Five Cities and Vegan friendly Places to Visit
What makes a city cool? A certain threshold of restaurants and bars with exposed brick walls? Hipsters per capita? I’d like to think the answer is a bit more profound. Here’s a theory: the coolness of a city is largely determined by the vibrancy of its creative, and in my humble opinion the amount of vegan friendly places to be found considering that is the new cool factor. Artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and youth make a place culturally dynamic, and the more innovative, free thinking, boundary pushing individuals hanging around, the better. It seems to me that with plant based living being on trend it has created hubs of coolness in many cities, which bring me to question what type of traveler are you? One that is easy going and likes to stumble across places or are you a meticulous planner? I have to say that I am a balance of both. Although I love to stumble across amazing areas and discover hidden gems. I am also an avid planner and love to do some research and digging before venturing out on a trip.
I would like to share five cities that are close to my heart and although very different they share a passion for food and have recently become very plant friendly. Let’s start with what was my hometown for nearly twelve years - Marbella.
Marbella as you know is a coastal town in Southern Spain and although it is very well known as a summer destination where many hen-do´s and stag nights take place. It is also a place where you can exercise and walk along the beach for miles. A growing yoga community offers a good stretch and with that an increasing number of plant friendly places which are making way for a new type of healthy traveler. My favourite breakfast and lunch place will forever be Dezentral. A cool space that serves the best coffee along with very vegan friendly breakfast and lunch alternatives. Portion sizes are generous and you get value for money. A newbie in town is Hustle and Flow - think yummy smoothie bowls, amazing waffles and strong coffee. If you are going for something that is vegan and raw I would suggest Gioa that is run by a couple who are very passionate about ingredients and food. Beautifully presented, very tasty and a must visit. One of my favourite breakfasts of all time in Spain is ‘pan con tomate’, rread with tomatoes and I have cheekishly made my own version of it with the addition of avocado.
Pan Con Tomate with Avocado
2 slices of gluten free or good quality bread
1/2 avocado, sliced
For the tomato topping
(makes enough for 2–4 slices) 1 big ripe tomato or 2 small ones
1 teaspoon salt
A pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 garlic clove, peeled
3 tablespoons good olive oil
To serve (optional)
Place all the tomato ingredients into a blender and blitz until everything is well combined, then set aside.
Pop the bread into a toaster and crisp up.
Place the toast on a plate and add a layer of tomato topping, sliced avocado and any of the serving options. I love topping my toast with rocket or watercress and basil and a sprinkling of seeds, hemp hearts or sprouts for added flavour and nutrition.
Make sure you get good-quality tomatoes for this dish, you will taste the difference! The tomato topping can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Next on the list is Bali, my spirit home and somewhere I have been running health retreats for the last three years. Bali is somewhat of a plant heaven. With access to incredible produce and an influx of tourism in the last ten years, Bali has become somewhat of a food destination. It also has a cluster of very well-known chefs that have escaped the hustle and bustle for a quieter life outside of the limelight. One of those chefs is Will Goldfarb, now known as one of the best pastry chefs in the world, after being featured on Netflix and with a newly published book. I stumbled across Room for Dessert last year. It’s a place that only serves desserts and cocktails - a killer combination with plant friendly options. After our first visit we were hooked and kept coming back. Another great place to visit is Locavore. Run by passionate chefs who give back to the community by making everything from scratch, farming and sourcing local produce. Give yourself at least three hours for the tasting menu and book well in advance. Inspired by my travels here I created my own version of a very traditional Balinese dish… Black rice pudding.
Black Rice Pudding with Caramelized Bananas
95 g (31/2 oz / 1/2 cup) black rice
250 ml (81/2 oz / 1 cup) water
250 ml (81/2 oz / 1 cup) coconut milk
1 vanilla pod (bean)
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
dollop of coconut yoghurt, shop-bought or home-made
toasted coconut flakes
black sesame seeds
edible flowers (optional)
Start by boiling the rice in a medium pan with the water until all the liquid has completely evaporated. This should not take more than 20–30 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, vanilla pod and coconut sugar to the rice and let everything simmer for another 20 minutes until you have a beautiful, creamy rice pudding-like consistency.
While the pudding is simmering, slice the bananas horizontally and fry in a medium pan with the coconut oil. You want the bananas to turn slightly brown. Once cooked, cover them with the maple syrup and black sesame seeds.
Once the rice pudding is done, ladle into bowls, top with the caramelized banana, a dollop of coconut yoghurt, sprinkles of toasted coconut flakes and edible flowers, if using.
Tip: This pudding is great made in advance and lasts for at least 3 days or more in the fridge.
My birth place and also one of the biggest food cities in the world. Housing the number one restaurant for a few years running along with a massive passion for sustainability, produce and seasonally. All these very close to my heart. Copenhagen has become one of the go to cities in terms of experiencing food. Maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing but when they put their mind to it they like doing things exceptionally well. One of those people that like to do things exceptionally well is Mette Dahlgard, Headache at Gemyse. The restaurant reflects the changing of the seasons, which is especially apparent in the urban gardens that surround Gemyse. Organic produce is the focus of the restaurant. Presenting dishes that inspire and surprise. For a more dressed down experience and the best brunch in town head to Acacia - 100 percent organic, gluten free and plant based. This is a must visit when in town. Make sure you come hungry so that you can order at least a few of the amazing brunch dishes. If you spent your youth in Scandinavia like I did you will know that waffles are a summer staple. This is my version.
