I was recently invited to visit a new venue on the Bristol food scene, The Vegetable Diva, which this month (March) has opened on the harbour side. Coming from south of the city I hopped on the cross harbour ferry just by the SS Great Britain and was deposited only a minutes walk away, which was mighty handy! (NB: Google did make it look as though it was level with the boats and other businesses, but it’s on the next level up, there are steps and a ramp for access.)
Describing itself as a vegetable emporium, it’s a cafe cum ‘package free’ takeaway/ethical grocery store – with a vegetarian, locally sourced, flexible menu that changes with the seasons. (Vegan and GF options also available). As a general rule this menu will include two hot dishes, three salads, a selection of toasties, and some baked goodies but will vary on a daily basis.
In their ‘larder’, you can purchase a variety of store cupboard essentials including rice, lentils, dried fruits, and flour but you will need to bring your own container to do so although they do have tiffins to purchase. They also sell loaves of the bread they have made for their toasties etc – when I was sat outside a lady cycled up, called out and purchased her loaf without ever leaving her saddle!
The lunch menu doesn’t start until 12pm, so when I turned up at 11.15am, my snazzy lunch box at the ready, I was unfortunately a little limited in my options. I shouldn’t have worried though, as I made the right choice in any case! I went for the sourdough rye toastie with slow roasted tomatoes and creamy cheddar and bechamel sauce, but I could have gone for the equally as appetising mushroom option. Nom!
There are some seriously good toasties in Bristol (Hobbs House, the seriously underrated Bristol Cider Shop, For Mice and Men to name a few), but what made this different for me was those tomatoes! The slow roast gave them an added intensity and really lifted the overall flavour. It came with a homemade tomato relish, which was nice, but for me detracted from the flavours within the toastie – so I just used it for dipping my crusts.
Could it have been cheesier? I don’t think so!! My picture doesn’t really do the toastie justice, as it was oozing from the sides and I did get myself in a bit of a mess with cheese and bechamel dripping over my hands (and face) as I tucked in… Which leads me to my main issue with the concept of package free and no waste… napkins! I asked for a paper tissue as I had chosen to sit outside, but was reminded of their ethos. (Duh Lizzie! 🤦🏼♀️)
So now I’m stumped as to what they could provide to those customers, who do chose to eat on site and like me, get themselves in a mess. Linen napkins? But then they would need to be put in a washing machine after a single use, so not particularly environmentally friendly either. I put the question to my husband and eco friendly step sons (who are way hotter than Chris and I when it comes to recycling and saving water may I add), and we all came up short! Just don’t make a mess?!
I washed down my toastie with a glass of apple juice from the orchard of Sonya, the owner/founder, which had a great zing, and while I’m off the cider due to pregnancy, was oddly satisfying! All munched and slurped with a glorious view of the top of the SS Great Britain in the sunshine. What more can a girl ask for?
Dessert perhaps? I’ll admit was tempted by the brownies, but I was short on time (and any room in my increasingly expanding tummy) so I will have to go back to try one another time. Which I definitely want to do, as I’m also keen to try one of their curries or chillis, which sound rather special. I’m sad I missed out on this option and I do wonder if the hot dishes should possibly be on offer a little earlier – so people can collect them before the lunchtime rush to have at their desks etc? But what do I know about these things!
I was pleased to see that prices were incredibly reasonable – full disclosure, my toastie was gifted, but would have only cost £3.50. Similarly, looking on the website, their hot dishes, soups and hot breakfast items are all in this region too, with porridge and plain croissants etc being cheaper options.
When I visited I met Mark Harris, formerly of The Gallimaufry and 1847, who when I entered was excitedly explaining the lunch menu that was to be available later that day to a couple just in front of me. He’s clearly passionate about the business ethos and the food they are creating and serving, which was a pleasure to see and personally, always adds to the dining experience.
Where: Unit 1 East Building 4 East Invicta Building, Bristol, BS1 5SY
I enjoyed my visit even and as a non vegetarian I’d have no qualms about returning. Love the concept of no waste (despite the lack of napkins!) and next time will stock up on some groceries too. Red lentils anyone?
Thanks for reading!
NB: As I mentioned within my blog, my lunch was gifted, however opinions are still my own and authentic.