Vegan dishes at Zizzi restaurant chain

On my travels this year I found branches of Zizzi in Tunbridge Wells and Falmouth. Initially looking down their menu to see what was vegan, the waitress then presented me with the separate vegan menu. Zizzi claim to be the first restaurant chain offering a vegan mozzarella, which is made from rice. Their thin crust pizzas are really good, with a basic pizza plus three extra toppings of your choice for £9-95 (the caramelised balsamic onions topping is highly recommended). The chefs actually work within the restaurant, so you can watch the pizza bases being spun in the air, and we found it doubly reassuring that the plates arrived with small stickers on indicating that they were suitable for vegans. Zizzi also have a salad and a couple of pasta dishes suitable for vegans, plus their ‘to die for’ chocolate and praline torte with coconut gelato. We make our own pizzas at home, but theirs have been declared as the next best thing, so it is worth trying the branch in George Street, Oxford, or other towns when out and about. See their menu at http://www.zizzi.co.uk/data/prices/Spring17_C_Vegan_Menu.pdf. (Zizzi was rated as the top chain restaurant in The Great Big Vegan Food Survey: https://veganuary.com/eating-out.)

Tracy Lean

I visited the Oxford branch of Zizzi in September. The vegan rustica margherita pizza was perfectly OK, and you can add three extra toppings from a choice of 13 including caramelised balsamic onions and fire roasted peppers. I’m not sure if it was meant to have a crispy base, but it required some effort to cut through. I have no interest in any sort of cheese, including the vegan varieties, but I tried the ‘mozzarella’. It has good melting qualities, so is a useful option for anyone that likes ‘cheese’ on their pizza. The chocolate torte was excellent, but it’s very rich. I’m a total chocoholic, but I shared one small portion with my dining companion! The torte is served with coconut ice cream, almost certainly one of the new Alpro range, and it worked well with this dense concoction. Zizzi is a pasta and pizza chain; the food is decent and reasonably priced, the decor is unimaginative and there was an unpleasant smell in the lower bar area, but the staff were friendly. The main attraction of Zizzi is the extensive vegan menu.

Paul Freestone

(Oops! Just noticed that I posted most of the above on 22 September 2017. So I reckon Zizzi owe me a complimentary gluten-free vegan pizza if and when I visit the Oxford branch! – Paul Appleby)

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Happy Friday Kitchen

November will see the opening of a new vegan restaurant on Oxford’s Cowley Road. Happy Friday Kitchen will serve up comfort food such as deep fried ‘chicken’ burger, macaroni ‘cheese’, burritos and pizza, as well as ‘buddha bowls’ – a colourful and artistic bowl of whole grains, vegetables, and proteins as a healthy alternative to the other Californian-inspired dishes. You can follow Happy Friday Kitchen on social media at instagram.com/happyfridaykitchen/ and facebook.com/happyfridaykitchen/. (Thanks to Paul Freestone for the news.)

Paul Appleby

Update 8/12/2017: Happy Friday Kitchen is now open at 282 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1UR.  The website (www.happyfridaykitchen.co.uk) includes a menu but there is no information on the opening times, so it would be a good idea to mail the restaurant first (info{at}happyfridaykitchen.co.uk) to make sure that it is open when you plan to visit.  The website also mentions that Happy Friday Kitchen are happy (of course!) to cater for private events.

National Older Veg*ns Day

Neatly combining World Vegetarian Day and International Older People’s Day, Vegetarian for Life (VfL) have designated 1 October 2017 National Older Veg*ns Day. To mark the occasion they have released a new edition of their Dinners to Your Door booklet. To quote VfL: “Many older people find it challenging to prepare meals and so turn to delivery companies. This guide will be invaluable in making this a possibility for vegetarians and vegans, too.” You can download a copy of the booklet at: https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/resources/publications/dinners-to-your-door.

Paul Appleby

Zizzi’s vegan menu

On my travels I have recently found branches of Zizzi’s in Tunbridge Wells and Falmouth. The pizza and pasta chain now offer a separate vegan menu, and claim to be the first restaurant chain offering a vegan mozzarella, which is made from rice. Their thin crust pizzas are really good, with a basic pizza plus three extra toppings of your choice for £9-95 (the caramelised balsamic onions topping is highly recommended). They also have a salad, and a couple of pasta dishes suitable for vegans, plus their ‘to die for’ chocolate and praline torte with coconut gelato. We make our own pizzas at home, but theirs have been declared as the next best thing, so it’s worth trying the one in George Street, Oxford, or other towns when out and about. You can see their menu at http://www.zizzi.co.uk/data/prices/Spring17_C_Vegan_Menu.pdf.