Makes 4 Waffles serves 2
60 ml (2 oz / 1/4 cup) melted coconut oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
375 ml (13 oz / 11/2 cups) almond milk, shop-bought or home-made
200 g (7 oz / 11/3 cups) buckwheat flour
3 tablespoons cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 vanilla pod (bean), scraped or 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla pod pinch of salt
230 g (8 oz / 1 cup) coconut yoghurt, shop-bought or home-made
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon maple syrup plus extra for drizzling
1/2 vanilla pod (bean), scraped or 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla pod
Handful of fresh fruit micro herbs and edible flowers (optional)
Start by heating the coconut oil in a pan on medium heat with the almond milk.
Place all the remaining waffle ingredients, including the melted coconut oil and almond milk, into a bowl and mix well.
Heat up the waffle iron and dab or brush with coconut oil. I use the small waffle iron where the waffles come out looking like a four-leaf clover. Ladle some of the batter mixture into the iron and cook until super crispy.
While the waffles are cooking, pimp up the coconut yoghurt with lemon zest, maple syrup and the vanilla, stirring to combine.
Once the waffles have been cooked, serve with a dollop of the coconut yoghurt, fruits, micro herbs and edible flowers, if using, and drizzle with maple syrup.
An old favourite of mine: The city of Berlin. Effortlessly cool, great value for money and a never ending supply of hipster plant friendly places to visit. It was difficult to just choose two places but if I had to go with my absolute favourites it would be Cookies and Cream for fine dining without the fine dining prices. Housed in an old nightclub in the back alley of Behrenstrabe it serves up amazing plant based fair. It will be difficult to find at first but if you click on their website and follow the directions you will reach heaven. I can highly recommend giving their tasting menu a go. If you are after something more relaxed head to Neni located in a superimposed rooftop floor on top of the 25hours Bikini Berlin. It offers an Israeli Oriental cuisine and a fabulous view of City West and the Zoological Garden. The ambience on the 10th floor is uncomplicated with a young feel to it. You take your seat in a kind of greenhouse at wooden tables on colourful chairs and eat your way through towers of small plates. Inspired by the huge cultural mix of Berlin and one of the best Turkish breakfasts I have ever had I present to you a plant based version of Shakshuka.
Baked Shakshuka with Butter Beans
80 ml (21/2 oz / 2/3 cup) olive oil
1/2 red onion chopped
1/2 red (bell) pepper, chopped
1/2 aubergine (eggplant), chopped
1 x 400 g (4 oz) tin of tomatoes
230 g (8 oz) tinned butter beans (lima beans), drained
4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
pink Himalayan salt and black pepper, to taste
handful of chopped parsley
(optional) a few endive leaves, to garnish
In a medium pan, heat the oil and fry the onion, pepper and aubergine with a tiny pinch of salt for 10–15 minutes. It is important you use a good amount of oil here to get it going and to make sure that the veggies soften properly.
Then add the tomatoes, beans, sun dried tomatoes and all the spices and seasoning, give it a good stir and leave on a medium heat, covered, for 10 minutes.
Check on the mixture when the time is up, give it a stir and leave for another 10 minutes.
By now the shakshuka should be done, the liquid should have mostly cooked and turned sticky and there should be a smoky gorgeous mixture in your pan.
Serve immediately from the pan with a good sprinkle of chopped parsley, avocado slices, home-made bread for dipping and if you have some pumpkin seed pesto, get that in too, along with some plant yoghurt and lemon wedges to squeeze over.
This is such a comforting dish that can also be made in bigger quantities and reheated. It’s a weekend brunch kind of meal, but also super when you’re coming home from work and are in need of something substantial. I sometimes add some sliced avocado to mine, for extra creaminess, which I’m sure will come as no surprise!
Last but not least is my new found love. The city I am currently having a rendezvous with. A city I can’t stop thinking about and food I can’t stop dreaming about. Tokyo, the pulsating heart of the East. What surprised me the most about Tokyo was the eclectic mixture of old and new. Even though they are light years ahead in terms of technology there are things that stay the same and that shift very slowly. Planning an event in Tokyo can take up to two years. The city is filled with shrines and things are done in a certain manner. This it seems will not change for a while. Like everywhere else, plant based is just becoming trendy and from not being able to find gluten free or plant based options just a few years ago, there are now more and more choices popping up. On my first night of arrival I was taken to Kitaohji restaurant where they serve the traditional Kaiseki - meaning seasonal Japanese fair and most often at least seven dishes. This is the only place they serve a fully plant based version and 100 percent authentically Japanese. It was very good and almost too pretty to eat. Another great find was Adaptation, a cafe where you can create your own salad and where they had plenty of gluten free desert options. I noticed after a few days of eating Japanese food that I craved some fresh vegetables like a big salad and this place certainly hits the spot, also very good value for money. Inspired by the many thing I tried here is a great aubergine recipe that can be eaten as a side or a full dish.
Miso & Tamari Marinated Aubergines
2 aubergines -sliced
Olive oil - for cooking
1/4 cup tamari soy
1 tsp. of maple syrup
1/2 grated garlic clove
1 tsp. of miso paste (light colour)
1 tbs. of olive oil
Sesame seeds black/white does not make a difference
Slice your aubergines length ways; dap with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt (tiny bit). If you have a griddle pan use that to griddle your aubergine slices, if not use a normal pan, or slice and cook in the oven until nice and soft.
In a small bowl add all your marinade ingredients and mix well.
Arrange your cooked or griddled aubergines on a plate and drizzle your marinade on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. This dish can be pre-made or served straight away as a warm side dish. This is one of those that just gets better and better the more you let it marinate.