Vegan Amsterdam: Bolhoed

September 15, 2009


On the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s main canals, cozily hidden behind sheets of trailing ivy, is Bolhoed, a vegan friendly, vegetarian café, staffed by the be-dreaded and tattoed, decorated with knick-knacks your Gran would covet and serving absolutely delicious food in delightfully generous portions.


Since there’s nothing outwardly declaring it to be a café we would have walked right past, if it hadn’t been for the outdoor seating area and my penchant for staring into other people’s houses (which is how Kat and Lia found it later as well. Staring questioningly into windows is a part of the Amsterdam experience though…) It looked inviting enough, for a start the windows are painted with flowers and the odd cartoon person, and inside beckoned warmly to our soaken selves.


Inside, it’s more like a café than a house, but only just. The odd knick-knacks, leaf stencils and cat might have you confused for a moment, but the counter with salad bar, coffee machine and customers soon give it away. We trundled in and bagsed the only free table. It wasn’t particularly busy, nevertheless. The other, huge, wooden tables were all occupied by one or two coffee drinking book readers or ladies-what-lunch. Most people in there were of an age, but then it was mid-morning on a Tuesday. By all accounts it’s buzzin’ on the weekend, but while we were there the atmosphere was pretty calm and chilled out.


We made ourselves comfortable, hanging our wet jackets over the chairs, and perused the menu. Everything is vegetarian, with plenty of vegan options also. I don’t remember most of what they offered because it seemed pretty standard fare; nut roast, sandiwiches, but the ragoutcroissant really stood out. I was completely intrigued by the notion of a croissant containing anything other than chocolate – in this case, leek, seaweed, tofu and curry – that it had to be ordered.

The food did take a little while to come but it’s not as though we had any pressing engagements anywhere and I was too busy enthusing over the ‘real’ apple juice – thick, cloudy and sweet, the kind which fights off infections and Fascists – and trying to get a perfect picture of the cool twisted-wire tree hanging on the wall to count the minutes off.



When my dinner did arrive though, it would have been worth any wait. It was giant. A giant parcel of folded pastry covered in sesame seeds, which I cut into eagerly. Inside was green mush, my favourite!, with chunks of tofu. I gingerly forked some into my mouth, where the pastry practically melted on my tongue and then the curry had a party with the seaweed. Everyone at the table tried a little bit, then clamoured for more. The side salad was also way more than the usual slice of cucumer and sprinkle of cress, so much so that I thought they were going to try and charge me extra. Not so! They just give you looooads of salad. My friends ordered a salad on its ownsome and were presented with salad, and skewers and a massive dollop of cous-cous. All for the low low price of roughly six euro, same as mine. (Since I’d read that the place was dear, and we were in Amsterdam, I’d expected far higher prices.)


Bolhoed is a really charming little place, which I highly recommend for good tasty filling food and veg. According to other sources it can get quite busy on the weekends – and I can see why – so the advice is to book ahead. If you have the choice though, go mid-week, either with a paper or close friend, hang out and take your sweet time devouring the giant croissant. Nom nom nom.



How do you like that Nut Cheese?

July 29, 2009


The inSpiral Lounge in Camden is, officially, one of my favourite places to eat. Whenever I find myself in North London, by chance or design, I make a point of heading over to the Lock and grabbing a buffet box – which usually results in trying to cut broccoli with the side of a wooden fork while wandering around the markets, tomato dripping from chin. Classy.

A little while ago, I tagged along with Thom and Lia who were intent on a trip to the markets. The night before, I’d revealed my plan of turning vegan to Thom, and we’d had a very circular argument. ‘But, if you’re trying to build muscle, you need meat.’ ‘Well, you can get protein and iron from plant sources…’ ‘Yeah, but if you’re trying to build muscle, then you need meat.’ and so on. When we passed the inSpiral Lounge, I suggested they check it out.


