When Polly Met Fergie: Peterborough's First Vegan Restaurant

It was serendipity that just as I exchanged contracts to move to the city, Peterborough’s first vegan restaurant When Polly Met Fergie opened. A week later I completed my house move and we headed straight there to celebrate.

When Polly Met Fergie: Peterborough's First Vegan Restaurant

Located in the Westgate Arcade, the main restaurant is located downstairs and has a relaxed cafe feel. Meanwhile upstairs there is a cocktail and jazz bar with regular live music. The decor certainly sets the mood with dark walls, a centrepiece chandelier and a grand piano in the corner.

I can only describe how good my first meal there was as my camera was still packed away in a box at home. I started with arancini balls served with a punchy tomato sauce, followed up with a rich and stewy red wine bourguignon. The accompanying dill mash was so smooth and pillowy that I cleaned my plate!

Oliver chose a nacho starter topped with a convincingly meaty fragrant ‘mince’. His main of ancho chilli, tortilla and rice was fresh and filling, but we both would have loved some kind of sauce with it to add a little moisture. We were very impressed overall and vowed to return.

No Ordinary Avo

When Polly Met Fergie: Peterborough's First Vegan Restaurant

Fast forward to a few weeks later and I popped in for breakfast. I’d been hoping to try their signature eggless benedict but it wasn’t on the menu that day. I’m glad in retrospect because the avocado on toast that I had instead was exceptional. The creamy avocado was generously piled atop a slice of fresh baked focaccia and given a sumptuous earthy, unami twist with the addition of truffles. For extra oomf, there were also sweet but tart sun dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Definitely not your average avo!

When Polly Met Fergie’s Christmas Menu*

Maybe it’s over the top to visit the same restaurant three times in a month but hey, it’s not often that an entirely plant based restaurant launches a Christmas menu and welcomes you inside to taste it all is it?

I arrived with the other Qbloggers, eager not only to taste the new menu, but also to find out what my non vegan friends thought. The verdict was unanimous: whether you’re vegan, vegitarian, flexitarian or a carnivore, this is food everyone will love!

Peterborough's First Vegan Restaurant When Polly Met Fergie (8)

Starter: Mushroom and Pecan Ravioli on a TO DIE FOR Butternut Squash Puree

Peterborough First Vegan Restaurant When Polly Met Fergie

Nut roast served in filo pastry with potato dauphinoise, cranberry dressing and gravy

In a Christmas menu full of highlights, I’ll give a special mention to the potato dauphinoise. I haven’t tasted anything so creamy and cheddary since I gave up those very things! My friends said that if they’d walked in off the street and eaten this without knowing that they were in a plant based restaurant, they’d be none the wiser.

Peterborough First Vegan Restaurant When Polly Met Fergie Peterborough First Vegan Restaurant When Polly Met Fergie

Also, it’s an absolute pleasure to have a choice of multiple vegan desserts, something rather lacking when visiting other restaurants. Here, the festive option of a berry crumble with vanilla cream ticked all the boxes for me. It was warming, fruity and homely.

Peterborough First Vegan Restaurant When Polly Met Fergie

Berry Crumble

“It’s just honest plates of fresh food that are aromatic and full of flavour. They just all happen to be plant based.”

I can’t express how good it feels to finally have a place in my hometown where I can walk in and have the freedom to order anything I like off the menu. Peterborough’s first vegan restaurant has arrived just in time to make my Christmas!

The thing with When Polly Met Fergie though is that it isn’t ‘gimmicky’. It isn’t trying to convince everyone to go vegan with a menu full of meat substitutes. It doesn’t even make a big deal of it being a vegan restaurant! It’s just honest plates of fresh food that are aromatic and full of flavour. They just all happen to be plant based.

When Polly Met Fergie is situated at Westgate Arcade, Queensgate, Peterborough and can be accessed from inside or outside the shopping centre.

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: I was invited to preview the Christmas menu as part of my duties as a Qblogger for Queensgate Shopping Centre. That meal was complimentary. I made the other visits as a paying customer.

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Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

“You’re vegan? But… what about Christmas?”

