By Ellie Philpotts
Happy National Vegetarian Week! Since Meat-Free Mondays are becoming likelier to span beyond just Mondays, it makes sense to dedicate a set week to the movement, which sees over 3 million vegetarians in the UK alone. Fortunately, Cardiff got the memo, meaning an abundance of veggie dishes dispersed from every angle. Sometimes, these are from specific eateries, like Milgi and Anna-Loka, while on other occasions they’re select sections of more general menus. This time around, the latter applies, when Cathays’ very own The Flora invited Quench Food across the road to sample their new range created especially in honour of National Vegetarian Week.
If you’re anything older than a Fresher, you’ll have witnessed The Flora’s impressive revamp right before your eyes. We’re not exaggerating in saying it used to be more associated with a slightly different demographic than the one its student-central location would suggest. Its slogan isn’t #HeartOfCathays for nothing! However, it now tells a totally different story, having being transformed into a genuinely stylish bar, with a garden adorned with twinkly lights; live music; cocktails so good you don’t need to traipse into town; and, as per the focus of this piece, very decent grub.
Normally, this includes the relatively usual list – burgers, fish and chips, Sunday roasts, curry – but this week their focus is on some welcome new additions – Patatas Bravas; Watermelon Gazpacho; Beetroot Borani and Lentil Dhal.
And it seems they’ve made the right choice – these were so good there’s no chance of them being reserved for full-time vegetarians only. The Patatas Bravas was my favourite, with its commendable effort of transporting me to Spain, despite Cardiff’s rain being up to its old tricks. Tapas-style dishes have seen a surge in popularity around the city recently, but The Flora’s take on them is up there with the rest.
The Watermelon Gazpacho was a less obvious veggie option, but nevertheless proof that it pays to try something new. (Not literally, because the menu is cost-effective too, with any two of these dishes amounting to a humble fiver.) Again, it reminded us of sunnier scenes, which is something you have to think about when you live in Wales, or else your life would be much more glum.
Although perhaps not everyone’s taste, I loved the Beetroot Borani. Again taking tapas influences, it was formed of roasted beetroot puree with a hefty dollop of feta and a sprinkle of dill. The cheese definitely achieved its aim of complimenting the more earthy flavours (and it is National Vegetarian Week, not Vegan Week…)
Last but least, the Dhal curry was my friend’s fave, and certainly felt healthier than some greasier curries do. I know aesthetics aren’t the purpose of a meal, but it being one of the prettiest I’ve seen deserves a mention. Shout-out to whoever was responsible for its leafy arrangements. Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but still…
The chef, Gareth, came over to chat to us, which gave plenty of insight into how The Flora comes up with new ideas to try out, and how they make these dishes the best they can possibly be. The team have a lot to options to work through, but manage to consistently produce them to a high standard.
All in all, The Flora’s vegetarian range is so lovely it should definitely last longer than this week. It’s also just one example of the place moving forwards, listening to its target audience, and securing its reputation as an all-round great place to eat, drink and be merry. (That phrase isn’t just meant for Christmas, is it?!) It may be foremost a bar, but thanks to its ever-evolving menu, that doesn’t mean it should be strictly for evenings – yes, even if it is in Cathays.
All images taken by me. (Yes I am that person who takes photos of their meals. I would blame it on having to do it for this article, but really that’s just a convenient bonus. No shame.)