This new plant-based restaurant in Cheltenham has breezy Vancouver style and food that tastes so damned fine you'd never know it was good for you.
A slice of hipster eating from the Canadian west coast has arrived in Cheltenham – and boy it tastes good! Brand-spanking new Vinnie’s Eatery, a plant-based restaurant in Crescent Terrace just behind the Promenade, is the brainchild of composer Louis Mander and Vancouver chef Vincenzo Mangone, who’ve had dreams of opening a plant-based (no ‘v’ word here), healthy-eating establishment for ten years. And if you’re thinking, “Plant-based? Tasty?”, shelve those sceptical thoughts right now because Louis and Vinnie have managed to hit that sweet spot of yummy but good-for-you nosh with no sniff of an animal-based product anywhere.
At the launch event last week, the lucky invites (including moi) were treated to a wickedly good tasting menu, which started with an amuse-bouche of popcorn that tantalised the taste buds with, was it cheese? Had a non-plant-based ingredient snuck its way into Vinnie’s kitchen? Of course it hadn’t! The secret, cheesey-tasting ingredient was nutritional yeast, which sounds kind of unappetising, but tastes pretty damned good and delivers a powerful, nutritional punch of protein, B vitamins, iron, selenium and zinc that together help boost immunity, reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer.
Next up was coconut milk Thai curry which was a perfectly cooked mouthful of aubergine, chickpeas, soya beans, lemongrass and ginger, as well as coconut milk of course (more iron and selenium, as well as calcium, magnesium and fibre) and then it was onto black bean chilli, which had a very moreish smokey flavour to it with a nice kick thanks to the jalapeño peppers spicing things up. These fiery little babies are jam-packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and contain capasaicin, which helps boost metabolism, so they can help you lose weight, making this chilli a win, win kind of dish.
Shots of orange, ginger and carrot juice were then passed around before we were treated to my favourite dish of the night, falafel. I love this Middle-Eastern street food anyway, but Vinnie’s version was on the next level. Made with dates and maple syrup (the superfood spice turmeric was also in there), the little balls literally melted in your mouth and I’m embarrassed to say, I practically rugby tackled Louis as he passed them around to get a second and third helping. Having ditched my polite veneer, I was all over the final dish of the night, red velvet brownies, like a rash. These gooey, gluten-free beauties were so scrumptious, I was pretty surprised to find they contained beetroot (though the ‘red velvet’ had raised my suspicions). I’ve never been a fan of this root vegetable, which has health benefits as long as my arm, so was pleased to discover it could go undercover in a brownie. No need to say no to pudding at Vinnie’s!
The food left a feel-good aftertaste – as Louis says, eating in this way promotes “well-being, peace and harmony” – and even the water boosts your health. Filtered through a machine that introduces ions into tap water, the resulting alkalised H2O, which is flavoured with cucumber and mint, helps prevent cancer, while the ginger and root beers are made using water kefir, which aids gut health.
Also on the drinks menu are cold-pressed juices and locally sourced, vegan wine and beer, and there’s an after-work cocktail hour between 6pm-7pm, where you can enjoy a healthy hit of the hard stuff, because, while you’ll get a supercharged, wholesome fix at Vinnie’s, there’s nothing austere about the experience. Which goes for the interiors too. Airy and whitewashed, with lots of snuggle-into cushions and beautiful, Indian-flavoured paintings by local artist Georgie Woolridge, the space is inspired by the kind of cool, laid-back cafés you find in Vancouver that have the fresh breeze of the Pacific Ocean blowing through them. In Cheltenham! Who’d have thought?
Vinnie’s Eatery, open for breakfast, lunch and supper, 8.30am-4pm Tue-Sat, 7pm-11pm Fri and Sat, 10am-4pm Sun. 3 Crescent Terrace, Cheltenham. Tel: 01242 228989. vinnieseatery.uk