Jade Wright and her mum sample the menu at city centre favourite Mello Mello
OVER the years I’ve been to more than my fair share of gigs at Mello Mello. I like its laidback feel and quirky mismatched furniture.
At night it’s a great music venue, but by day it’s a also a vegetarian restaurant, tucked away on a little road off busy Bold Street, where it sells a large variety of delicious home-made dishes at impressively low prices.
It’s a long thin space, divided into two areas by a picture-framed arch. At the far end there’s a small stage and the body of the restaurant is filled with a selection of wooden tables, and mismatched chairs, all decorated like the flat of an arts undergraduate – wooden floors, eclectic decorations, lots of interesting pictures and plenty of board games lying around.
When my mum and I called in for lunch on Sunday afternoon we felt instantly at home. Not too full and not too empty, it had a pleasant buzz about it.
It’s all self-service and we could choose our own table. The clientele was mix of trendy students, with a fair few professorial types too.
There was a good range of breakfast and lunch items on offer. All were vegetarian, and most were vegan too. Everything is cooked on the premises and there’s a great range of gluten free meals.
I’ve had the veggie breakfast there a few times and always loved it, but given that it had just turned 12 we decided to go for lunchtime options – which meant that we could legitimately order starters, puddings and wine too, we reasoned. After a fair bit of deliberation, we decided on the mezze platter as a shared starter (£7.50). My mum opted for the Sunday roast (£6.95), while I settled on the butternut squash gnocchi in a sage butter (£6.50).
When I got to the till to order it turned out that the roast came with a free drink – beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee or tea. I asked for an Earl Grey, thinking we’d just get a mugful, so was pleasantly surprised by the large pot that arrived with two cups and jugs of soya milk (for my vegan mum) and organic semi-skimmed (for me).
We ordered a glass of Merlot (£3) and a bottle of Wyld Wood organic cider (£3.75) and waited for our food.
Vegetarian restaurants tend to divide into two main types – the ones which replace meat with similar alternatives (veggie burgers, soya bacon, tofu sausages etc) and those who try to avoid it altogether (serving things like curries, rotis and dhals that are best without meat in them anyway).
Mello Mello falls somewhere in the middle, with breakfasts offering plenty of meat alternatives. The Sunday roast too offers all the best bits of a traditional dinner, but with nut roast .
While the decor is eclectic and the atmosphere relaxed, I was pleased to spot a five star hygiene rating in the window, demonstrating that the kitchen has the highest possible levels of cleanliness. I’m all for peace and love but I want to know that it’s all spick and span behind the kitchen doors.
There’s clearly a lot of care taken over the food. Our food arrived beautifully presented. The mezze platter was brimming with tasty treats, and thoughtfully they’d put the non-vegan bits (the Tzatziki and feta) into little ramekins so they didn’t contaminate the rest. It was a meal in itself, with stuffed vine leaves, hummus, four warm pitta breads, salad and black and green olives, and the portion defeated us. Our friendly waitress kindly wrapped the remainder up for us to take home.
The mains were excellent too. My mum loved the nut roast, which avoided the pitfall of being overly dry and dense. Instead it was light and fluffy – the forkful I stole was the best nut roast I’ve ever had. And as a lifelong vegetarian, I’ve tried quite a few. The roast vegetables and gravy were really good too – perfectly cooked and seasoned.
My gnocchi was a real treat – not too soft, not too chewy and almost creamy in texture. The sage butter was the perfect accompaniment, and even though I knew it would be no good for my diet, I couldn’t resist polishing off the lot.
As full as we were, we couldn’t miss pudding.
As anyone who has ever tried to make a vegan cake will tell you, it’s not easy. Without eggs or butter it’s a specialist task, but one that the baker at Mello Mello clearly excels at.
The vanilla cupcakes (£1.70) were light, fluffy and indulgently sweet. How they got them to rise so beautifully without eggs I’ll never know.
The chewy fruit and nut slice was a similar success. Filled with almonds and walnuts, it was the perfect end to a fantastic meal.
The only downside? The dash around to find a cashpoint because I’d forgotten they don’t take cards. But really I should have remembered that and gone prepared.
That aside, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in ages, and it won’t be long before we’re back again. Service with a smile, great food and excellent value – it’s really hard to beat.