Saturday, 23 November 2013

Next to Nowhere is really Somewhere!- vegan cafe review

News from Nowhere in Bold Street, Liverpool (the name is based on William Morris' 1890 novel about utopian socialism).
Yesterday I took a trip back into my past when we visited Liverpool, where I lived for four years in the 1980s as a university student and beyond. It was only after we arrived in the city centre, having driven past a couple of the houses I had lived in, that I realised why my years in Liverpool will always be important to me: they were the years in which I grew from being a teenager to being an adult- leaving home, fending for myself, discovering different cultures, religions and political opinions, learning to cook, taking responsibility (or not). I made plenty of mistakes in those years, and put myself through some very hard times, but I will always value the experiences I had there because they have helped to shape the choices I have made in the years that followed: I first became vegan while in Liverpool, I immersed myself in the vibrant music and social life of the subculture and I learned many lessons apart from those which took place in the relative safety of the lecture hall.
So I was feeling pretty emotional by the time we got out of the car in Renshaw Street. But happy to be finally back as well; Liverpool is a charismatic place, full of iconic public buildings such as the Liver Building and the two cathedrals, and large old houses laid out round green squares that speak of more prosperous times. We walked round the corner to Bold Street, which didn't seem to have changed that much over the years: Cafe Tabac was still there, albeit modernised, and there were still many independent shops selling vintage clothing etc.- a nice change from Birmingham city centre, which is sadly full of characterless chainstores. It was way less crowded than Birmingham on a Saturday afternoon too. Our first stop was a vegan cafe in a social centre called Next to Nowhere, situated in the basement of News from Nowhere, a radical bookshop which in the 80s had been in small and run-down premises a little further away up the hill. We rang the doorbell to the right of News from Nowhere, and someone came upstairs to let us in. Downstairs, we soon found ourselves in a do-it-yourself social centre which had clearly been created by a dedicated group of alternative thinkers to facilitate meetings, social events and sharing vegan food. This is what we saw:

A small serving hatch in a dining area covered in flyers and thought-provoking posters

...and a limited but astoundingly cheap vegan menu!
The cafe is only open on Saturdays and staffed by volunteers (which may explain the prices). It's great that anyone can come here out of the cold and get sustenance so cheaply. To say we got a friendly welcome would be an understatement- within minutes of ordering, we were both deep in conversation with fellow diners and the lovely lady preparing and serving the food. We met, amongst others, a man who had been to Antarctica with Sea Shepherd and a lady who is as passionate about Beethoven as she is about feminism and vegan cooking. The food was simple but good, but paled into insignificance compared with the warmth of interaction that was going on; it's a rare thing these days to share life stories with people you have never met before, but it's a heartwarming and affirmative experience.
I guess as this is a review, I ought to write something about the food: we both had the lentil burger and apple crumble. They may not sound very original, but were made and flavoured well, using quality ingredients like rice flour and coconut sugar. After the chunky wholemeal bread that came with the burger, the gluten free crumble was light, cinnamon-y and just sweet enough without masking the flavour of the apples. It was a shame that the burger was unadorned by salad of any kind- maybe they had run out as it was nearly closing time- but it was tasty anyway: at those prices (£2 for the burger and bread and £1.50 for the crumble), it's all good! This cafe may not be everyone's cup of tea as it is not glitzy or smart and sells very simple food, but it's certainly an alternative to anything you'll find in the mall and I for one would rather spend money at an exclusively vegan place like this than line the pockets of some unprincipled multinational.

A delicately tasty pulse-based patty

A very delicious gluten free apple crumble
We were so taken up with talking to our new acquaintances in Next to Nowhere that we only had time for one more place, which I was delighted to see was still there in Bold Street after all these years- Matta's International Foods. This multi-ethnic wholefood store and grocery was packed with customers, and I couldn't resist picking up a loaf of artisan rye bread, for old time's sake, as this was the place where I used to buy ramen, hummus, olives and pitta bread to fuel long days of study and even longer nights of partying. The guy behind the counter also gave us a free sample of Pukka's caffeine- free vanilla chai, which was delicious this morning with toast made from the rye bread.

We visited Matta's International Foods before we left town.
I'd like to think we will visit Liverpool again before too long, and this time I won't need to Google cafes before we set off...










1 comment:

  1. Ooh food I can eat! :D It's nice to see free from items on the menu.

    ReplyDelete

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