When I first heard that a vegan junk food restaurant and shop was opening on Bedminster’s East Street, my first thought was that it seemed like a surprising choice of location. It’s great to see, though, that Vx Bristol is almost always busy whenever I walk past, no matter the time of day – and so this weekend, armed with my vegetarian/almost vegan brother to give his expert opinion, I decided to pay them a visit.
Open from 10am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and 11am to 5pm on Sundays, Vx Bristol combines vegan junk food to eat in or take away with a shop selling a diverse range of vegan products. My South East-based brother has visited their original premises in Kings Cross, London, and decided that he favours the Bristol outlet: unlike London, there’s the option to eat in, and he says the staff are friendlier here too.
Step through the front door and you’re faced with high counters at which to eat and the service counter directly in front of you, a seating area on the right and the shop on the left. There are counters in the window at which to sit too, meaning that all in all, there’s space for around 20-25 people.
Head over to the shop area and you’ll find all sorts. Chiller cabinets are packed full of various cheeses, vegan sausages, cutlets and other meats, drinks, mayonnaise and more. A freezer cabinet features Amy’s Kitchen ready meals, soya ice cream (with flavours such as Millionnaire’s Shortbread and more) and other frozen goodies, while shelves at the back of the premises are heaving with everything from vegan squirty cream to vegan beers to vegan dog food.
Venture up to the counter and look up, and you’ll see the menu – and the focus really is on junk food. Vx Bristol aim to prove that veganism doesn’t need to be unimaginative and limiting, offering cheese toasties (on bread from Mark’s Bread), quesadillas, hot dogs, kebabs, burgers and nachos, among others. There’s a strong melted vegan cheese focus on the menu – and it was interesting to see that much of the menu focuses on veganised versions of meat products.
Temptingly displayed on the counter were some of the best looking vegan cakes I’ve seen: a dark chocolate and peanut butter variety, a gluten free coconut cake, gluten free Bounty cupcakes, cookie sandwiches, almond and raspberry slices…there was certainly plenty of choice. There’s also a chiller cabinet to the right which housed fresh cream cakes on the day of our visit, which looked pretty amazing too. All of the cakes and bakes are accompanied by signage detailing if they contain soya, wheat or nuts too.
We each ordered a mint green tea, took our table number and waited for my brother’s hot dog (£3.50) to arrive. Presented in an American diner-style red plastic basket, the first thing that we noticed was that Vx Bristol are certainly generous with the mustard and ketchup! Nestling underneath the dog itself was a generous helping of sauerkraut too.
But how did it taste? The answer was positive. Texturally, he said, it’s not that hard to replicate a regular, meaty frankfurter, and he was happy with the flavour too.
With such an amazing display of cakes on the counter, it would have been rude not to sample the sweet offering too. A slice of vegan dark chocolate peanut butter cake (£3) definitely hit the spot. We assume that the cake itself is made with oil, judging by its lovely moist texture, and the chocolate flavour was beautifully rich too. And to be honest, if someone had put this cake in front of me without telling me that it was vegan, I doubt I’d have known: the peanut butter frosting was creamy and delicious, and we were relieved that the peanut flavour was actually authentic, rather than tasting synthetic as some peanut butter-flavoured “treats” are prone to do…
The staff were friendly and smiling, and the atmosphere was great: while we were there, there were plenty of other customers coming in to order food and drink to eat in and take away. It’s a lively, buzzing little place, which has obviously put a lot of thought into going above and beyond the unoriginal vegan offerings on which other venues rely. Vegan junk food may be a niche concept, but with good quality food, sensible pricing and a shop to boot, we’re not really surprised that it’s proving so busy.