- Drink 7/10
Vinnie’s Eatery Cheltenham’s First Plant-based Restaurant
Vinnie’s in One Paragraph:
Informal Cafe restaurant that has to be judged in terms of its own category. Plant-based cuisine suggests that you’re not going to experience salty, fatty instantly satisfying foods. But you can expect carefully prepared, wholesome food served in pleasant surroundings.
The Longer Read:
Vinnie’s Eatery is a fairly new venture for Cheltenham. It follows the trend for plant-based diets. Nearby Kindness & Co is pushing in the same direction. The vegetarian in our team stepped up quickly to contribute to this review.
Plant-based? The basic idea is somewhere between strict and non-strict vegetarianism. Meat is definitely out and plant-based (vegetables, grains, fruit and legumes) alternatives are used. Animal products (dairy etc) are averted, but not ruled out, if that makes sense. It’s good to go to such places with a vegetarian, if only to see Omnivore v Veggie roles reversed. Watch his or her little eyes light up at the menu. It doesn’t, for once, just feature a token goat’s cheese salad or quiche and your fellow diners saying “maybe the soup is veggie too?”.
Layout and Atmosphere
First impressions at Vinnie’s are good. It’s a bright white semi basement space with a lively decor. Vinnie’s has enough quiet corners and table spaces for it to work whether full or with just a couple of diners.
Vinnie’s is a partnership between Vincenzo ‘Vinnie’ Mangone and Louis Mander. Vinnie is from Canada, via brunch sessions at Putney’s Blåbär, a Nordic cafe and design shop. His style (and what a joy not to have to say ‘Modern British’ yet again) is ‘Vancouver inspired’. I took that to mean an interest in ingredient sustainability, provenance and wholesomeness. Canadian informality and friendliness is part of the offer too. Louis Mander is also interesting chap. He’s a composer who has collaborated with Stephen Fry, on an E M Forster short story-based opera. An Ivor Gurney inspired chamber opera coming to the Playhouse later this year
Back to Vinnie’s. Vinnie’s is open all day, for breakfast and lunch, plus candlelit suppers from Thursday to Saturday (until 11pm). Lunch looks cute with a regular deal (three choices from the menu from £5.95).
About Alkaline water…
Drinks are interesting. Alkaline water is served. Some pretty, um, ‘out there’ health claims have been made about it. The basic idea is that it neutralises the acids in your body. Now, here at Critical Towers, we’re men and women of science. Er… it seems pretty obvious that, if you drink alkaline water, the first thing that will happen is that your stomach will simply neutralise it by producing more acid. Admittedly though, we haven’t looked to see what Goop has to say on the subject. Let’s discuss it over a bone broth latte sometime.
Vinnie’s menu also offers in-house fermented ginger ale and in-house root beer. Sadly these were unavailable on the evening that we called in. I ditched plans for a nice-sounding Ginger Gin (£5) or an Old Fashioned (£7) and settled for a Gloucester Brewery session IPA (£3.50). Gloucester Brewery is on such good form at the moment…
Meanwhile back at the menu, our vegetarian correspondent was happily deciding between options. Menu choices have a familiar ring to them for non veggies. Bean Chilli (£9.95), Lasagne (£10.50) Bean Burger (9.50) Vizza ((£8.50) a plant-based take on pizza) and a Thai Coconut Curry (£10.95).
The lasagne looked a little pallid (not surprisingly, without all the usual baked cheese) but was in fact creamy, nutty and tasty, with a salad to accompany. Perhaps the least successful dish was the bean burger. The burger itself was good, but the in house bun was brown, heavy and unappetising. I had pre-empted this by ordering a slice of cheese (£1.50) on top. But this was overlooked by Chef. I say ‘overlooked’, but it may have been more sinister, a rebellious act of plant-based solidarity. To be serious, cheese would have added some moisture to what was rather a rather dry dish.
Also on the plate was a nice sauerkraut (which is cabbage, usually fermented by lactic acid bacteria – hey we’re back to that alkaline/acid discussion) and a homemade ketchup, plus parsnip chips. Potentially, it could be a successful dish. The bun is the weak link. The coconut curry was a subtle, nicely-spiced vegetable curry. Coconut milk to the fore, served with quinoa and it all got a really enthusiastic thumbs up.
Puddings at Vinnie’s
Pudding options are limited to two – Chocolate Brownie and Spiced Apple Cake (£4.95). The Brownie was really special, a kind of nut sandwich, made with maple syrup and cacao and served with a coconut yoghurt. Delicious. Spiced Apple Cake was almost as highly rated, Bramley and almond flavours. Coffee with nut milk was, well, awful.
I liked Vinnie’s – Vinnie and Louis are nice, gentle people and they’ve made something new for Cheltenham here. The restaurant deserves a healthy (eh?) following amongst vegans and vegetarians – but not only amongst vegetarians. Our scores are reasonably average reflecting a lack of strong flavours and satisfyingly rich sauces etc, but remember that Vinnie’s is sui generis. It only lays out a claim to be an eatery/cafe, even if it is effectively a restaurant in the evenings. Finally, I want to go back for a Ginger Gin.