Soul Food Kitchen


LET’S go out for Sunday dinner, I suggest, and to high fives all round we pile in the (non-electric) car, cruise the motorway, park easily and almost skip down to a basement in Finnieston. Home of the good restaurants. There are sunny colours on the wall, a free table in a corner, cheery waitresses and music playing from speakers in the ceiling.

As the family scans the menus I shuffle back in my seat and wait and watch as little dark clouds of puzzlement slowly puff above their heads.

Hang on, says my son…this isn’t a vegan restaurant, is it? Umm, ooh, arr could be, I reply, provoking sighs all round. Vegan is good, vegan is healthy, vegan is cool. Oh, alright, I would have needed dynamite to get them out the house if I had mentioned the V word at home.

Over a Karma Cola – naturally sugar-free – I cheerily mention that while meat is not (legally anyway) murder the unspeakable horror of what we do to animals in return for bland, usually tasteless, throwaway crap is just not right.

Come on, humans – whisper it, we are monsters.

Course, as we can’t even sort out what we do to each other, what chance have the poor animals got? Anyway, high five to the vegan nation I say, one day all food will be like this. Well, not exactly like this I hope as, like a needle being scratched from a turntable, the opening notes of tonight's meal are not the best. Somehow the sweet potato chips come out the kitchen looking tired, very dark and unappetisingly floppy. And they should be able to do chips. The plain-vanilla potato versions are not much better.

That great mound of vibrantly yellow turmeric and pineapple sauerkraut is hugely acidic, pungently vinegary, and very tough. Isn’t real sauerkraut vegan anyway?

At this point I’ve also got to confess to a squeamishness when it comes to all these fake-meat things that populate some vegan restaurant menus, yes probably too many sci-fi movies when I was young.

But what is seitan? And was that really a wise choice for a name? It’s wheat and gluten, it transpires. Raw cheese sauce? It’s actually just nuts and juices – which to me sounds a damn sight less sinister than the official description which will easily stampede the non-vegan horses.

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Walnut taco meat? Now, I actually have this in my raw Mexican bowl and after some peering and a cross table consultation with the chirpy waitress we come to the conclusion it’s just minced walnuts.

Vegan mayo? This one genuinely gives me the shudders but, calm down dear, it’s apparently simply soya milk, lemon, salt and vinegar.

Back to that raw Mexican bowl then? Great, actually. Fresh, crunchy, textured with what is essentially a mountain of crumbly walnut mash, flavoured with that mayo stuff, light, refreshing and I would definitely have it again.

In fact, I positively skip out the place, though that’s partly because they’ve turned the tinny ceiling music system over to a whole album of someone called Best Coast and it sounds like an Asbo Family are having a very annoying party in a flat right upstairs.

OK, that’s an age thing. The rest of the food? The beetroot burger – nobody fancied taking on the great seitan version – is a decent idea of a warmed minced beetroot patty, lots of hummus, some salad but is let down by the bun.

We also have an African peanut stew which is nothing if not blandly, excessively sweetly, studenty and served in a huge quantity.

I could have tried the “in-house Asian beef” but as I believe, and I think this meal shows, vegan meat substitutes usually taste just plain strange while vegan food that’s not pretending to be anything is usually pretty good.

So, I’ll say this about the Soul Food Kitchen: it’s not much different than a middle of the road non-vegan restaurant. Flaws and all. So it’s no breakthrough.

Soul Food Kitchen

973 Sauchiehall Street


0141 406 5292

Menu: It’s vegan, Jim, and just as we know it, seitan burgers, raw cheese and meat-free-mayos. The usual mix of fake meat and fresh vegan dishes. 3/5

Service: Bright, breezy and cheery staff are helpful though maybe not knowing much more than the rest of us about those strange (to non-vegans) ingredients. 4/5

Atmosphere: It’s a clean, crisp and relentlessly cheery basement made up reasonable successfully of a number of rooms with the added plus of slogans on the walls. 4/5

Price: Nothing here to stampede the horses, most mains came in at under a tenner. 3/5

Food: To this non-vegan it’s pretty good when not doing meat substitutes but the kitchen needs to be much sharper with simple things like side dishes and fresh bread. 5/10