Eating Out Plenty of choice for the vegetarian palate
GOING out to eat when you’ve got what are generally referred to as ‘special dietary requirements’ can be a bit of a pain.
Having been a vegetarian for over half my life, I despair at the number of places - even the expensive ones - that can’t seem to be bothered to put more than two nonmeat or fish dishes on the menu.
It’s frustrating because veggie options are so popular these days - you’d sell those meals not just to committed vegetarians, but also to those who simply fancy something different as well.
However, Sweet Olives at the Queensgate Hotel is not somewhere that causes me this frustration.
The restuarant has a vast array of vegetarian dishes, and even a special veggie section on the menu.
And it’s not just the meat-free diet that is catered for - the menu has several, clearly-labelled glutenfree dishes, and items which are aimed at people with healthy eating in mind are also signalled.
Having seen a sample menu online, it was this variety of dishes which attracted me, and I wasn’t disappointed.
It is completely refreshing to go to a restaurant and have a real choice, and therefore be able to have something I really want, rather than settling for the lesser of two culinary evils.
My dining partner for the evening was my friend Nyree, who is a meat-eater, so we were able to look at the restaurant from both perspectives.
Nyree started off the meal with the mozzarella and roasted vegetables with sweet basil dressing (£4.25). She felt the vegetables were slightly overcooked, but as a whole, the dish was still very tasty.
I went for a watercress, pear and goat’s cheese salad (£4.50), which was taken from the salad menu. In keeping with the rest of the menu, this is very flexible, as all the salads are available as either a starter or a main.
Having set my sights on something else for my main course, I opted to keep the salad a starter.
I’m not a massive fan of pears, but had decided to try something a bit different, and was not disappointed. The fruit and cheese were slightly warm and had lovely, contrasting flavours, and there was a nice dressing on the watercress, rocket and red chard salad.
For mains Nyree wanted to have chicken, and asked if it was free-range as she’s a very cruelty-conscious lady. It wasn’t, which was a slight disappointment, but she was more than pleased with her second choice, the rocket and cherry tomato penne pasta (£8.50), which came with a goats cheese sauce, and which she proclaimed was “the showstopper” and “utterly delicious”.
I ordered the spinach, courgette, aubergine and brie Wellington (£8.25) and was pre-warned by the helpful waitress that as the pastry was fresh, it would take up to 25 minutes to cook.
For fresh food, it was a wait I was more than happy to put up with, but as it turned out I think she was erring on the side of caution as it wasn’t that long after all.
The Wellington was delicious and came was some tasty new potatoes. A few other vegetables on the side would be have been nice, but perhaps that is me being greedy.
Nyree and I were pretty stuffed after two large courses, and the olives and bread we’d been given at the start, but we decided, in the interests of research, to press on with dessert.
I went for the sticky toffee pudding (£4.25) and Nyree had the chocolate and cappuccino mousse (£4.50).
My pudding had a lovely flavour but a slightly strange texture, and could perhaps have done with a little blob of vanilla ice cream to give contrasting flavour.
Nyree found her dessert not quite as tasty as the description on the menu but still seemed to enjoy it.
Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience. The food was good value for money, and clearly very fresh, and the restaurant is stylishly designedsigned with bold artwork.
The real shame as far as I’m concerned is that more people weren’t in there - it was empty bar us and a few hotel guests, although in fairness it was a Tuesday evening.
Given the uninspiring menus of some restaurants, particularly if you want something other than a lot of meat, it seemed a shame that somewhere like this, that really gives thought to people’s dietary requirements, wasn’t busier.
I’d say this is one of Peterborough’s best-kept secrets, and well worth checking out.
OF FLAVOURS: Hannah’s pear and goats
cheese salad. HOME MADE: The spinach, courgette, aubergine and brie
Wellington. FINISHING TOUCH: Nyree’s chocolate cappuccino mousse.