The most exciting tweet that I saw recently was the announcement from Pushkar that they are hosting a Vegan Festival throughout February, celebrating tasty vegan dishes created by their Head Chef Vinod Singh. I was checking my calendar to see when to book in for a date night with my husband when I received an invite to come in for a review on opening night. Naturally, I accepted and turned up eagerly and with a healthy appetite for all the vegan food.
To begin with, we were served poppodums and vegan chutneys, which included a tamarind chutney and mango chutney. These were a really love nibble to start our meal with. The poppodums were crisp, light and didn’t taste oily. I was pleased to see that there were four chutneys available for the vegan menu in the same way that there are four chutneys on the regular a la carte menu.
When it came the to the starters, we tried the mix vegetable grill (£8). These skewers were packed with flavour and the tofu was an excellent texture, almost like paneer. The tofu was delicious and we genuinely were delighted with how satisfying this starter was. I think that this starter was too generously portioned to be honest. With some rice and more sauce, this could easily have been enjoyed as a main meal.
We also tried the tandoori bharwaan mirch (£8), a grilled red pepper stuffed with corn, tofu, sweet potato, raisins and avocado. I enjoyed the different textures of the mix inside the pepper and loved the sweetness from this dish. Isn’t this dish pretty too?
Our favourite starter was the chukandar ki galouti, beetroot cake with beetroot chutney and salad (£8). The beetroot cakes are crisp on the outside with a soft centre packed with lots of spice and a gentle heat. I like the spice level of this starter and found it to be the perfect balance of spices.
One of the main dishes from the Pushkar’s Vegan Festival menu is the steamed artichokes with curry sauce. This has a whole Jerusalem artichoke sitting in an onion, tomato and butternut squash gravy, tempered with dill soya (£11). This was sadly a dish that sounded greater than it tasted. I felt that this wasn’t the star of the menu and that the other two mains that we ordered were much tastier and had a better balance of textures adding to the enjoyment of the dishes.
The second main that I tried was the kesari puktan subz; a butternut squash gravy with nigella seeds, sweet potato, beans, carrot, mushroom and dill (£9). This had a lovely balance of spices but wasn’t too heavy on the heat. The vegetables were cooked perfectly and this wasn’t a bowl of mush thankfully. I particularly enjoyed eating this with the breads that we ordered rather than the rice because of the way the vegetables could be satisfyingly squished into the roti for eating. Yes, I still like to play with my food sometimes.
My favourite main dish was the stuffed shimla mirch; a green pepper stuffed with tofu, corn, sweet potato, garden peas, cashew nuts and raisins (£11). The flavours and texture of the stuffed pepper against the curry sauce was unlike what I normally order so I really enjoyed it. I found that the curry sauce was a beautifully fragrant sauce and really complemented the sweetness from the pepper. And the stuffing inside tasted fresh. Overall, none of us could fault this dish.
To accompany our mains, we enjoyed some corn rice – basmati rice infused with saffron and corn (£5) – which made a pleasant change from steamed rice for me.
My favourite accompaniments to the food was the aloo paratha (£4) and the koda ki roti, a bread made with highly nutritious ragi flour, an amazing “super cereal”, which is an Uttrakhand delicacy (£5). I thought that aloo paratha was a delicious bread that vegans and non-vegans alike would be able to enjoy. I seriously hope that this something that will join the other breads on the a la carte menu. The koda ki roti on the other hand, does have a rather dense texture to it so I feel that if you’re not a fan of wholewheat breads or protein-packed breads generally, then this might not be the accompaniment for you.
Both my mum and I have Pollen Food Allergy so we are unable to eat raw mango. However, my husband wanted to try the Mango sheera (£6) so we have to rely on Mr Ting’s feedback.
My husband’s thoughts are that this dessert needs the fresh fruit eaten in combination with the pudding. The lightness and sweetness of the fresh fruit works well with the pudding, which is a bit sticky and dense. There is also a slight grainy texture to this so it can’t be described as a cake.
The apricot pudding with walnut (£8) is a super sweet pudding. If you have a sweet tooth, love traditional Indian sweets laden with glucose and adore the taste of apricots then order this.
I found this to be too sweet for me given the portion size. If this was half the size then I feel that it would have been enough for me. The sticky texture of the apricot was pleasing but my mum found it too sickly and jam-like for her taste. Regardless, we all agreed that the combination of apricot with walnuts was delicious.
Our consensus was that the best pudding that we tried was the carrot and coconut pudding (£6). This pudding has the texture of cake and moderate sweetness. I loved the presenation of this and thought that the touch of fruit on the dish was lovely to contrast with the pudding and elevate the sweetness levels a little. I was sad to have to have shared this dessert as it was such a delicious pudding. If this dish doesn’t make it to the a la carte menu after the Pushkar’s Vegan Festival is over, then I will be petitioning the Pushkar chef for a cooking class so I can learn to make this at home!
The Pushkar’s Vegan Festival menu offers a good amound of choice for vegans. Not only this, all the dishes are beautifully presented and have a good combination (and range) of flavours. I found that the experience excellent as I was able to have so much food for each course and not feel like a burden to the kitchen. The menu is well considered with different flavours and spice levels too, which is part of the reason why our party of three was able to thorough explore and enjoy our meal.
Given that both my mum and my husband are not plant-based, yet they both want to return to try more of the menu is testament to how good our experience was. In fact, my mum said that this was the best Indian food that she has had for a very long time and she looks forward to returning. Of course, there is no requirement for everyone in the party to order from the same menu during the Vegan Festival and the a la carte menu can also be enjoyed if you’re visiting as part of a mixed group.
Pushkar, 245 Broad St, Birmingham B1 2HQ. Tel: 01216437978
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