young Greens and the eco-socialist cause. He has the experience and drive to take the Young Greens forward, and is exactly what we need. He also happens to be vegan as well so gains extra points from me!

Hannah Clare

Hannah first got involved in politics when she joined the UK Youth Parliament when she was still in high school. While at University she became chair of the debating union, and later of Liverpool Young Greens. She's been active in the Green Party for the last 2 and a half years, being on both her local party's committee and her regional party's committee as well. In the Young Greens I have had the pleasure of working with her when she became the first ever co-convenor of Young Greens North in 2013, which she has done for 2 whole years. During that 2 years she has been responsible for setting up and running the Young Greens Regional Senate. During the 2015 General Election she represented the Young Greens on an online TV debate/hustings for the BBC with the leaders of the youth wings for all the other major parties in the UK, and she did a brilliant job.

Hannah has committed herself to standing up for disadvantaged and minority groups in the party, and I believe she will continue to do this as co-chair of the Young Greens. She has excellent debating skills, something which we desperately need from our representatives.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The future of the Green Party

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted on this blog. I do intend to start posting on here more often in the future though!

If you haven't heard about the #GreenSurge then let me tell you all about it. Last October-ish the BBC along with ITV and Channel 4 announced that they had no intentions of inviting the Green Party to the leaders debates, yet they would invite UKIP. The Green Party published an e-petition on Change.Org calling to be included on the live TV leaders debates, which gained over quarter of a million signatures in just 2 or 3 months. A couple of months later Ofcom announced that the Green Party would be classed as a minor party, while UKIP would be classed as a major party, despite the Greens having elected an MP for 4 years before UKIP received defected MPs from the Tories. This gave the TV broadcasters even more reason to exclude the Greens from the debates. This caused an outcry amongst left-leaning voters who oppose the politics of UKIP. Tens of thousands of people joined the party. Membership now sits around the 55,000 mark, which is above both UKIP and the Lib-Dems which makes us the 4th largest party in the country. In Scotland, the Scottish Greens got a massive surge in members following the independence referendum and more than doubled their membership in something like 2 weeks. They went from around 2,000 members before the referendum to over 7,000 members now. This means that the majority of Green Party members were not Green Party members at the last Green Party conference. In opinion polls the Green Party has been getting between 6-10% and frequently beating the Lib-Dems which is an improvement from the 2-5% we were getting about a year ago. In this post I want to talk about how I'm feeling about this surge in members and the potential futures of the party.

Now Until the General Election:
I predict just one thing until the day of the general election, and that is small further growth and steady media coverage. We are at about 55,000 members and I see that rising to 65,0000-70,000 members perhaps, maybe even just 60,000 members. We will be on 2 of the 3 leaders debates and I predict that the public will have mixed responses to it, but we will overall gain more supporters than we would had we not been on the debates. The party intends to stand in every seat in the general election and as a result we will receive a heck of a lot of extra media attention that we did not receive at the last general election. The party is realistically targeting to win in 3 seats (Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South and Bristol West) and has several lesser target seats spread throughout the country. The party is likely to stand in a record number of local election seats as well. What will happen on and after polling day is yet to be seen. For arguments sake, for the following predictions I am assuming that all that our possible number of MPs will do is as Caroline Lucas has been doing over the last 5 years, supporting or opposing issues on a case by case basis and refusing to enter any coalition government. Remember, this is all just my opinion and mostly speculation. Anything could happen in reality.

Possible scenario no.1: Greens do very well:
In this outcome, the Greens receive 5 or more seats as some members are predicting at the general election. The party keeps deposits in over 50% of seats. National share of the vote could be as high as 10%. The surge continues and we could potentially reach 100,000 members by the end of the year including members of different parties including Labour, the Lib-Dems, and other parties to the left of the Tories. Now, the more members who join, especially in a sudden surge as opposed to gradual growth, the more diverse views and opinions will be within the party. There will be calls for changes to the party as new members will be likely to expect the party to challenge to run local councils and by 2020 to be in a position to be in the next government, even if that is a minority party in a coalition. I'm already hearing calls from new members for the party to get rid of our more radical policies in order to be more presentable to the electorate. If we get another surge in members this call may only increase. Over the next 5 years the party gains seats all over the country and has a less radical vision than it has had. Members on the left of the party leave and potentially join other parties such as Left Unity, who in turn have their own small surge and become more of a force in British politics.

