Becoming a vegetarian is often seen as a move towards a healthier diet, or equated with abstinence. The decision may be linked to moral, religious or environmental reasons. All these reasons are valid, but it is important not to confuse issues with food itself. A vegetarian diet can, like any other, range from the inedible to the sublime. Too often, a vegetarian substitute you buy is labelled ‘healthy’ or ‘cruelty-free’ with no emphasis on its gastronomic value. The confusion of food with issues is an unfortunate one. It haunts vegetarian and vegan food in a way in which no other cuisine is affected. Being a vegetarian or vegan, should not automatically mean a denial of pleasurable foods, and it should not receive the backlash and damage in reputation that it so often receives. I feel that it is important to bring awareness to the validity of one’s prejudices, whether subconscious or not, before the narration of this particular review.
It is a depressingly grey, windy and rainy Sunday in Newcastle. Plodding around the city centre, every squelching step caused by the tsunami in my flooded shoes, urges me to seek immediate shelter. During such bleak and grey days, the Sweet Memories at Study Cafe is comparably welcoming with its colourful decorum of mustard yellow and tomato red walls, softly dimmed lamps and middle eastern lanterns, and a stone floor of brick-red and black squares. It is a low key cafe - unlike Quilliams - which happens to sell mostly vegetarian and vegan food. Consisting in two floors, I opted for the top floor, which I am told is the floor which entices its customers to settle for an afternoon to study - this explains the latter part of the cafe’s name ‘at Study Cafe’, and I agree that it is a cosy place to settle for an afternoon with your work. Since I was not planning on leaving until the Tsunami outside had considerably calmed down, I order a juice, a coffee, a main and a pudding.
The juice consisted in apple, pear and ginger - very standard. Juice is juice, it is refreshing and is served to fulfil its purpose of hydrating its consumer. But if you must know, I was still rather pleased with its presentation, as it was served in a generously sized tankard, where the top layer was ethereal and frothy, and it had a yellow bendy straw - and I like bendy straws. Juice simply isn’t done right without a bendy straw. [Price, £3.10]
For main, I ordered the vegetable curry, which was vegan. It came served with white rice and a simple side of leafy green salad. The curry served its practical purpose of filling me up and making me warm. However, I suppose that since this cafe heavily emphasises on producing healthy, local and organic food - which is great as I hugely support local food - it was not criminally indulgent enough for me on this depressingly wet and miserable day.
Pudding was the real salivating course of the afternoon. All their puddings are vegan and home-made, and I was gorgeously spoiled with a raspberry and chocolate cake. It was honestly a very special and indulgent moment. A cliché, but that is only because I am a chocoholic, and therefore, I am biased and use language which may appear an exaggeration.
Coffee - bog old standard Cappuccino with almond milk. Served to warm my chilled and brittled bones. [Price, £2.75]
This is a sweet and special cafe. I will be coming back here again, but only to have a drink and perhaps an indulgent treat. It is fairly priced in that local, organic and vegan/vegetarian food generally is more expensive than other food groups. The service was actually very good: the Philippine man who served me was gorgeously sweet and friendly - he even gave me a complimentary scone after my meal, but maybe that was because I blew my cover as a food critique.