Hen of the Woods, Glasgow

Ordered from Facebook

IT’S not very politically correct to say this but nothing in my house provokes a deeper collective sigh than the immortal phrase: it’s vegan food for tea.

In fact, when I respond to this tiresome negativity to my quest to liven up lockdown by saying “not all vegan food is bad’ there’s laughter all round.

Remember the Smash advert anyone? You get the picture.

The whole meal then usually becomes a bit of a contest with me holding up various forkfuls of various dishes and going: you can’t say this is not tasty?

And that is what happens this evening except instead of the usual stoic blank looks I get a good few positive nods. They also do vegetarian dishes but we plumped for the vegan options and I'm glad we did.

Take the Brussels sprouts (halved) and seared to a candied crisp, stirred and fried and served with salt and chill cashews. These even looked appetising when they were unpacked from that big box left on the doorstep with a cheery text advising me of its arrival.

READ JOANNA BLYTHMAN: Red meat could actually protect us from cancer – not cause it

If I fast forward, say, four days I can exclusively reveal that Mrs Mackenna will be serving up a version of these for Tuesday night tea as her very own. Crikey.

Shredded potato with Sichuan chill oil anyone? Check. This appears a faff to make but it’s not to eat: being unusually yet pleasantly textured, calming yet with a real after-burn.

Roast pears with fried bread, then, the pear sweet and sticky, the bread good in a very bad (for you) way and an inoffensive blue, erm, cheese custard languidly draping itself across everything.

Hunky chunky Jerusalem artichokes with miso butter, roasted right down to the tang are filling, satisfying even. There’s even a cauliflower cheese dish that comes bubbling and browned from oven. Humble borlotti beans with sesame and parsley which may be simple but are taken for second helpings all around.

In the interests of full disclosure and because we have all been in this movie before I’ve got to confess that a decidedly non-vegan baked ziti had been prepared in advance of this vegan feast and sat smouldering on the sidelines, just in case Hen of the Woods went the way of others.

You know – ordered from Facebook? No idea what’s arriving? And it’s vegan? Who wouldn’t have a Plan B.

However, the ziti is not needed. This dine at home eight-course meal for £55 which easily feeds four is of a very high quality. Especially when compared to the general standard of vegan dishes that are nowadays available in just about every restaurant on planet food.

Complaints? I have none about the actual preparation of the food, its variety, quality or sourcing. I have just one, that I like to trot out pretty much every time I eat vegan stuff which I think only applies to non-vegans eating vegan dishes. Take the cheese sauces, say, or that butter, that come with the dishes? Well, they’re not cheese or butter obviously. Nor do they really taste like them. So why call it cheese? Or butter?

I can’t be the only person who feels some innate discomfort, strange suspicion, of any food that is holding itself out to be something it’s patently not.

Hen of the Woods are not in any way guilty of the culinary travesties involving vegan bacons, burgers, sausages yadaya but I think they still do themselves a disservice, albeit a minor one, by using these non-vegan terms.

READ MORE RON: Paesano at Home, Miller Street, Glasgow. Ron Mackenna's home delivery review

There’s not a thing wrong with the cheeses or the butters yet they still provoke an all-round squeamishness simply because nobody is really sure what they’re eating. Even when the ingredients are examined and it’s all decent stuff, that feeling somehow lingers. It's worth pointing out that the dishes not marked as vegan do contain dairy and eggs.

Hey, I know vegans don’t even see this as an issue but if veganism is all about stopping the unspeakable horrors we subject animals to, or at least reducing them – and I totally support that – then surely the more people encouraged into realising good vegan food is no taste compromise the better it will be all round.

Hen of the Woods

Ordered from Facebook

Menu: Comes in the form of slick internet tick-box selections based on the number of courses you choose. Good, interesting and very Scottish selection. Vegan and vegetarian. 4/5

Service: Cheery, happy friendly people that I never met took the order, responded to messages and dropped the stuff off. 5/5

Atmosphere: There’s always a tension in the air when we delve into the mystic realms of vegan food but this was enjoyable stuff. 3/5

Price: I paid £55 for eight courses, pick and mix. 4/5

Food: There were some genuine highlights including the sprouts with chilli and cashew, the shredded potato with Sichuan pepper oil and the roast pears. Quality. 8/10



Correction: Hen of the Woods have pointed out that some of the dishes Ron tried were actually vegetarian dishes not vegan.