The food in the hot buffet looks and is fairly basic fare; lasagne, curry, polenta. You have the option of one hot main, with two rice/potato/wheat additions, then salad, and the prices are quite reasonable for the portions (considering London prices/portions.) We hung around at the counter for a while, looking lost, then proceeded to quiz the staff in depth about the food. Question one: What is it? Question two: So there’s cheese in the cauliflower cheese? Question three: You can make cheese from nuts? Question four: So, really, it’s cheese made from nuts? Although the buffet is advertised as vegetarian, we found most of the dishes were vegan (and gluten free), except for the cheese used on the spelt pizza (which isn’t a part of the buffet meal options). All the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to go through with us in detail the contents of each dish. Yes, yes it’s cheese made from nuts. We ordered a bowl each, I with lasagne, Thom with cauliflower cheese, all with salad. Lia opted for solely salad and we had a chocolate brownie between us.

The Lounge is a very pleasant place to hang out, with huge windows giving a great view of the Lock, scattered cushions, ambient music and er, glowing rocks, but since it was summer, we decided to sit outside, where we could watch the murky river water flow past. Yum.


This is Thom’s first time trying nut cheese. Tasty nut cheese. After one bite he began to rave about going vegetarian and maybe halfway through the meal he even considered going vegan for a week. (He did start with the vegetarian thing afterwards.) I think this face is the best possible review of a meal, but still. My pasta was tasty and filling, and it’s great to eat out and know that you’ve got the healthiest possible option available. There isn’t any other adjective worthy of the food than: good. Delicious, healthy, fresh. I really, really like the food there. (Just look at that face!)

Then, desert. They do a range of vegan cakes and cookies and the chocolate brownie looked to be the most chocolatey of all. The cookies only have chocolate chips, see, whereas the brownie has it all the way through…went my logic. However, upon taking an enormous bite of the potential brownie of chocolate joy, I was only to be disappointed when it didn’t live up to my chocolatey expectations. But then, what can? It was also quite stodgy, and didn’t taste of anything, let alone chocolate. Shame.
A couple of weeks later, I went again and had a cup of chocolate ice-cream. Their ice-cream claims to be dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free…so I’m not entirely sure what it’s actually made of. The first lick proved alright, but a few more mouthfuls and it began to take on a chalky quality and left a strange (and un-chocolatey) aftertaste. In comparison to the smoothness of dairy ice-cream, no dice. If not comparing it to dairy deserts, it still wasn’t all that enjoyable. Maybe other flavours have different qualities? (Or aftertastes…)


I would, and frequently do, eat here again. And again. And then another time. If you’ve got the time, it’s a great place to chill out and relax in, with all the glowing stones, or if not, it’s quick and easy to grab a box of hot food and attempt to it conquer with wooden cutlery. Definitely an affordable, if not cheap, place to grab a vegan bite.

Check them out
They also do music and performances in the evenings. I haven’t had the change to go yet, but one day…


Lounge on the Farm Review

July 16, 2009

Having emerged from the Farm, picking straw out of my hair and ears still ringing, my first thought was – well, to have a bath – and then, to tell everyone I know how amazing Lounge was this year, and how I wish I was still sat beneath the stars, listening to Gong with my cup of tea.

Cupboard of Beats

There was absolutely no faulting the music choice this year. Every band I aimed to see or stumbled upon were interesting, unique…and often in costume. The Ukelele Gangstas pimped it out, while Hotrods and Dragsters upped the ante with hula girls. Billy Childish had a WWI nurse play bass and Daevid Allen, well, I’m not sure if a wizard’s accoutrements count as a costume for him…Oh, the music? There also some normal looking bands who stood out solely according to their instrumental talent, yes. Jouis kicked off at the Furthur Tent with groovy sixties stylings and dapper suits. They switched singers until ‘the hippy’ as I’d dubbed him, previously only wandering around the stage with a tambourine and earning some slight mockery, took to the microphone and belted out an earthy, guttural, powerful sound – to my shame. We chatted to the sax player afterwards, and he pointed us in the direction of Jonquil – two lads, a keyboard and trumpet – whose music reminded us of Patrick Wolf, but less whiny. They generate a mellow, organic ambience wherein you can almost see the layers of sound filling the tent (or equivalent!).

