My Vegan Diary ~ Temple of Hackney, Dough Society and by Chloe

Vegan food is the best. I know that it has this reputation for being awful, but I think even if you’re not immersed in the world of all things vegan as I am, you can’t have missed the quiet revolution in mainstream vegan food that has been happening in the last year or so.

I often think that if you’ve been vegan for decades, and you’re used to being scoffed at when you go to a restaurant and ask if there’s a vegan option, you must be bemused by the way things have changed. Seriously, it’s astounding. There’s barely a week goes by without an announcement about a new product on supermarket shelves, or a restaurant launching a new vegan menu. It’s a good time to be a vegan.

With that in mind, while I don’t plan to make this a vegan blog, I am going to share some of the amazing food that I get to eat, because food is great, and when nothing has had to suffer or die for me to eat it, it’s even better.

Earlier in the year, my friend Hannah had a birthday, so we decided to head into London and eat lots of yummy vegan food. London is, of course, the place to be when it comes to vegan eats; Colchester, which is my nearest town, is actually quite good, but the choice available in big cities is always going to be better. Our plans involved vegan fried chicken, vegan fish and chips, and vegan doughnuts.

First of all, we headed to Temple of Hackney to pick up some popcorn chicken (please know that I’m not going to constantly refer to the vegan versions of food with their ‘code name’, nor am I going to qualify everything by putting the word ‘vegan’ before it. If I’m talking chicken, you know that I mean ‘chicken’.) Temple of Hackney makes fried chicken out of seitan, and it tastes AMAZING. Going vegan when I have means that I did it knowing that there was a KFC alternative out there – I know how lucky I am!

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Temple of Hackney is a tiny little establishment, and both times I’ve been there it’s been super busy, but it’s worth the wait. I’ve had their fillet pieces and their popcorn bites now, and next time I go I am definitely planning on trying a burger. They also have a branch in Camden, and have recently announced a third location, also in Hackney, at Hackney Downs Market. The popcorn bites are £4, and two fillet pieces are £5.

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Also in Hackney, we found Dough Society, selling all vegan doughnuts. I found it using the Vanilla Bean app, which I highly recommend if you’re vegan. You can see all the places near your location that have vegan options, whether they are fully vegan, vegetarian or omnivores places. Dough Society is a couple of minutes walk from Temple of Hackney, and it has a wonderful selection of 100% vegan brioche doughnuts. We grabbed a Peanut Butter Pretzel and the Homer (a perfect pink, strawberry flavour doughnut straight out of The Simpsons), and they were delicious. Dough Society doughnuts are £3.00 and £3.50

Vegan-Doughnut

Finally, we went along to by Chloe, which, as far as I know, is London’s first vegan fast food restaurant. It’s in Covent Garden, though they too have recently announced a new location, and have opened in Tower Bridge this week.

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The menu at by Chloe is amazing, with burgers, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, salads, and brunch all available. We decided to have fish and chips, the fish being made from tofu, and then battered, and the chips being air baked, and delicious. The restaurant itself is great; it’s a really nice atmosphere, because it’s fast food but great quality, and the decor is fabulous. We were there around 2.30pm on a Wednesday, and it was busy, but not so packed that we couldn’t easily get a table. Fish N’ Chips at by Chloe is £7.80, and we added a cheeky cookie for £2.40.

There are no shortage of delicious vegan eateries in the capital, and Temple of Seitan and by Chloe are two of the biggest and best known. They are definitely worth a visit, whether you are vegan or not, but there’s plenty of other places out there, and I’m hoping to try lots of them!

36 Before 36 ~ Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library

Try as you might, there’s no getting away from Harry Potter. Twenty years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the series’ popularity shows no signs of abating, and though J.K. Rowling herself rarely goes a week without putting her foot in her mouth, (or furthering the careers of domestic abusers) the books and films continue to enthrall.

I love Harry Potter as much as the next person, though as I get older and wiser I am certainly more aware of its problems than I was fifteen years ago. But I love the stories, so news of Harry Potter: A History of Magic – an exhibition taking place at the British Library, was very welcome indeed.

Harry Potter British Library
So I took myself off to London on a very, very wet Saturday morning, and, after spending a couple of hours wandering around Bloomsbury, photographing blue plaques, made my way to the British Library. In all honesty, other than knowing that the exhibition would include many of the original notes and doodles made by Rowling during the writing of the series, I didn’t know much else about what I’d be seeing. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn, once I’d entered, that there was a whole other element to it – something that should have been apparent from the name of the exhibition: A History of Magic. Alongside the very exciting notes and doodles, there were rare books, magical objects and artefacts peppered throughout covering each of the main subjects that Harry and his classmates study at Hogwarts.

It added a really fascinating dimension, as much of the inspiration for the subjects come from these traditions of folklore and magic. It’s also very humbling to stand next to a book that is hundreds of years old and realise that you are but a blip in the universe!

Harry Potter History of Magic

Of course, I did particularly enjoy seeing Rowling’s handwritten notes planning the stories, and Jim Kay’s drawings and illustrations are truly wonderful – my favourite was his drawing of Hagrid.

