If you’ve spent a lifetime buttering your toast, pouring milk in your coffee and snacking on cheese slices, it can be hard to imagine how a meal containing no meat, no dairy and no animal products of any kind could be either tasty or satisfying.
Although we are all well aware of the health benefits of a plant-based diet, not many of us would know where to begin preparing a meal containing only vegan ingredients. Indeed, those who haven’t tried it often assume that vegan food is essentially tofu and lentils, prepared umpteen different ways. A trip to Bread and Chocolate, the recently opened vegan cafe in the centre of George Town, might just change any preconceptions you may have about vegan food, however.
I showed up in the morning with an empty belly and a craving for crispy bacon, eggs and a milky coffee. I was therefore a little apprehensive about how well my hunger might be satisfied.
I need not have worried.
Bread and Chocolate is not a health food cafe, it’s a vegan cafe, points out Agata Kalicki, who co-owns the place with her husband Reno Ciantar.
And there is a significant difference. Take the first item on the menu: French toast stuffed with chocolate-hazelnut butter – in other words, homemade Nutella – and banana, and dipped in coconut and tahini batter. It’s not exactly depriving you of the pleasure of great tasting food, is it?
“I love food, and I don’t want to not enjoy it,” explains Kalicki, who has been vegan for several years now. “We try to serve food that we get excited about, so our customers will be as well.”
I order a cappuccino with almond milk – which has a surprisingly pleasant nutty flavour – while I peruse the menu.
It’s a pleasant surprise to find that I would actually like to try pretty much everything on the menu. There’s a good choice of pancakes, waffles and cereal items for breakfast along with a fresh and tasty sounding selection of salads, tacos and sandwiches, topped with things like walnut-callaloo pesto, cashew cheese and tempeh bacon.
Stomach growling, I opted for the Breakfast Tacos. Within minutes a plate arrived, bearing two corn tortillas loaded with fried potatoes, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, tempeh bacon, black beans, guacamole and cilantro ‘sour cream’ (made from soy beans) – a hearty and filling breakfast that kept me going through the day and packed a flavourful punch. It was only much later I realised I’d polished off the lot without so much as a thought for eggs or cheese.
Savoury dishes are served with a jar of zingy homemade hot sauce and a warning to go easy on it: it can be so hot – as I discovered – that it makes your whole head fizz.
Asked what her best seller was, Kalicki struggled to pick a winner. Everything from the beet tartare to the spicy jerked tofu with greens, beans and plantains have proved popular in the first couple of months – and certainly not only with vegans, or even health nuts.
Indeed, for those with a sweet tooth, there’s also a selection of cookies, cupcakes, home made ice cream and brownies to choose from. You’d never know they were made without butter, eggs, or other naughty ingredients and, a hidden bonus for some, the brownies are also gluten free. “We started making them as a one off, but now we just can’t stop because people love them,” says Kalicki.
If you didn’t believe that vegan food could taste just as good as food made with all sorts of animal products, well, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.