If this happens, the party will change its rules to become a less democratic party, or at least a less directly democratic party and a more elected representatively democratic party starting with introducing delegate conferences where your local party has to elect you as a delegate before you can come and vote at conferences. More and more power within the party will become centralised with the leaders, executive, paid staff and other committees making more decisions without first consulting the wider membership. I can already see this happening with Natalie Bennett setting the agenda for the party by choosing what she talks about in interviews. Essentially the party heads towards the general direction that the Lib-Dems were in perhaps 10 years ago, compromising on more radical left-wing policies, centralising power & influence within the party and appealing to a broad range of disaffected left-learning middle class Guardian reading voters. I think the likelihood of this outcome will be moderately low, I don't think we will receive as many as 5 seats in the general election.

Possible scenario no.2: Greens receive 3 seats:
So in this scenario the Greens gain 2 extra seats in the general election and therefore triple their seats in the commons. The surge continues but not as quickly as has happened. Many people feel that the Greens are not so likely to make a major breakthrough in British politics . Membership reaches over 100,000 within a year or two or perhaps a little longer. The party has less influence in Parliament than scenario 1 and has more freedom to be radical. As a result the Green Party keeps more members on the left of the party and starts to be taken more seriously by those on the left outside of the Green Party. As with scenario 1, the new members call for many changes to the party but these changes are less of a shift towards the centre. In general this scenario is the middle ground between scenario 1 where we lose our radical focus too quickly and the next scenario which will involve continuing our slow-ish gradual gain in seats and influence on British politics but no major surge. This scenario will still involve many members calling for compromises in order to become more electable but this will be slowed down by a higher percentage of the membership favouring the more radical left-wing policies. There will be internal struggles between polarised sections of the membership, with some members eventually leaving the party on both the left and the right of the party. I see this scenario as a compromise between the gradual, slow, but radical influence on British politics and the quick growth and shedding of our radical roots by too much compromise.

Until a few months ago when the surge began I felt this was an incredibly unlikely scenario, but given that we have had a big surge in members, we are going to be in the leaders debates and get a much increased media presence and we have had a significant rise in the polls, these 3 seats in Brighton, Norwich and Bristol could well be ours. I'm still not entirely convinced that we will get all three, but it could happen.

Possible scenario no.3: Caroline gets re-elected:
In this scenario Caroline Lucas gets re-elected but we don't gain any new MPs. I see this as the most likely outcome. With this scenario, we gain a few members, we lose a few members who felt we would gain seats, but in general we carry on slow growth that we had before the surge. This scenario makes me the most excited (perhaps along with scenario 2) because I feel this will give us the time needed to develop and mature into a sustainable major party. While surges are great, they aren't without their problems. The larger the party becomes the more difficult it is to have an open and direct democracy and having a slower growth will allow us the time to shape and test our democracy with a larger membership base. This scenario would allow us to remain as radical as we have been and will involve a lot less compromise than the first 2 scenarios. It will also be a period in which we really convince many members to remain with us for the foreseeable future. What I mean by this is that the members who stay in the party and work within the party are more likely to stay in the party for the long run. They are less likely to leave because we have compromised too much or because we have lost seats. As a result our candidates become more experienced and cemented in Green Party 'ideology' (for want of a better word). I'm really excited about this possibility.

Possible scenario no.4: No Green MPs:
We lose our only MP and we don't gain any new MPs. Members gradually leave until we're at roughly where we were before the surge (roughly 20,000 members), or perhaps a bit higher, maybe 30,000 members. Our influence in politics declines a little, we start receiving less media coverage and we have less resources than before. This isn't actually the end of the world for the party, it is still a much better position than we were in before the 2010 general election. We will still have more members and more elected representatives than we have had in recent years. This scenario could go two ways - we could build the party and still become a significant force in politics, just a lot slower than the other scenarios - or we could fall apart, members leave and join other parties who see a mini-surge and we gradually decline until we're no longer electable as has happened with far right parties like the BNP and National Front who have never recovered from the great plunge. I think it is a reasonably realistic outcome that we could end up with no seats, but I am more convinced that we will have at least 1 MP. However, this requires work. We need to work hard between now and the general election to give the Greens the best possible chance of gaining seats.

Well, those are my thoughts about potential outcomes. Really exciting but also really daunting as we're entering unknown territory. Let me know about what you think is most likely to happen in the party.