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition, of course, so I wasn’t allowed to take any photos to share with you, There is, however, a companion book available, which I haven’t bought yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Sadly the exhibition finished at the end of February, and even before that, I think it was mostly sold out. But the book is probably a good alternative for anyone who didn’t get to see it, and I believe that some of the exhibits are going on tour around the world.

This was another 36 Before 36 item, so I’m already ahead of myself compared to last year!

1.Visit Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library. 

 

Mark Kermode: Live in 3D

Last night I found myself back at the BFI Southbank; for someone who hadn’t been there once prior to last November, I seem to find myself there quite a lot these days (so much so that I’ve decided to become a member as soon as I get paid). This time I had a ticket to Mark Kermode: Live in 3D, a new monthly event where the always-wonderful Dr K basically stands on stage and talks about films.

Mark Kermode Live in 3D

As this was the first event of its kind, I didn’t know what to expect, though I was sure it was going to be exceptionally entertaining. I wasn’t disappointed; Mark broke the evening up into sections that included a Q&A, Listography, Guilty Pleasures, and Sound and Vision. There was plenty of audience interaction, with Mark inviting people to try and trump his guilty pleasure of Breathless, the Jim McBride remake of À bout de souffle starring Richard Gere. Much was made of someone’s suggestion of The Rock, which I think in the end was confirmed to be the only Michael Bay film that it’s acceptable to admit to liking, and therefore ruled as not being a guilty pleasure. We also got to see Richard Gere’s bum as he sang along to Suspicious Minds.

Mark Kermode tickets

I particularly enjoyed the listography part of the evening: Mark picked ten David Bowie performances that he particularly likes, which gave him the chance to pay tribute to the great man, and that was wonderful to hear. I wish I had taken notes though – I now can’t remember all the films he mentioned, though the clip of Into the Night that he showed had me adding that to my to-watch list immediately!

The same can be said of the clip he showed right at the end of the evening. Four young girls singing and dancing to Diamonds by Rihanna completely had me under its spell, and I now find myself desperate to watch Girlhood, the French coming-of-age film that Mark loved so much from last year.

The true joy of Mark Kermode: Live in 3D was getting to hear someone I admire very much simply standing in front of me and talking about films and the film industry. Whether he’s laughing at Udo Kier thrusting a cadaver out of the screen in Flesh for Frankenstein, or sighing over Zac Efron’s old-school movie star potential (sadly going to waste, if Mark’s sighs over Dirty Grandpa are anything to go by), he’s passionate and knowledgeable, and it’s a pleasure to witness. I already have my ticket booked for February!

I was also pleased as punch to pick up a keyring in the BFI shop on my way out; when I was younger my family and I made many trips to the Museum of the Moving Image, a museum that is sadly no longer open. It’s to my great lament that this is the case – I genuinely loved that place! So when I spotted this keyring in the shop, one that my mum had on her keys for years, I had to have it!

Museum of the Moving Image

The Movie Doctors

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Last week I was lucky enough to find myself at the BFI Southbank, watching Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo do their stuff in their guise as the Movie Doctors. I reviewed the book that accompanies their nationwide tour last month; having laughed my way through the book, I knew that I was going to have a similarly fun time at the live show.

I wasn’t disappointed; essentially the show is made up of two men standing on a stage talking about films and having the odd bicker, and when you’re a fan like me, there’s nothing better than this. As with the book, the show set out to cure various different ailments and illnesses, with members of the audience asking for help. From a lady worried about a mid-life crisis (Serial Mom was prescribed, with an accompanying clip); to my lovely friend Chloe who was seeking a cure for shyness – Punch-Drunk Love was recommended, with a disclaimer not to actually smash up any toilets.

The show really works, because Mark and Simon really know their stuff, and are really good at what they do. We even got to watch a short clip of Mary Poppins. This alone made it worth the £16, especially as it was from my favourite part, when the children are up on the rooftops with Mary and Bert, and London in the twilight makes me cry.

Afterwards I had some minor anxiety about meeting Simon and Mark, to get my book signed, mainly because I am so in awe of them, and also because I felt that I wanted to say a lot to them. Mostly I wanted to say thank you (to Mark especially) for tweeting my review of the book, and I wanted to do it eloquently without making an idiot of myself. I also wanted to make a hilarious Foot-Lamberts joke again, as I did in a letter to Wittertainment, and I wanted to say how much I liked the book, and again, this was all to be done in the coolest possible way.

In the end, though none of it was done in a remotely cool way, I managed to say thank you for the tweet, causing Mark and Simon to shake my hand like the gentlemen that they are. Simon commented on my necklace, I got my book signed, they posed for a photo with me, and all in all, it was a pretty amazing way to spend a Tuesday night.

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Mark talked all the way through our photo being taken, so there’s none where he’s not pulling this face or similar!

And, for those of you paying attention, I put ‘Have a photo taken with Mark Kermode’ on my 33 Before 33 list a whole year ago, and as this particular evening was two days before my 33rd birthday, I get to tick it off.

18. Have a photo taken with Mark Kermode

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