The classic question! Personally, I don’t miss any of the traditional festive dinners half as much as I expected to. I do however feel a bit left out when it comes to all of the festive sweet treats that get passed around. Whether it’s after dinner chocolates, a festive tipple or a selection box of chocolates, I usually have to politely decline.

Luckily the high street is starting to get on board with the growing demand for vegan friendly sweets, chocolates and edible gifts. I attended a Christmas taster evening at Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough last week and was absolutely chuffed at how much they had to show me. I even got to have not one, but TWO festive meals, all entirely vegan.

With that in mind, I’ve rounded up some of the best vegan friendly christmas treats and gifts available on the high street this year and where to buy them.

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats

For watching Christmas movies in your pj’s…

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

Vegan Vanilla Marshmallows | The Naked Marshmallow Co | Lakeland

Vegan marshmallows! My goodness how I’ve craved a super indulgent hot chocolate since going vegan, but until now I haven’t found a high street retailer that stocks vegan marshmallows. Finding these in Lakeland made my day!

After Dinner Treats

Still in Lakeland, I found these chocolate covered cherries which really are the perfect after dinner christmas treat. They are slightly sour with a dark chocolate coating and a lovely chewy inside. They come gift wrapped in cellophane so would make a nice gift to take round if you’re visiting someone else for Christmas.

Growing up, we always had a box of After Eight at Christmas. Sadly I checked and they aren’t vegan, but I discovered that Lakeland stock Beech’s After Dinner Mints which are a conscience free alternative and delicious in their own right.

For the Prosecco Lover

It’s almost time to start opening our advent calendars, but to be honest I have found the vegan chocolate ones I’ve tried hugely disappointing. For a fun alternative, Popaball have a ‘Pimp Your Prosecco‘ 12 day advent calendar containing 11 bubbles of different flavours and one shimmer.

For Impressive Christmas Gifts

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

I’ve always loved using Hotel Chocolat for gifts as everything is so beautifully packaged. Now I love them even more, because this year they have a huge vegan friendly selection that non vegans should adore just as much. You need to avoid the milk chocolate (obviously!) but as well as their dark chocolate range, many of their alcohols are also vegan (oh hello Salted Caramel Cocoa Vodka Liqueur).

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

Some of their Christmas sweets such as their Rose & Lemon Turkish Delight are vegan too – it’s worth checking the label or asking a member of staff for help if you’re not sure.

View the full vegan range here: Hotel Chocolat Vegan Range

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

For A Buzzing Christmas Party

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

Once finished shopping for vegan friendly Christmas treats and gifts I also headed to Turtle Bay, Peterborough’s fun and lively Caribbean restaurant where the atmosphere is always buzzing. If you’re sick of Christmas music and want somewhere a little different for a festive get together, this place is a winner.

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts I tried the Spiced Chickpea Ital and Sweetcorn Fritters. Both were super tasty but be warned these are SPICY dishes that build heat over time. If you’re sensitive to spices, you might want to ask your waiter for guidance on how hot the dish is before you choose!

Vegan Friendly Christmas Treats and Gifts

If you have a Christmas party to organise, two courses from the Christmas Lunch menu are £14.95 and two courses from the Christmas Anytime menu are £19.95. You get a £20 gift card as a thank you for booking a table of 10 people or more (£50 gift card for tables over 30).

I have to thank Queensgate and their stores for once again being wonderful hosts and showing me that there are plenty of vegan friendly Christmas treats and gifts to enjoy this year!

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: All food and drink consumed on the night was complimentary thanks to Queensgate Shopping Centre and the participating retailers. I have shared my personal highlights from the evening to share with you here.

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20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

Since adopting a plant based diet I’ve discovered some absolutely delicious recipes online. However as much as I love to spend time cooking, sometimes I just don’t have the time to follow an elaborate recipe. Sometimes all I want is proper back to basics food, the kind that I can grab all the ingredients for in a quick dash around the supermarket and then rustle up at home confidently in less than 30 minutes.

That’s why I’ve decided to start sharing what I eat on those days. These aren’t recipes as such, quite often they’ll use store bought sauces or frozen items, I just make them a little bit more exciting and maybe a touch healthier too by making a few little additions or tweaks.

I hope that this helps give you some simple ideas for what to make when you’re getting a bit hangry!