After the laid-back, self-deprecating, bands of the afternoon, we were somewhat unprepared for Gong. Not that I’m sure anything could prepare you for the rambling, overwhelming psychedelia that the progenitors of the Canterbury Sound produce; maybe a cup of mushy tea? We sat watching the stars go by as light, sound and pixies in their teapot taxies flowed around us. Definitely the perfect way to listen to music which often seems to lose its train of thought and ends up at quite a different station to the one you bought a ticket for…
Furthur Lights

Boxing Octopus woke us up at the Furthur Tent on Saturday morning with their Pocket Full of Smiles and cheery funk. The ideal breakfast band, attested to not only by the number of people who emerged before noon to see them, but also the amount who then got up to dance. Later in the day, Syd Arthur were, as always, brilliant, packing out the Furthur field and pouring out their soul-filling psychedelia. Current torch-holders for the Canterbury Sound, they’ve moved on from Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine (well, it’s been forty years) but no without using their influence for good and emerging with mellow yet powerful tunes to sway to, dance to or completely lose yourself in. These guys are also part responsible for the Furthur Tent and creating the atmosphere which makes the Furthur field so unique.
Light and sound at the Furthur Tent

The Aliens who, it was painstakingly explained to me, are comprised of the members of the Beta Band (to which I replied ‘Who?’) put on a good show in the Cowshed (‘The Aliens are in the Cowshed!) and I would not hesitate to see their brand of psychedelia again. (Honestly, I do listen to more than prog and psychedelia. Um…Roots Manuva! He was good for some mad, crazy dancing. Erm…Wolf People? No, that’s psychedelia again. Dammit.) Ah, the Burlesque. I could only stay for a brief moment at the Bandstand as I hurried towards the Golden Silvers but, gosh, there isn’t enough burlesque in the world. The audience stood transfixed as the Oh La La girls oh-so-tantalisingly-slowly sat astride their chairs with their legs in the air. Good clean family fun, oh yes.

The Psychotic Reaction

An acoustic set from Syd Arthur was the laid-back alarm for Sunday, good for lying on the grass while wondering how to claw one’s sanity back after all that psychedelia…or just have a cup of a tea and a biscuit during. Your call. Mr. Scruff rocked the Hoedown for six hours in the afternoon, starting off with some chilled out vibes and heading towards grimier beats in the evening, perfect for dipping in and out of, like a hobnob in earl grey. However, the absolute total and complete stand-out acts of Sunday, if not the weekend, were Mr. Wolf, and Alessi’s Ark. Mr. Wolf is a sixteen year old beatoxing genius from Canterbury who filled the bar tent for his performance, and looked slightly shaken at all the attention. Only an ‘interlude’ on the programme this year, fingers crossed he’ll have a full set of his own next time. (Oh, and maybe some success and acknowledgement outside of Lounge too.)
Mr. Wolf

Alessi’s Ark is one girl, her guitar, an incredible voice, and the Ark. Her melody-led lyrical stylings are whimsical and sweet, but never sugary, and she was hardly phased when someone with trousers on their head and shoes on their hands wandered in, telling them the next song Dancing Feet was perfect for them. I spent my last pennies on her album, which came in a cd sized knitted bag!, and only just had enough left for dinner.


Talking of food, we ate well that weekend. All the food at Lounge on the Farm is locally sourced by local people. The Village Green, once again, did not disappoint. Everyday we stopped at Al’s Hogroast for a white bap filled with freshly roasted pork, crackling, a smearing of apple sauce and a dollop of stuffing…Sorry, went somewhere else for a minute there. Ahem.
The Village Green
Merton Farm itself had a barbecue stall of very local meat – ‘Less than a mile from gate to plate!’ – and I decided to try rabbit pie, which was delicious. Vegetarians were equally well catered for with the Good Food Café on hand providing soups, sandwiches and beetroot brownies. I had a very filling couscous salad with chickpeas and pitta from some lovely ladies who admitted to never having done anything like it before, but very well they did do it. Desert-lovers were not forgotten; Ana’s Sweets provided Portuguese style pastries, and out-of-this world cheesecake. Caffeine addicts could get their fix at Volks Coffee or the Eco Coffee stall, and Strumpets with Crumpets sorted us out with tea and breakfast. The Tea Temple gave good brew, but unfortunately no home-made flapjacks this year (I spent my last pennies on one of them last year). Luckily, the Mole Hole Café had biscuits for ten pece, as well as messy strawberry cheesecake, chocolate brownies and infinite amounts of tea. And, as always, the Groovy Movie Picture Tent was completely reliable for chocolate fudge cake, yet more tea, and wonderfully strange films.
More of the Village Green

This year’s top GMPT picks have to be Nina Paley’s Sita sings the Blues, which switches between a heartbroken New Yorker, gossiping Hindu gods, and Sita, singing the blues. The film is available for free at and is well worth the perusal. After Gong, the GMPT held an exclusive airing the BBC South East documentary about the Canterbury Sound; featuring interviews with Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers and Steve Hillage as well as Joel and Liam Magill or Syd Arthur. Highly informative and worth a watch, especially if you have no idea about the Sound to which I keep referring!

