Tuesday 24 March 2015

The Den at 23

Last weekend my husband & I headed off to the newly opened vegan cafe in Colchester, Essex, The Den at 23.

Run by husband and wife duo Jennifer and Robert Dunn , The Den is Colchester's, and possibly Essex's, first and only vegan cafe.  

As soon as I heard that this place was opening I was excited to try it out as I know from experience and living here that Essex is an area that is most definitely lacking in vegan options, let alone dedicated eateries! 

If you're vegan, or vegetarian, you'll know just how much of a treat it is dining in a restaurant that purely caters for your diet. There's no agonising over what to order in terms of what you're allowed to eat, but only in terms of limiting down what you want to order! After all, you can have everything on the menu and how often does that happen?

The Den is a really cosy contemporary little cafe which offers up daily vegan breakfasts, lunch's, sweet treats and drinks. It's the perfect place for a pit stop!

It has a very stylish, 'handmade' and creative feel about it which, being a bit crafty myself, I can really appreciate. I particularly loved the hand painted colourful wall murals upstairs and the up-cycled tables. The Den feels very 'now' which I like. A lot. 

I was glad that we arrived early to secure our seat as the cafe was soon heaving with customers which was so great to see as clearly there is a market for us vegans out here in the sticks of Essex. I had to stop myself from shouting out "I'm not the only one!" and running over to hug everyone! 

The menu was simple but exciting! 

It was excellent to see that The Den are offering up some meat and cheese alternatives in the forms of Vbites & Violife as this helps the masses to experience vegan alternatives and hopefully realise that there isn't much difference in terms of taste between this and the real thing. It also helps to expel the myth that all we can live off is salad and lentils!

I was really impressed to see that they are into their Linda McCartney vegan sausages as much as I am! But as tempting as the sausage sandwich was, I was also keen to try out something different.

We were really struggling to decide what to go in for so we decided that we should share a few things and get to experience a selection!

We eventually decided on the Vbites quarter pounder with a slice of violife cheese. We tend to usually buy veggie or bean burgers at home so this was something different for us and we really enjoyed it. I think i've said before that I am not a huge fan of fake meat style foods as personally I went off the taste and texture of meat a long time ago. Nevertheless, this vegan burger was very tasty and my husband, who does enjoy meat, said it was one of the best burgers he's had! Combined with the Violife cheese slice it was a lunch time treat that I am sure any burger lover would appreciate. 

We also opted for a portion of the veggie mince chilli nachos with extra avocado (I can never say no to avocado!). This was a really hearty, warming and filling plate of food that we really enjoyed alongside our burger. Again, I don't think anyone would know the difference between this and a real chilli con carne and I am certain they would enjoy it as much. 

I had already heard on the grapevine that The Den's hot chocolates were a must so we didn't cut any corners by ordering the full works with soy whipped cream and vegan marshmallows on top! These were heavenly. I do miss the old days of Costa's skinny hot chocolates with marshmallows but I think i've finally found my replacement.

After all of that we were pretty full but nothing was going to stop us trying one of these delicious waffles with maple syrup and vegan vanilla ice cream. It pushed us over the edge but it was worth it! Every mouthful was a pure delight!

Co-partner Jen has specialised in vegan baking over the past few years and has run her own baking company PS It's Vegan. Her cakes have received excellent reviews online so we wasn't going home without one. And a mini Vego bar of course! 

This chocolatey cupcake was enjoyed later on at home with a cup of tea and was to die for. I love a spot of vegan baking myself so I can appreciate a decent vegan cake when I taste one and this definitely lived up to the reviews.  

In some ways I think Jen & Rob have taken a risk by opening The Den in Essex. They are clearly embarking on and living their dream without really knowing yet how it's going to work out. I have so much respect for them as they have made life sacrifices to do what they're passionate about and they're making they're dreams a reality! 

It was great to see this cafe so busy in its first weeks of opening and we wish Jen & Rob lots of success with their venture. We will definitely be back soon and are already looking forward to our next visit! 


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