First up, my 20 minute pesto pasta:

20 Minute Pesto Pasta

20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

My 20 minute pesto pasta hardly needs any prep at all and if you keep using the same saucepan, you can limit the washing up too. I’ve included some lower cost/higher protein swops that you can make, but I encourage you just to play around and see what works best for you!

Ingredients (per person)

20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

75g fusilli pasta*

A handful of broccoli tips

1 to 2 tablespoons vegan friendly pesto (I used Sacla Free From No.9 Basil Pesto)

A handful of pine nuts

About 7 or 8 cherry tomatoes (I like to be a bit fancy and use on the vine ones, but any will do)

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

*Low cost version: Use normal dried pasta.

*Lower carbs/higher protein version: use vegetable pasta. There should be some in the ‘free from’ section of your local supermarket, I used Morrison’s ‘green pea pasta’ for this recipe.

20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan assisted)
  2. Put a handful of pine nuts in a medium sized saucepan and toast them over a medium heat. This will only take a few minutes so keep moving them about in the pan. Keep a close eye on them so that they don’t burn!20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan
  3. Put the pine nuts to one side in a small bowl and then fill the saucepan with water. Bring it to the boil.
  4. Whilst your water is reaching temperature, line a baking tray with tin foil (you can skip the foil if your tray is non stick). Place your cherry tomatoes in the tray and drizzle over some olive oil. Shake the tray to make sure all your tomatoes get a coating. Season with a few grinds of salt and pepper.20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan
  5. Put your tomatoes in the oven to roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until the skin is just beginning to char and split.
  6. When your water has boiled, add some salt and then your pasta. Follow the instructions to cook it through. (Vegetable pasta is super quick, usually about 5 to 8 minutes, dried pasta takes a little bit longer).
  7. Once your pasta is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove it into a bowl, keeping the pasta water reserved in the saucepan.
  8. Add your broccoli to the boiling pasta water and leave it to simmer for about 6 minutes. If you prefer your veggies on the softer side, cook for a little longer.
  9. Once done, drain your broccoli and keep it to one side.
  10. Put the pasta back in the saucepan, add the pesto and warm it through over a medium heat. Then add the broccoli and warm through for another minute.
  11. By now your tomatoes should be ready. Spoon the pasta and broccoli onto the plate and sprinkle over the pine nuts. Top with the cherry tomatoes and season with a bit more salt and pepper.
  12. Enjoy!

 

20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

20 Minute Pesto Pasta Easy Vegan

If you try my 20 minute pesto pasta please do get in touch by commenting below or tagging me on Instagram @lovedbylaurac or Twitter @lovedbylaurac and using the hashtag #EasyV. I’d love to see what you come up with!

LovedByLaura

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Everyday challenges that I face as a vegan

I often see people tweeting about how easy it is to turn vegan and that they didn’t find it a struggle at all. In my experience however there’s a lot more to being vegan than just cutting out certain foods. In this post I want to give you an insight into some of the everyday challenges that I face as a vegan and ways to deal with them.

Outside Influences

I’ve been vegan for 8 months now and I get variations of these same questions and comments all the time:

“But what about bacon/cheese/Christmas?”

“You need dairy for calcium, aren’t you worried about that?”

“Where are you going to get your protein from?”

“Can’t you just buy free range eggs instead?”

“It’s just a fad diet / trend.”

“If you were being attacked by a wild animal would you just let it kill you?”

*Looking me up and down* “What are your shoes made from? What about your handbag?”

In the majority of cases these concerns are well meaning but that doesn’t make them any less annoying! It would be seen as rude and confrontational for a vegan to ask people why they’re eating meat and dairy, but it seems to be widely accepted that it’s okay to ask vegans to justify their choice NOT to eat such things. This is often in front of lots of other people. Not fun for an introvert.

I’m often expected to provide scientific facts, nutritional values and a full citation of sources. It can all be a bit exhausting when all I want to do is eat my ‘vegan pizza’ without a debate.

I suppose some of this comes from the fact that some vegans do forcibly assert their opinions on others. This doesn’t represent every vegan however! Some of us have just made a personal decision that’s right for us and are happy to let other people do the same.