Tracy Lean

(Paul Freestone visited the Oxford branch of Zizzi in September and sent us the photo above together with his impressions: “The vegan rustica margherita pizza was perfectly OK, and you can add three extra toppings from a choice of 13 including caramelised balsamic onions and fire roasted peppers. I’m not sure if it was meant to have a crispy base, but it required some effort to cut through. I have no interest in any sort of cheese, including the vegan varieties, but I tried the ‘mozzarella’. It has good melting qualities, so is a useful option for anyone that likes ‘cheese’ on their pizza.  The chocolate torte was excellent, but it’s very rich. I’m a total chocoholic, but I shared one small portion with my dining companion! The torte is served with coconut ice cream, almost certainly one of the new Alpro range, and it worked well with this dense concoction. Zizzi is a pasta and pizza chain; the food is decent and reasonably priced, the decor is unimaginative and there was an unpleasant smell in the lower bar area, but the staff were friendly. The main attraction of Zizzi is the extensive vegan menu.” )

Review of Mushrooms: A Natural and Cultural History

Mushrooms: A Natural and Cultural History by Nicholas P. Money. Reaktion Books, 2017, 200pp, 93 illustrations, 67 in colour; hardback, £20

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies produced by 16,000 species of fungi classified as basidiomycetes. As such, they are neither plants nor animals, although molecular evidence suggests a shared ancestry between fungi and animals. Like icebergs, what you see is only a fraction of the whole. The fruiting body is one stage in the life cycle of a microorganism that lives below ground, where the mushroom colonies or mycelia can spread over a vast area. You might be surprised to learn that the world’s largest organism is thought to be a 2,400 year-old honey fungus spread over 10 square kilometres in Oregon, USA. A single mushroom can release billions of spores, so it is perhaps just as well that the chances of a single spore landing in a place where it can germinate, form a colony and mate with another mycelium is as low as one in a billion.

Although mushrooms may not be essential eating (the author contends that “their tastes are often overrated and they have very little nutritional value”), they are a vital component of life on Earth. Forests and grasslands would collapse without the support of healthy populations of fungi, although some species are considerably less plant-friendly, including the pathogenic fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa, which has devastated cocoa plantations in South America. We should also reflect on the essential role that fungi play in the recycling of nutrients and the decomposition of waste products, including some plastics and other synthetic materials.

Mushrooms is not a field guide or a cookery book (there are no recipes), but it would make an excellent introductory textbook for a budding mycologist, or an attractive gift for a mushroom enthusiast. The book is superbly and colourfully illustrated, with many useful diagrams spread over sixteen chapters including mushroom superstition, evolution, ecology, poisons and conservation, to name some of the more eye-catching chapter titles. One of the most entertaining chapters profiles some famous historical mycologists including Arthur Henry Reginald Buller (1874-1944), the so-called ‘Einstein of mycology’, whose eccentricities included strapping horse blinders to his head in order to preserve his night vision whilst conducting experiments on bioluminescent mushrooms. The author surely merits inclusion in a list of contemporary experts: when it comes to mushrooms, Nicholas P. Money is right on the button.

Paul Appleby

New vegetarian/vegan social group in Abingdon

Vicky Rainbow has started a vegetarian/vegan social group in Abingdon, details at https://www.meetup.com/Abingdon-Vegan-Veggies-Social-Creative-Meetup/. Vicky is also opening a ‘Creative Wellbeing Space’ in the town in early 2018. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/soulshinecreativewellbeingabingdon/.

Ribizli vegetarian/vegan café, Wallingford

I mentioned the new vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free café Ribizli at 53 St Mary’s Street, Wallingford (https://www.ribizli.co.uk/), in a post dated 30 April 2017. We visited Ribizli on a Sunday afternoon in early August. The café took some finding, even though it is very near to the Market Place in the centre of Wallingford, but it was worth the effort. The salads we had were delicious and filling, as were the cakes, and almost everything on the admittedly rather limited menu was suitable for vegans. The dining rooms are small but surprisingly spacious, especially one in which canine companions are welcome, and Timi and Malcolm were friendly and helpful hosts. Ribizli is open Thursday to Monday inclusive, 10am to 5pm (4pm on Sundays). Sadly, the health food store that used to be next door has recently closed down, but Just Trading, a workers’ co-operative located across the road at 17 St Mary’s Street (http://justtrading.co.uk/products.htm), sells a variety of organic and fair trade foods, as well as clothes, gifts, household consumables (including refills), toiletries, and paper products.

Paul Appleby

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