Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Egg Vegetarian and Vegan Cafe,16-18 Newington, Liverpool


Part of the menu outside the front door- sorry about the blurriness!
Last Saturday we were in Liverpool and decided to check out The Egg, a well-established cafe-cum-art-gallery which I remember going to when I was a student at Liverpool Uni in the 80s. I recall an airy, somewhat minimal space with a high ceiling, wooden beams and a scrubbed wooden floor; a pleasant place in which to get away from the bustle of the city centre. (I think I may even have tasted hummus for the very first time there.) Returning after over 25 years (:/ That long ago? Really?), there were some changes, but The Egg still retains its Bohemian vibe and many menu items too, such as garlic bread with cheese and pitta bread with hummus and salads. I was even surprised to see the same old lino on the stairs leading  up to the cafe!
The Egg is tucked away down a side street in the city centre which connects Bold Street with Renshaw Street. It's near central Station, Lime Street Station and the Adelphi Hotel. We arrived in Liverpool after dark, and nearly walked straight past the entrance as it has no front window, only an A-board sign on the pavement and a menu in the doorway. This is because the cafe is up several flights of stairs, on the top floor of a Victorian warehouse building. This would obviously put it out of reach for anyone with mobility issues as there is no lift, and even carrying a folded baby buggy up there would be a challenge on your own. But I guess there's nothing the management can do about this because they share the building and probably have no say in structural matters.
At the top of the stairs we were confronted with a heavy purple closed door. All was silent. Had we got it all wrong? Gingerly, I pushed open the door, to be greeted by a different world, full of bustle, twinkling lights and delicious aromas. We joined the queue for the service counter immediately.While we waited in line (it was really busy) I surveyed the decor, mentally checking it against the place I remembered from so long ago. The wooden beams are now painted the same purple with green leaves as the doorway outside, and there seem to be more of the scrubbed pine tables than before, some small and intimate, some long and wide, inviting communal dining. I looked through the windows and remembered the urban landscape of rooftops you can gaze out on over your peppermint tea. On the walls is the artwork  from the current exhibition, and a few large hearts with messages on them like "Love Earth". (I would show you, but the photos came out very badly.) Overall, I'd say the style of the place is "shabby chic". Deliciously retro, in fact- just my cup of tea because it reminds me of the good old days.

The green and purple decor continues upstairs too.
To get served, you go up to the counter, where you can see the menu and the dishes on offer for that day. You order and pay then and there, cafeteria-style, but anything like soup or main courses gets heated and plated up then brought to you. Great for avoiding long waits at the table at busy times, but with one flaw: even when the tables are full and those that are left are all reserved, they keep on serving and so we had a few anxious moments trying to find somewhere to sit until the friendly staff saw our predicament and found us a little table for two in the corner. (Actually the staff table- but we didn't mind!) The glowing candles on every table and mellow music really helped create a pleasant atmosphere. The lighting where we were just didn't work for photography, though, so you'll have to make do with pictures of the food at the counter.

Part of the serving counter; the shepherd's pie is at the back.
The menu itself is fairly standard, old fashioned Cranks-style vegetarian/ vegan wholefood, with a selection of hot and cold drinks too. No fancy presentation or exotic ingredients here, but all good wholesome stuff nevertheless. There is a soup of the day which you can have with bread, garlic bread, cheesy garlic bread etc. (vegan options available). You can get a plateful of the salad selection, hummus, pitta bread and salad, there are a couple of quiches (containing egg and dairy) which are also served with salad, and a varying selection of main courses which can be served with rice, salad or a bit of both. I was delighted to learn that around half the cakes they had that day were vegan; banana cake, apple crumble (vegan icecream also available), chocolate crunchie (a biscuity fridge cake) and muffins. Vegan and gluten free items are clearly labelled and the staff seem only too happy to help with any queries you might have. We chose the shepherd's pie with salad and Moroccan vegetables with salad, and we both had the chocolate crunchie for dessert. Our food came quite quickly, which was impressive considering that the upstairs seating area was taken up with a function, and it was piping hot (they do use a microwave for this though.) My Moroccan vegetables were served in a bowl on a plate with generous amounts of salad all around, leaving not much room for manoeuvre and no choice but to dig in and clear some space! The portions were generous, and great value at around £5 or £6 for a main course. The shepherd's pie was delicious and hearty, and appeared to be mainly Puy lentils flavoured with fresh thyme. The potato topping was browned and crusty. The Moroccan vegetables were generous chunks of butternut squash, chickpeas, courgette and carrots. It was a welcome surprise to find the chickpeas as they hadn't been mentioned in the menu description and I had been wondering about protein content. The vegetables were pleasant and cooked down to  melt-in-the-mouth consistency, but to be honest I could have handled a bit more spice and slightly less of an oily finish at the bottom of the bowl. I guess they wanted to cater for all palates. We both found the salads attractive and tasty; chunks of tomato and cucumber, a selection of green leaves such as baby spinach, rocket and lamb's lettuce, a herby pasta salad and a rice salad drizzled with fragrant toasted sesame oil. The meal was really filling- we couldn't have managed it with the rice option as well although we had both been very hungry to begin with. The chocolate crunchie was nothing you couldn't make at home and very sweet indeed, but good and chocolate-y, with the slices about double the size you might expect; it was nice to be able to have a vegan treat we hadn't had to make ourselves and we tucked in happily.

There is a good selection of salads.
All in all, The Egg represents excellent value for money, with good down-to-Earth wholefood veggie and vegan fare. I would like to have seen vegan cheese on offer as an alternative to the cheesey garlic bread, and a vegan quiche or tarte would not have come amiss. But then I would say that, because I'm vegan. The dining experience here is pleasant, it doesn't cost a lot of money and whether you are vegan, vegetarian, coeliac or any combination of the above, you will find you have a choice of home cooked dishes, accompanied by a great selection of salads, cakes and all the hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks you would expect. Weekend evenings seem busy, so perhaps it would be advisable to book a table if you are planning on visiting then.
Look for the purple doorway and the A-board...

Top Floor
16-18 Newington
Liverpool L1 4ED
(0151) 707 2755

Opening Times:
Mon-Fri 9am-10.30pm
Sat/ Sun 10am-10.30pm

2 comments:

  1. Seems like a place I would have loved to visit! So nice to find vegan/vegetarian options when out and about! :)

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  2. This cafe sounds fab! Liverpool is one of the only English cities that I've yet to visit. I'd love to go for a long weekend one day and have a proper look around. It's sounds like a very vibrant place ♥

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