FLIP vegan deli & cafe, North Street: Review

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FLIP vegan cafe deli North Street - exterior

 

I’m not vegan – far from it. But that doesn’t stop me from going out and enjoying a plant-based meal or an almond milk latte from time to time, or ordering a vegan option from a restaurant or café menu. In Bristol, the number of vegan and vegetarian venues – and the number of places now offering separate plant-based menus – is booming, and there’s now more onus than ever before on the industry to put the same creativity and thought into serving this segment of the population as their carnivorous counterparts.

So I was excited about the arrival of vegan deli and café FLIP on North Street, which opened on August 14th. Owner Sophie Fox – who you may recognise from Café Create – had originally hoped to open this spring, but for various reasons (including the need to find exactly the right chef for the job), that plan never happened.

Because vegan chefs are in short supply and high demand, not just in Bristol, but across the UK. Fortunately, Steve Penrose – former head chef at The Christmas Steps – came to the rescue, relishing the prospect of a new challenge at FLIP and looking forward to cooking meat-free.

When we headed over on the first day, it was nice and busy at lunchtime: the floor to ceiling windows letting in plenty of natural light, even on a dreary, rainy day. Along one side of the café, customers were browsing the deli shelves, packed from floor to ceiling with everything from banana blossom, tahini and coconut cream to cereals, crisps, biscuits and sweets.

 

FLIP vegan cafe deli North Street - deli

 

The chiller cabinets at the counter housed all sorts of treats, from salads and various hummus varieties to savoury pastry-based treats, plump olives, sandwiches and cakes.

 

FLIP vegan cafe deli North Street - savouries

FLIP vegan cafe deli North Street - cakes and sandwiches

 

We managed to commandeer a table for me and the baby just as its former occupants were leaving, grabbing a high chair and a menu en route. At the moment, the menu’s mainly focused on breakfasts: a full breakfast (including vegan black pudding, made in-house), things on toast, bagels, overnight oats, pancakes and more – with children’s versions of the full breakfast and the pancakes also available.

Lunch-wise, there’s a burger (Steve’s own creation, which he’s incredibly proud of), along with pasta or the salads and savouries from the chiller cabinet – but there are plans, says Sophie, to add more options down the line. And again, there are a few children’s options on the lunch menu, too: both kids and dogs (you’ll find Sophie’s own pooch roaming the premises) are made to feel very welcome at FLIP.

I started with an almond milk latte (there’s soy, coconut and oat milk on offer too): a lovely rich, dark roast from Stokes Croft-based Triple Co Roast swirled with expertly frothed milk – one of the best dairy-free lattes I’ve had in recent times.

Lunch was to be shared with the 18-month old, so I ordered plenty. And it’s just as well, because when the mushroom, miso and pearl barley sausage roll (£3.50) was put down on our table, there was no way he was going to give me time to take a photo once he’d spotted it. The top sprinkled with black sesame seeds, the pastry was light and flaky, and the ratio of filling to pastry was epic. The texture of the filling was pretty much on par with a meaty sausage roll – the pearl barley adding plenty of bite – and I loved the combination of the tang of the miso and the earthiness of the mushrooms.

While he was munching his way through that, it gave me the chance to at least take a hurried photo of the salad plate which, at £6.50 for three salads, was very generous indeed. The smoky protein-packed chickpea salad, studded with salad veg, was incredibly filling, and I loved the slaw-style carrot and red cabbage salad, with plenty of crunch plus extra flavour added thanks to the sprinkling of sesame seeds and drizzle of smoked olive oil.

The star of the show, though – for both me and the small person – was the cauliflower rice. On its own, there’s only so much of the stuff I can eat before I get sick of the flavour, but this was incredible. Turns out all you need to make cauli rice taste amazing is plenty of North African flavours, and Steve’s combination of coconut, sultanas, ras el hanout and lime was a winner.

 

FLIP vegan cafe deli North Street - salad

 

There’s plenty here at FLIP to appeal to both vegans and non-vegans alike: a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, a decent price point, and a menu so varied that you can either go for the tofu and seitan-based dishes, or stick with those made with more everyday and familiar ingredients if you wish. Definitely recommended.

 

 

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