Lets get one thing straight, I’m not a vegan. Cheese will forever be the one thing that yanks on those extremely slack dairy-free reigns and says ‘Woah there!’ and leaves me trotting along at my vegetarian pace, but with menus like this on offer right here in Aberdeen, even the most carnivorous of you out there will be tempted to give veganism a go, even if only for one night.
Enter Roots Catering, the plant based brainchild of South African born chef Nick Coetzer. Up until now Nick’s plant-based journey has been one centred around fine-dining, hosting five course menu pop-ups at venues such as Foodstory, which by all reports have been massive hits. Coming from a non-vegan background, Nick’s menus have been hugely experimental, and visually stunning, not to mention sold out – which is why I’ve struggled to attend a Roots event as yet.
Now I love fine dining as much as the next foodie, but the single mention of meat-free junk food had me quick-drawing my phone and booking a table faster than you can say vegan cheese, and it’s a bloody good job I did, as only two days after the night was announced, all bar my one remaining lucky table was booked out! It really is no wonder why either, with offerings such as loaded cheese fries, Southern fried chick’aint and pulled bbq mushroom tacos, the increasingly large vegan/veggie population of Aberdeen were sure to be fighting each other to the (cruelty free) death for a spot at this sure-fire hit of an evening.
As a regular haunt of ours, I was delighted that Ninety-nine bar & kitchen were going to be playing host for the night. The laid back setting and atmosphere lends itself perfectly to the street food vibe that the menu offered. We all know that Ninety-nine are the home of bespoke cocktails in the city centre, so as would be expected, in collaboration with Roots they put together a mouth-watering vegan cocktail menu to accompany the food. Disappointingly for myself and the other half, it was a school night, so in a rare moment of sensibility, we stuck to a refreshing pint to wash down the oncoming feast, however with options such as a White Chocolate Ramos Gin Fizz and a Five Dollar Shake, i was left seriously wishing that it was a Saturday night!
Let’s get to the food…
Let’s face it, when it comes to vegan and veggie food, choices are often limited and the same old, ill thought out, soup/salad/rabbit food options are just plain depressing after a while, so with so many insanely tasty sounding, definitely not diet friendly options on offer, this was never going to be an easy choice. So we decided not to make one…we made five instead. Diet starts Monday, right?! I just want to make it clear that everything we tried was a roaring success, but in light of not wanting my readers to fall asleep as I pour over each and every delicious element of every dish, here are my selection of absolute faves:
The tacos…oh sweet baby Jesus the tacos. Lashings of bbq sauce were rich with layers of taste-bud-tingling flavours and just the right amount of heat. The mushrooms perfectly replaced the soft meaty texture that you would normally get from a slow-cooked protein and the peanuts added a nice crunchy element to bring it all together. The micro corriander topping delivered a burst of fresh flavour bringing everything together. Seriously, give me these joy-filled soft shells any day of the week and I’ll be one very happy lady!
I’ve been meat-free for almost four years now, but I’ll be the first one to admit that I still get cravings for junk foods of days gone by. For most veggie’s it’s bacon. For me, just walking past a KFC is enough to reduce me to a drooling mess. These chick’aint goujons could have any meat-eater walk in of the street and leave convinced that they had been served a meal from the Colonel himself. Perfectly spiced, crunchy and moist in the middle, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Where do I even get started with that aptly named crack sauce too?! Nick kindly found time to come say hi during the hustle and bustle of a busy service and confirmed our suspicions that the sauce was based on Big Mac sauce, admitting that he used to have a bit of an obsession with the stuff smothered over a burger. Well move over burgers, I’d gladly have this slathered over about 90% of the foods that I eat. In fact I did just that for the next few days, as Nick was kind enough to give us an extra portion away with us after proclaiming our undying love for this tangy little beauty.
I consider myself a bit of a mac & cheese connoisseur, the cheesier the better in my opinion, which is why I’ve often felt let down by vegan imitations in the past, they just haven’t quite hit mark, but I had high hopes for the Roots take on this classic. I was not disappointed. This weighty portion came with a creamy sauce that had the familiar sweetness of what I presume was butternut squash that I’ve experienced in other vegan versions, however this time it seemed to be cut with the sharpness of what I could absolutely swear were chunks of cheddar throughout. Combined with generous toppings of spring onions and that incredible shitake bacon (which I can only assume was conjured up using actual wizardry), this was one satisfying wee box of flavoursome ‘cheesy’ goodness.
Also ordered were the Southern fried Chick’aint burger and the loaded fries which were both equally calorific and satisfying in the most wonderful way, but like I said, we haven’t got all day!
The stroke of genius for me was that everything was served in environmentally friendly take-out style cardboard boxes, leaving us to pack up the remainder of our ridiculous over-order and take it home for the next day. Not only that but our awesome server (who along with the rest of the staff had been left the remaining brownies from the dessert option which we physically had no room left to try) packed up a couple of brownies for us to take home and try later. Hurrah for being saved from the absolute tragedy of a missed dessert! And yes, I can confirm that they were just as deceptively wonderful as any dairy filled brownie I’ve ever tasted.
Now, who’s going to be first to sign my petition to make this incredible night a monthly event and bring tears of joy to vegans, veggies and everyone else in between?
Until this dream hopefully becomes a reality you can catch Roots at their next pop up, a brunch event being hosted at Parx Cafe on Sunday the 10th March from 9-3. This event is walk in only, and sure to be as much of a hit as this one was, so get there early.
See you in the queue!