I heard about the new vegan options at the Toby Carvery some time ago now and ever since I have been meaning to get myself over there to try them out. I'm not really sure why this has taken me so long but it's possibly due to the fact that I really have to be in the mood for a roast dinner. It's something that I know so many people say is their favourite meal which they could eat every day but it's definitely more of an 'every now and then' kind of dinner for me. It's also something I only really happen to enjoy during the colder months.
So with the temperature dropping recently and it finally starting to feel like Winter, I decided that now was the perfect time to take on the carvery. I also got thinking more this week about chain restaurants who offer decent vegan options since the recent GBK scandal. It amazes me how some restaurants appear to be making positive menu changes in order to include vegans in their customer base, whilst others are getting it so catastrophically wrong.
First and foremost, I am seriously impressed that Toby Carvery offers not one, not two but three well labelled vegan options on their menu. And that's also without the further option of simply having a veggie/vegan roast without an accompanying main dish, which I sometimes personally prefer - I've always said the trimmings are the best part! In total they offer an impressive five options for vegetarians which I think deserves an imaginary round of applause especially when we take into account just what a meat orientated restaurant this actually is. It certainly doesn't get anymore meaty than a carvery!
Having been informed that the 'Butternut Squash Crumble' wasn't available it made our choices a little easier. I chose to try the 'Lentil Cottage Pie' and my husband went in for the 'Spiced Carrot & Chickpea Wellington'. Unlike the regular carvery you do have to wait about 10-15 minutes for these dishes to be cooked and once they've arrived you have your plate to go up to the carvery with and select your veggies.
And now here comes a problem...
I can't see anywhere on the Toby menu any reference to the fact that the vegetables may be cooked in butter and not therefore vegan friendly. It really didn't even cross my mind that this could be the case, especially after having seen the dedicated 'vegan' section of the menu which instructs customers to pick up the veg from the carvery. The waitress who served us also made no mention about the vegetables not being suitable for vegans. So I was a little surprised once I got home and decided to have a read of their nutritional & allergy information guide to see that this states that the vegetables contain 'milk'.
I decided to ring the customer services line to query this and I was told that I would receive an answer in due course which I still unfortunately haven't been able to obtain. After doing a little Google research online I have come across a number of other blogs and reviews which mention that the vegetables could be cooked in butter so it's best to check with the restaurant you are visiting and if so there will be no issue in having separate vegetables steamed for you. If I had known this prior to my visit I would have definitely made a point of checking however, and on reflection, I think that this is actually pretty bad especially as there is no mention of this on the menu from which you can order vegan meals.
Anyway, buttered vegetables saga aside for a moment, here's what my 'Lentil Cottage Pie' and dinner plate looked like!
I ended up with what can only be described as a colossal plate of food and all for only £6.29! I'm not really a fan of gravy but it was pleasing to see that there was a veg friendly gravy available. Overall I found the meal to be enjoyable, well cooked and the lentil cottage pie in particular was really flavoursome and definitely something which I would order again. It was on the whole slightly too much food for me and as much as I enjoyed the cottage pie I know that I would have been equally happy with a plate purely full of veg and potatoes. But that's just me!
My husbands plate of food was even more enormous...
He couldn't say no to the lure of the yorkshire puddings so his vegan meal ended up being more like a vegetarian one. He also picked up some stuffing which I had missed and he told me that he was informed that the stuffing is also vegetarian which was a welcome surprise. He enjoyed his vegan wellington but wasn't sure if the slightly spiced/almost indian flavouring really went with the roast dinner. He also said that he would have been really happy with the roast on it's own without the added dish. So maybe next time we visit the carvery we both may end up with just the 'Meat Free Carvery' on it's own and I'll definitely be checking about those vegetables.
The vegan options also didn't stop there. The dessert menu has a clearly labelled 'Chocolate & Cherry Torte" as a vegan friendly option without any accompanying ice cream or cream. We couldn't leave without trying it and my husband was in the mood for ice cream so we decided to share and split it down the middle, one half veggie and one half vegan.
The torte was really quite nice and reminded me a bit of one of my favourite pudding flavours 'Black Forest'. I would say though that without any accompanying dairy products this dessert is a little on the dry side. I really wished that I had packed some vegan squirty cream in my bag because it really needed a little something extra.
When our bill arrived it was just over £20 which when you consider how much food we had, along with refillable soft drinks, it's definitely a great value option when deciding to eat out.
My only complaints (aside from the vegetables issue) would be that the Toby Carvery itself wouldn't always be my favourite place to eat purely because my experience of them in the past has always been that they can be ridiculously busy and slightly on the grubby side. I haven't been to one Toby Carvery yet where I have been impressed with cleanliness which can always be a little off-putting when eating out. In my opinion it's great for a quick casual lunch or dinner but it certainly wouldn't be somewhere I'd pick to go to for any special occasion.
It may also seem like an obvious thing to point out but don't forget that you will have to endure walking past a variety of animal carcasses in order to get to your veggies. Although this does turn my stomach a little bit, I find that I can deal with this but I also know many people who wouldn't eat at a carvery purely for this reason.
Those small complaints aside I would definitely recommend any vegan or vegetarian to dine here, particularly if you're looking for somewhere to eat with your meat loving family or friends. It's also great to show these restaurants that there is a demand for these options and they will only realise this if you dine there. My guess is that if these options don't sell then they may well be removed from the menu at some point in the future which would be a massive shame.
As soon as I receive some solid clarification from Toby Crvery around the vegetables I will be sure to update this post and everyone via Facebook & Twitter. Until then I would definitely recommend double checking with your waitress/management if you do happen to be dining there.
Have you tried a vegan dinner at Toby Carvery? What did you think?