Veganism can also be a very emotive subject. I am extremely cautious about opening up on the matter even when asked to. I’ve learned to warn people that if they want me to go into detail on things like the egg and dairy industry I will be happy to tell them what I know, but that they need to be prepared to hear things that might make them feel uncomfortable.

With that being said, I’m always happy to answer questions asked out of genuine interest in the subject. I began my own vegan journey by seeking support and advice from those who’d experienced it all before me, so if I can pay that forward then I will!

Everyday challenges that I face as a vegan

Emotions

Another thing I never expected when I turned vegan was how much I’d go through the wringer emotionally. On the plus side, turning vegan has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I am more relaxed knowing that I’m no longer conflicted about my food choices which is something I’d struggled with beforehand.

The problem is that with once you’ve taken action to stop yourself from being a part of the problem, it becomes even more frustrating knowing that there are still inconceivable acts of cruelty and suffering going on and there is little else that you can do about it.

Everyday challenges that I face as a vegan

Staying Positive

I have been listening to a really great podcast called The Chickpeeps which has helped me to stay positive and find other small ways in which I can help make a difference, such as in my makeup and clothing choices.

It explores all manner of vegan topics in a relaxed, non confrontational way with everything from how honey is made, to ethical fashion and the debate over Activism vs Attractivism. They’ve promised a future episode on raising children vegan which should make for a thought provoking listen.

As an added bonus it’s hosted by Evanna Lynch, aka Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter!

Everyday challenges that I face as a vegan

Food

Believe it or not, this has probably been the easiest part of the transition for me.

As soon as I realised that I was more concerned about the animal behind the food than my fleeting enjoyment of it, there was no longer a choice to be made. It’s very simple for me: anything animal derived is not something I consider food now. That makes it very easy to say no.

Everyday challenges that I face as a vegan

If all of the vegan food that I love was readily available wherever I travelled there would be no issue. Unfortunately, sometimes the only option is dry toast or chips. It can feel isolating when you’re out socially and can’t enjoy the experience because your choices are limited.

Lots of restaurants have added vegan options to their menus which is a really positive step, but it’s still a struggle finding a decent starter or dessert in most.

I’ve learned to always come prepared! I take dairy free spread and oatmilk with me if I’m staying overnight somewhere. I keep energy balls in my handbag in case of emergency and bring vegan burgers to BBQs. It means that I can eat alongside everyone else and avoid feeling left out.

Cost

One of the arguments I hear repeatedly against veganism is that it is an expensive lifestyle. What I’ve found often makes any part of veganism expensive is the products marketed specifically to vegans.

Vegan pizzas, cheese, processed meat alternatives and ready meals are often priced higher than their meat and dairy versions. It is great that they exist and I do buy them occassionally, but not everyday.

Think about it. Tomatoes, mushrooms and carrots are vegan. Lentils, rice, beans and many dried pastas are vegan. These are pretty cheap ingredients. I batch cook chilli, risotto and curry in bulk and then freeze it into portions to avoid any waste.

Vegan specific clothing and shoe labels tend to have a higher price tag because producing these items ethically tends to cost more. Even some technically vegan items aren’t great for environment due to the toxicity of the synthetic materials used.

My compromise is to wear out my old leather/wool goods. When replacing them I use ‘vegan’ in high street retailer website search bars to see if anything comes up (Shuh and ASOS are both good for this). It isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s what is affordable to me for now and I’m okay with that.

Everyday challenges that I face as a vegan

Why It’s All Worth It

If I’m ever feeling frustrated, I remind myself of this:

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.

(Source)

And that is why despite the everyday challenges that I face as a vegan, it’s all worth it!

LovedByLaura

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Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

I was recently contacted by Bill’s Restaurant in Cambridge asking if I’d like to visit and review their vegan menu.

Damn right I would – I love that place!

I’ve been a normal paying customer at Bill’s Restaurants both in Cambridge and Peterborough for many years so it was an absolute privelege to be invited there in a blogging capacity. It was also the first time I’d visited since becoming vegan so I was keen to see how the experience would compare.

