Last Sunday 24th February 2019, we had the pleasure of visiting Hooper and Howard’s Kitchen in Cannock (Staffordshire), and trying out their very first fully vegan Sunday lunch.
As a family of three, we’ve visited here a few times in the past, so know how great the food quality is. Although Hooper and Howard’s (known here as HH) are not exclusively vegan, they do have many suitable options daily. On the vegan menu they have dishes such as banana blossom fish and chips, and seitan steak. Not your regular old three bean chilli or falafel burger, that’s for sure! The best bit is it’s reasonably priced, has a cosy atmosphere and is run by a lovely local couple.
But what did we make of the Sunday lunch?
Hooper and Howard’s Kitchen Review
On arrival, we were greeted enthusiastically by Katherine, one of the owners (who generally tends to ‘front of house’ and does a little of everything – super woman!). We have a 3-year-old daughter, and she is always fantastic at making her feel at home too, which helps with restless kids! The special menu for today’s lunch was up on the chalkboard with a set main course, 3 starters and 3 desserts to choose from. The seitan red brisket was priced at £8.95, which we agreed was very reasonable considering the price of a Sunday carvery at a chain pub. We were also informed that all options could be made into a child’s portion. After much deliberation, we settled on one mushroom pate dish, and one garlic mushroom plate to share as starters. That meant that we didn’t taste-test the soup, unfortunately. The main course was already pre-set, and we could decide on desserts afterwards. That was the food order out of the way! How about drinks?
We chose our beverages with help from Katherine, who was knowledgeable about what was vegan, and the flavour/notes of the various wines and beers. I settled on a Pinot, my husband on beer, and our daughter enjoyed an apple juice.
As we awaited our starters, we enjoyed chatting and soaking up the cosy, casual atmosphere. Inviting cakes line the window display and the decor is clean and neutral. Although the restaurant is quite small, it was nice to sit near fellow vegans. HH was also only about 75% full, so it wasn’t cramped at all.
We shared the starters with our daughter, a self-confessed mushroom lover! The garlic mushrooms were sauteed perfectly, with just the right amount of garlic, and a little garnish. The pate was much the same – you could tell it was homemade, and there was a generous amount on each piece of toast. The pate on toast also came with a small spoon of chutney, which was a nice addition to the plate and full of flavour.
The only observation I will make is that the mushroom pate was served on 3 slices of bread, whereas the garlic mushrooms on one slice of bread. It might have been nice to have two of each.
The starters definitely got a thumbs up from all three of us.
And on to the main course we go!
The red seitan brisket was the obvious star of the show. It looked very much like beef, which I know some vegans may find off-putting. However, it didn’t taste and smell like meat, so that was fine with me. HH prepare the seitan by hand, and rub it with beetroot to give it the slight pink tinge of meat, which is a really inventive idea. I’m a big fan of seitan, and really loved the salty yet sweet flavours. My husband had never tried seitan at all before and was on the fence. He did enjoy it, but found it a little sweet for his personal taste.
The dinner came with vegan gravy, roast parsnips, roast potatoes, mashed potato and Yorkshire puddings. The gravy was thick and rich, and the roasted veg perfectly cooked but not oily. I was a big fan of the mash as it was slightly firm; however my husband prefers it whipped and buttery, so we had to disagree on that one. It’s a matter of personal opinion – all 3 of us demolished it though! We did all agree that the Yorkshire puds were impressive – crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside. It was really lovely to be able to have those ‘proper’ roast dinner touches on a vegan meal, rather than just nut roast and veg.
Of course, we were also given a huge dish of mixed vegetables to share, which tasted great. There was plenty to go around.
The chef (Katherine’s partner and co-owner) came out to check on his guests and food at one point, which was a nice touch. Luckily, it was all positive feedback for him!
A profitable idea for the future may be to have some optional side dishes to order at extra cost, such as stuffing, vegan sausage wrapped in bacon and horseradish sauce.
I know you’re dying to know if we had room in our bellies for dessert… well of course!
We chose the chocolate orange cheesecake (me), apple and blackberry crumble (husband), and vegan Eton mess (daughter) – nobody opted for the rice pudding.
