One of my favourite Saturday morning rituals is to make the walk from the Sands End to the North End Road, and spend a few hours picking up my groceries from the fabulous local market they have there. This is no posh farmers market (although there is a fabulous cheese stall, a place with oils and olives, the odd food cart and an excellent fish stall) - we're talking good, honest and super-cheap bowls of veg, real local traders and no frills. The queues are long but I like this way of shopping because it's an experience, you feel like you're helping the community and the slow pace and social atmosphere beats a trip to Sainsbury's hands down.
But I digress.... the point is, whilst I'm off feeling a bit eco, a bit community-spirited, super-duper healthy (I am, after all, lugging cart loads of vegetables about in resusable canvas bags - indulge me), I always feel a renewed impetus to try and act a bit more healthily in general. Then last week, I made a truly serendipitous discovery. Having ventured a few blocks further down the road, avidly plotting my new Gwyneth Paltrow-like existence, I came across 222 Veggie Vegan. I've never really considered going vegan, but those who know me well will remember various short-lived health fads: an obsession with quinoa, smoothies containing algae, a period through which I drank quite absurd amounts of green tea.
222 is absolutely nothing fancy at all - and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. The space is small, the decor very plain, the food served from a small and crowded metal buffet bar (although, I understand that in the evening the candles come out and you can go a-la-carte). However, with an all-you-can-eat vegan lunch buffet at £7.50, you can't exactly expect white table cloths and atmospheric plant-life. And my goodness, this food was not the vegetable mush and abundance of tofu you might expect (and fear) of vegan cuisine, this is the sort of food you guzzle more and more of. I filled my boots three times over, and best of all, it was totally guilt free. Vegan food is super healthy, right? Not a hair on an animal's head harmed in the making of this lunchtime feast. We had carrot tart, we had aubergine and faux-mozarella bake, we had an awesome chickpea salad: all the while imagining ourselves taking on increasingly glowing hues and fizzing with vitamins - a bit like Super Mario when he eats his magic mushrooms.
A vegan menu might not be for everyone, but this little place offers cracking value, and the food may just surprise you. You often pay through the nose for health-food, but this joint offers delicious, low-key, wonderfully nutritious and guilt-free grub at incredible prices. Next time you feel like giving your insides a little TLC, I highly recommend you check it out.
222 Veggie Vegan
222 North End Road