Upon arrival we were given some of Bill’s cocktails to sample. I found them very easy drinking as each contained deliciously fruity flavours which helped to tone down the taste of the various alchols blended through. The English Country Garden, for example, contained Bill’s Elderflower Gin aperitif with a mix of wild Sussex elderflower cordial, lime juice and cloudy apple juice – absolutely perfect for a hot Summer’s day!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

After sampling the cocktails we switched to soft drinks. I went for Bill’s Pink Lemonade which is my idea of a perfect non alcoholic Summer pick me up. It’s made for them by a small French artisan company that’s been around for more than 100 years and the quality shows – it’s super sparkly and refreshing and served in the cutest bottle. Sian chose a Botanical Ginger Beer and I had a taste of it, so I can vouch for that being another good option!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

When it came time to order food I made my server aware of my dietary requirements and she was happy to offer some recommendations. The menu itself was really easy to follow as all vegan friendly dishes were clearly labelled VE. If you have another type of special dietary requirements or need to avoid a certain allergen there’s a more detailed menu that they can bring out to help so if in doubt, just ask. They clearly take it very seriously and are well prepared if you have questions.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

We decided to start off with some nibbles, so we ordered flatbread, hummus and nicoise olives to share. The flatbread was fresh and warm from the stove with just the right texture for tearing and dipping into the hummus. The hummus itself was incredibly moorish.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The nicoise olives were another hit with us, they had a salty tang and happily were already pitted.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Being gluttons, we’d ordered proper starters too! I chose the Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad which was a feast for the eyes as well as my tummy. The lentils had a wonderful delicate flavour owing to their lemon dressing and every so often I’d get a little sweet pop from the pomegranate which worked surprisingly well with the squash.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose Crumbed Halloumi Sticks which came with a pot of garlic and lemon mayo. This is a vegetarian rather than vegan option so I couldn’t try it myself but Sian assures me that it was delicious!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Despite already having had squash for my starter, I chose the Rustic Butternut Squash Stew for my main and I’m not overstating things here to say that this dish is an absolute sensation!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The flavour profile was like nothing else I’ve eaten this year. The freekeh grains were a perfect vehicle to soak up the rich sweet smoky sauce, the chargrilled red pepper and onions added depth, kale kept things fresh and the toasted pistachios provided a satisfying crunch. Honestly – go have this immediately even if you usually prefer a meaty or cheesy option – it’s perfection on a plate.

This look probably says it better than words can.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose a meaty option of Gnocchi Bolognese with Basil Pesto and Gran Moravia Cheese. Definitely not vegan!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

We were probably supposed to have completed our review by eating dessert too, but we were so full by this point that there was no way that either of us could have managed another morsel. This actually worked out fine for me because there was only one vegan option on the dessert menu and it contained coconut which I have an intense dislike for.

Thus if I could offer any suggestions to Bill’s on improvements to the vegan menu it would simply be to add a second dessert choice. The same is true for all other non vegan restaurants I’ve been to, the choice seems to stop once you get past the mains and sometimes there’s no option at all.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Before leaving the manager at Bill’s very kindly gave me a goodie bag from their own range of produce to take away and try at home. They are very proud of the items and rightly so – everything has been carefully sourced and developed with independant suppliers and artisans. I was very happy to find another bottle of Pink Lemonade in there which lasted approximately 2 hours at home (it didn’t even have time to chill properly!) as well as a big tin of Sevilla Green Gordal Olives, a delicious Raspberry Jam, Slow Baked Granola and a bar of White Chocolate Eton Mess. Sadly I had to give the last one away as it wasn’t suitable for me but that made me very popular at home so I’m not complaining!

I thought I’d leave you with a short video of our visit so that you can see what went into the making of this post – basically a lot of standing up in the middle of a restaurant to take photos and rearranging the table… no wonder we were there for about 3 hours!

Videography and the photos of me in this post are by the wickedly talented Sian’s Photography

Food photography is by me, as seen in the video!

Music by Eme Hache: http://freemusicarchive.org/…/EME…/Chasing_Time/Help_me_1484.

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: I’d like to extend a big thanks to Bill’s Restaurants for providing some wonderful hospitality. As stated above my food and drink on this occassion was complimentary, but this just meant was that I got to try out a few more things than I would normally order on a trip there to give a more comprehensive review of what’s on offer there. The friendly service and the quality of the food lived up to my past trips as a paying customer and I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to Bill’s in Cambridge if you’re in the area, or your nearest local branch if not!

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