The cheesecake portion size was generous, and the chocolate was rich without being overbearing. You could taste a hint of orange (maybe an orange segment on top would have finished it off nicely?) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also stole a little of my husband’s crumble, which was delicious. It had a crunchy yet buttery crumble, and a nice soft fruity bottom. It came with a vegetable-based thick cream, which my husband was really impressed with.
I was only allowed a small taste of the 3-year-old’s Eton mess, but it was a good sized portion for a child, and the pink meringues were an impressive addition too. The cream was thick with chunks of strawberry inside. A big thumbs up from our daughter!
If I was really desperate to pick fault, the only thing I could say is that it would have been nice to have a cake on the dessert menu, as two of the desserts were quite creamy/ liquidy (Eton mess and rice pudding). Seeing all those lovely cakes on the display gave me a craving! With that said, I’m sure I could have asked for a slice to take away. My eyes are much bigger than my belly…
The meal came to £54 in total – for 2 beers, 2 medium wines, an apple juice, 2 starters, 3 mains, and 3 desserts. I was really pleased with this and think they could have charged more!
Overall, we were really impressed with this visit to Hooper and Howard’s Kitchen. Great homemade grub, lovely staff, and a modest bill at the end.
They will be running the vegan Sunday lunch all throughout March 2019, and there will also be a new seitan ‘chicken’ on offer, which I am tempted to try out! if you live in the Staffordshire / West Midlands area, you should definitely pay a visit. I think even hardcore meat-eaters would be impressed with this roast dinner. Let me know if you do go, but be sure to book in to avoid disappointment.
Vegans Visiting Non-Vegan Restaurants
Our experience at HH got me thinking about their transition since they’ve opened, moving over to offering more vegan dishes. The encouragement and repeat business from vegan clientele has been key in this.
So should vegans visit non-vegan restaurants?
Let me begin by saying I am a huge fan of supporting completely vegan businesses – run by vegans, for vegans. We should be doing this first and foremost. It’s great to be able to get personal recommendations from the owners and feel safe that everything is 100% vegan. I love visiting my local vegan eateries and food stores. These businesses are few and far between though. They may be a significant drive to get to every week or more pricey than non-vegan establishments. For many of us, it is impractical to solely shop and eat at completely vegan businesses. It also completely separates veganism from the rest of society – and we do want more people to go vegan and get involved!
The development of Hooper and Howards Kitchen is a perfect example of why we should also eat at non-vegan restaurants and show the demand for cruelty-free food. They opened not too long ago, as an eatery with meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes on offer. All of their food was freshly cooked to order and made with local produce. Starting with some innovative vegan options such as banana blossom fish and chips, at a reasonable price, obviously gained attention from vegans. We visited, we spread the word, we showed demand for good quality vegan food.
HH then expanded their vegan menu, offering many starters, mains and desserts, as well as knowledge on vegan drinks they had. They started experimenting with more vegan ingredients. Next, they trialled vegan cookery classes, and now the Sunday lunch. The most exciting part is, they are trialling a fully vegan and vegetarian March 2019 – how exciting! None of these steps would have happened if they didn’t see that initial demand and support from vegans. Had we turned our heads and said “I won’t eat here because they serve beef”, the sale of vegan items would have been very small, failed to turn a profit and been eradicated from the menu. Even ethical businesses need to turn a profit. As it goes, we’ve actually shown such a demand for vegan food, that they’ve seen a gap in the local market for a vegetarian restaurant, and eradicated meat completely. The best bit is, many of their existing non-vegan customers will continue to eat here, trying delicious vegan food and opening their hearts and minds.
Spreading veganism everywhere also normalises it for people – many still see veganism as extreme, niche or just don’t understand it. The more the general public see the word, try the food, the more mainstream veganism becomes. Normalising veganism rather than animal exploitation should be high on our to-do lists.
Veganism is growing and has no indication of tailing off any time soon – let’s encourage it by supporting vegan businesses, influencing non-vegan businesses and integrating it into society for good. The animals and environment will thank us!
Have you eaten at Hooper and Howard’s Kitchen – what did you think? Do you believe we should support non-vegan businesses? Let me know!