Ghostly Moo Cow

This year’s Lounge was definitely the best so far, and between running around between bands and food and burlesque and fire shows and portaloos, we also managed a lot of lounging, although I never did find the petting zoo. Still, Lounge on the Farm is only getting better and if I could get a lifetime ticket, I would. In the meantime, The Farmhouse, a Canterbury music venue run by the same people, will just have to tide us over until next year.

Other people who thought it was as brilliant as I did:
Virtual Festival Review
Muso’s Guide

Places where furthur pictures can be found
Haphazard Collective’s Flickr

Carrots for Pudding!

July 6, 2009


In the East End of London, round the corner from Liverpool Street and across the road from the Sunday Up-Market stands the Rootmaster , a bright red, double-decker, stationary London bus. Bustaurant, in fact. The lower deck is entirely given over to what must surely be the smallest working kitchen not on a yacht and the upper deck is fully furnished with wobbly stools and comfy cushions for your fine dining experience. All the food is vegan, and all the food is delicious.

We sat upstairs, overlooking the tables artfully arranged in Elys Yard – an unispiring carpark – but the food more than made up for the view. 100% vegan and organic where possible, the meals are imaginative and tasty. Rrrreally.

We eschewed starters due to monetary constraints and went straight for mains. (Check out the full menu online). I decided on a broccoli tart, served with leek and potato mash wrapped in cabbage, drizzled with garlic tziki. My boyfriend (at the time) had tofu teriyaki stirfry. Our first words after our first bites were ‘oh my god, you have to try this!’ Despite the apparent simplicity of the dish, everything was done to perfection. The leek and potato mash melted on the tongue and the shortcrust pastry held together just right. It was a little bit hard to eat broccoli from a tart base, so I had to disassemble my dinner somewhat, but that made it easier to scoop up a little bit of everything on my fork, dip it in the tziki…enjoy. I tried a little of the teriyaki stir-fry as well, and it was equally tasty and apparently filling.

chocolate pudding,vegan,food,café

Of course we had desert. I am incapable of denying myself sugar and have been slightly worried at the idea of dairy-free cake. I’ve tried cakes made with oil in the past and found them less than palatable. However, the triple chocolate fondant blew even the most dairy-licious of chocolate fudge cakes out of my memory. Never have I encountered a richer, more chocolatey sauce (except at the Ben and Jerry’s café…hardly a fair comparison!). The pudding itself was moist, rich, fluffy…did I mention the chocolateyness? It was chocolatey. It almost brings tears to my eyes to remember how I could only manage half of it. And I have a very high tolerance for sugar. My boyfriend tried the carrot pudding which tasted…like carrots. Sweet carrots. Not really my thing – where’s the chocolate?– but he assured me it was ‘weird…but really good!’

Although the entry in the Vegetarian Guide to London
recommends to book, the bustaurant wasn’t particularly busy for our visit. We were there around 7 in the evening on a weeknight and were joined by a birthday party (they write your name on the front of the bus!) and a couple of couples. The staff were all friendly, if a little rushed to be chatty, though one gent with a dashing moustache (possibly the owner…) did stop to chat to us about the merits of veganism – and cake! Later he told us that the bus is in full working order and even rumbled down to Glastonbury in 2008!

When it comes to economics, our meal for two, including Weston’s Organic Cider and organic cloudy lemonade, came to just under £40. Service charge is not included but ‘tipping is sexy’. For a couple of students looking for a nice veggie/vegan place it’s perhaps a little too pricey to make a regular haunt, but the moment a special occasion rolls around then me and that chocolate fondant got some business to take care of.

More people who think the bus thing rocks:
View London
Time Out