The Wokingham Paper

Veganuary: Traditional dishes given a plant-based spin at Bill's

The Frozen Amaretto Parfait. Picture: Jess Warren

Bill’s, Chain Street, Saint Mary’s Church House, Reading, RG1 2HX

Phone: 0118 939 1365

VEGAN food has seen a surge in growth when it comes to restaurant dining — which is certainly the case for Bill’s.

Offering a full vegan menu this month, the restaurant has pushed forward in their culinary delights, from puff pastry to frozen parfait.

The Reading-based restaurant is offering a Veganuary deal this month, where visitors can order a vegan main course and pay £5 for a vegan dessert after 5pm. 

They are also catering to those challenging themselves to a dry January with a range of alcohol-free cocktails.

Beginning with a drink, we sampled the AEcorn spritz (£6.95) and the Ceder’s classic and tonic (£5.50). AEcorn is a dry aperitif, made to taste similar to a gin. Served with cloudy apple juice, elderflower tonic and finished with rosemary, the bittersweet cocktail could be mistaken for an alcoholic drink. Ceder’s make a gin-like non-alcoholic spirit — and it went down smoothly.

The AEcorn Spritz (left) and a Ceder’s Classic and Tonic (right). Both drinks have been designed to replicate an alcoholic beverage. Picture: Jess Warren

Trying out some of the vegan specials, we started with the wild mushroom soup (£5.95) and the miso aubergine fritters (£5.95). The soup — made without cream — showcased the mushrooms with earthy, umami flavours and a finishing sweetness, the croutons provided a much-needed crunch. 

The aubergine fritters were satisfyingly crunchy, although the miso flavour lacked, this was made-up for with the smoked chilli and soy dip served with the fried vegetables.

Miso Aubergine Fritters with a smoked chilli and soy dip. Picture: Jess Warren

Next to arrive was the carrot, cashew nut and mushroom wellington (£11.95) and the mushroom and tarragon suet pudding (£11.95). We had hoped to try the beetroot steak, however, it was out of stock — it must be a hit this month.

The wellington had a delicious puff pastry case with a realistic buttery taste. Carrot was the ruling flavour, with a sweetness similar to that of a sweet potato. It was served with butter bean mash, a lighter alternative to traditional mash potato, broccoli and a vegetable gravy. The dish was satisfying and not overly stodgy or filling — helped with a butter bean replacement for mashed potato.

The Carrot, Cashew Nut and Mushroom Wellington served with long-stem broccoli and vegetable gravy. Picture: Jess Warren

The suet pudding had a traditional shortcrust pastry, with a delicious roasted mushroom on top of the pie. However, the white bean cassoulet that surrounded the pudding was too large to finish. A lighter vegetable side-dish would have elevated the main dish better.

The Mushroom and Tarragon Suet Pudding served with a white bean cassoulet. Picture Jess Warren

To finish, we sampled two special vegan puddings; a sticky chocolate pudding (£6.50) and the frozen Amaretto parfait (£6.25). The chocolate dessert was drizzled with syrup and served with a hazelnut crumb and coconut ice cream. Designed to be similar to a traditional sticky toffee pudding, the dish had a gooey centre and pleased palettes. 

The Sticky Chocolate Pudding with coconut ice cream and a hazelnut crumb. Picture: Jess Warren

The parfait was overwhelmingly creamy, with a serving too large to finish. An interesting experimentation to produce a traditionally dairy-based dessert using vegan alternatives, the creamy parfait was counterbalanced with the sour raspberry sauce, with the shortbread crumb provided the much-needed contrast of texture. 

What was interesting about Bill’s vegan menu was the variety of choice, including traditionally dairy-based dishes that have been re-worked for the vegan appetite. 

The reasonably priced menu — particularly with the £5 dessert offer  — can’t go wrong for anyone reducing their consumption of animal products. 

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