One of my friends recently announced that she’s going vegetarian, and to show my support I took it upon myself to find a good local vegetarian restaurant for us to visit. There appears to be somewhat of a lack of vegetarian restaurants in Cardiff but I stumbled across a place called Vegetarian Food Studio, which has a great reputation.
As a staunch lover of meat I have to admit I’ve never visited a vegetarian restaurant before, and I was a bit apprehensive before going, but the Vegetarian Food Studio has put my mind at rest and shown me that
vegetarian food can actually be quite enjoyable(!)
Opened in 2004, Vegetarian Food Studio is a family-run business specialising in vegetarian and vegan Indian and Asian food, with no dish on the menu containing either meat, fish or eggs. Accredited by the Vegetarian Food Society, the restaurant prides itself upon using fresh vegetables, herbs and spices to concoct delectable, filling dishes.
Owner and Head Chef Neil Patel has had a passion for cooking since he was a young boy, when he would help his grandmother prepare food for the local community.
Once inside Vegetarian Food Studio, the Indian and Asian emphasis is obvious before even looking at the menu. Statues of Indian goddesses are dotted throughout the restaurant, and Indian savouries like samosas and bhajis, and brightly-coloured traditional Indian sweets, are on display in a glass cabinet. The walls are covered with newspaper clippings, reviews and award logos.
We take a seat at a table, noticing the authentic embroidered tapestry which is placed below the glass surface. After a short wait the waiter comes over to take our drinks orders and I decide to give the rose syrup milkshake (£2.45) a go, whilst my friend sticks to water.
The rose syrup milkshake is so delicious, it’s difficult not to guzzle it all down in one go. Sinfully creamy, the rose syrup makes it taste almost like turkish delight – mmm!
For starters, we order the VFS platter mix for two (£4.25 per person), containing a selection of the most popular starters including vegetable samosas, crispy bhaji, kachori, onion pakoras, ‘atom bombs’ and bateta wada, served with tamarind chutney.
Each dish is bursting with flavour, and working my way around the plate feels like going on a culinary journey, exploring the infusion of herbs and spices at each stop along the way – whoever knew vegetables could taste so good!
The waiter warns us that the ‘atom bombs’ are rather spicy, which just makes me all the more keen to give them a go. Cutting one in half reveals a baby potato stuffed with a rich, dark red paste, which turns out to be a fiery, chilli-garlic chutney – not for the faint-hearted!
The portion sizes are really generous – we each receive two of each item listed above (and as you can see, they’re not small!)- by the time we polish off the plate, we’re feeling pretty full!
Moving swiftly onto the main course, I go for the cheese dosa – a crispy rice and lentil pancake filled with a dry potato curry topped with melted cheese, served with sambar and coconut chutney (£5.05). Well, if I can’t have meat, at least I can indulge in cheese…
The cheese dosa tastes a bit like a (spicy) cheese and potato pie rolled up inside some form of hard pancake, but it’s a combination that I just can’t seem to get enough of. The rice and lentil pancake makes the dish a very filling one, and when I put down my cutlery I feel like I have a food baby inside me.
My friend chooses the spinach paneer – paneer cooked with spinach, garlic and onions (£4.85) – and the cashew Nut, cinnamon and jeera (cumin) rice (£3.15). We also share some freshly-made plain parathas (£2.50) between us, and in my experience of parathas (my parents occasionally made them), they’re not too bad at all.
The waiter offers us dessert but as much as we’d like to accept his offer, we have both eaten just a tad too much already. As we go to leave, he kindly offers us some traditional Indian sweets from the glass cabinet to enjoy at home later. We don’t take much persuading.
The sweets come in a range of shapes, each one coloured so brightly that they may as well be glowing. We don’t have a clue which ones to go for, so we ask the waiter for his recommendations. The green sweet is pistachio-flavoured and the orange one tastes sugary yet spicy, but I can’t quite figure out what the other one is. I enjoy trying new foods, and these sweets are certainly not like any other dessert I’ve tried before.
A visit to Vegetarian Food Studio has taught me that vegetarian food doesn’t have to be boring – I didn’t even miss the presence of meat or poultry on my plate because the food I did have was just so visually appealing, and bursting with all kinds of flavours. I certainly won’t be converting to veggie any time soon, but I’d definitely go here again. It may well be one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Cardiff. I challenge any vegetarian, vegan or even meat-lover to pay a visit to Vegetarian Food Studio and tell me that you didn’t find anything on the menu that was both new to you, and delicious!
Vegetarian Food Studio
109 Penarth Road
(029) 2023 8222
I was invited to Vegetarian Food Studio as a guest and our food and drinks were complimentary.