Chain restaurants are a mixed blessing for vegetarians. You’re probably going to get something edible, but the chances are it won’t be very thrilling. Cue risotto or variations on pasta with sun-dried tomatoes …
So it’s worth celebrating when you come across a gem. And based on two visits this weekend, Loungers is somewhere to return to time and again. It looks like there are currently about a dozen branches in England. Not only do they have a good vegetarian menu, there’s also a vegan one which restores your faith in restaurants (mind you, Loungers call themselves café bars). And if you need gluten-free food, there’s a choice for you as well.
The only slightly odd thing is that the vegan and gluten-free menus aren’t out on the tables, and I suspect most people wouldn’t think to ask for them. We only found out in advance because my sharp-eyed partner in crime Anth had found the website.
Three of us visited the Westbury-on-Trym branch of Loungers for a Friday night meal, then again on the Saturday for brunch. The decor is all wooden tables and chairs, and comfy sofas. You find a table and then order at the bar.
As you might expect, Friday night was busy and we nabbed the last free table upstairs. Saturday we sat downstairs by the big open windows. The place had a nice buzz to it both times and we all commented on how cheerful and friendly the staff were.
Friday night’s choice boiled down to my guilty pleasure of a burger and fries (funny how I’d never have dreamed of eating one back in the dim and distant days of meat), or a selection of the tapas. Eleven out of 16 of the tapas choices are vegetarian, and seven are vegan. The dishes are £3.25 each or three for £8.50, and come with ciabatta bread. Three is a good amount for one person, based on my friend Linda’s choices. She went mainly for meat, but we did sneak a taste of the potatoes with smoked garlic and wasabi aioli which were very moreish.
OK, so both Anth and I went for the burger – butternut squash and nutmeg falafel, served with grilled halloumi, chipotle salsa, cos lettuce and tomato (it becomes vegan with the disappearance of the halloumi!) And very good it was too, with a decent texture and subtle flavours. The chips met with universal approval, as they were proper chips and not skinny fries which turn into twigs after ten minutes. A small side salad completed the ensemble.
We didn’t have dessert, but Linda claims the warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce is to die for. And I fully intend to try the vegan dark chocolate and ginger torte.
The next morning we turned up at about 11am for breakfast. Linda went for the full range of pig products, Anth had the vegetarian option and me the vegan. Apparently they will substitute items, which solves my usual problem of not eating egg in any shape or form. But I wanted falafel and hummus for breakfast …
The vegan brekkie came with falafel bites, warm hummus, grilled red pepper (not something I’d think about for breakfast, but very nice), button mushrooms, grilled tomato and baked beans, plus a generous slice of toast. The rather unusual combination worked really well, and it was only much later that I realised it hadn’t come with the advertised diced crispy potatoes! The vegetarian version comprised mini sweetcorn fritters, hash browns, tomato, beans, mushrooms, peppers and toast, together with two fried eggs. I didn’t hear any complaints from Anth.
Oh, and there was freshly-squeezed orange juice and very respectable coffee. And some more chatty staff kept up with the busy Saturday morning comings and goings. Loungers is definitely a good find whether you just fancy lounging around and drinking coffee, or want something a bit more substantial.
http://www.thelounges.co.uk (this is right and not a typo!)