Veganuary might be over, but interest in meat alternatives isn’t waning with restaurants dedicated to vegan and plant-based food popping up across the region. Lots of eateries are also including plant-based options as a welcome addition to their main menu, including The Counter House in Ancoats.
We recently headed there for an early dinner to sample their new menu. Although it was quiet on arrival, there was a lovely atmosphere, with the lighting and music at just the right level to provide a warm welcome at 6pm on a Friday.
Staff were busying themselves in the open kitchen and behind the bar in preparation for the night ahead, and the customer service was faultless from the moment we walked through the door.
Friendly but not over-bearing, my boyfriend and I were offered free ginger shots as we perched at the bar. Tempting as it was, we politely declined in favour of a less healthy glass of shiraz and a pint of beer, which we sipped while taking in the décor with its mix of vibrant prints and plentiful plants, and the striking cocktails being whisked up in front of us.
Given a choice of tables, as the waiter carried our drinks for us, we opted for a window seat, so we could watch the world go by on one side, and the hustle and bustle as the restaurant steadily filled on the other.
All credit to Joe Akka, the Panacea founder who launched The Counter House as a neighbourhood eatery last year, the place clearly appeals to a wide variety of people as young families, dates, groups of mates and even four-legged diners (the restaurant is dog-friendly) take their place as we peruse the menu.
There’s a choice of four small plates within the plant-based options, including blistered padron peppers and pink salt, £4.50, and BBQ pulled jackfruit flatbreads with corn salsa, £6.50, but we opted for the three dip hummus sharer, £7.50, to kick things off as a starter.
There’s something particularly enjoyable about food where you can discard the cutlery and just dive in with your hands, and we eagerly dunked oil drizzled flatbread into the dips.
There are three flavours, smoked paprika and red pepper (my personal favourite), black sesame and olive oil and herby avocado, which arrive in small bowls with a little garnish.
As someone who enjoys their hummus on the thicker side, the texture was just right, and there was plenty of flavour, too.
Even as a sharer, it’s a filling appetizer, so I was relieved I’d opted for the vegetable enchiladas, £7, another of the small plates, which the waiter had recommended, with a skin on fries, £3, as my main.
That said, it was still a substantial size when it arrived, stuffed with black beans, and topped with a rich chilli salsa and melted cheddar. It felt like a decadent treat, especially with the chunky, crispy chips.
I didn’t miss the meat, and nor did my boyfriend who was a confirmed carnivore until a few weeks ago when we reassessed our eating habits.
For him, it was a toss-up between the Thai green jackfruit curry, £14, which is served with jasmine rice, and one of the most popular Big Plate options we’re told, and the southern spiced black bean burger, £12.50.
The latter won out, and it was a sight to behold when it arrived – a generous homage to the classic meat burger with all the trappings you’d expect – cheddar, tomato, pickle, iceberg lettuce and thick cut fries.
Some people still presume plant-based food isn’t filling, but I would suggest those people attempt to tuck into our two-course dinner, and see if they can squeeze in a dessert, because neither of us could.
I did have a glance at the options though, and already have my eye on the understated sounding peanut butter chocolate brownie, which is accompanied with raspberry ripple ice-cream, £6.50.
But that’s for next time, and, given our experience, we’ll definitely be back.