REVIEW: Sky Apple Cafe, Heaton Road, Newcastle

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Devoted vegans don’t have a restaurant to call their own in Sunderland.

So when I dine out with Echo pal, and vegan, Ross Robertson, we take a hike to Tyneside.

The Sky Apple Cafe in Newcastle is a brightly-coloured little jewel for those who spurn anything animal-based.

There are just 12 tables within its sky blue interior, which opened in 2002.

Veggie food shouldn’t be an apology for missing out meat and our food was confident and robust.

I started with a comforting warm lentil and honey roast feta salad.

A generous plate of greens was topped with a chunk of outstanding cheese – no rubbery substitute here.

The maple dressing and honey roasted cheese gave an exquisite sweet taste to the dish, beefed up – not literally – with satisfying puy lentils.

Ross chose steamed Chinese dumplings, which proved vegans can have fun too, packed with home-smoked tofu, yellow bean sauce and spring onions.

He thought a shredded salad and the usual accompaniments of ginger, garlic, tamari and sesame oil were the perfect, light, strongly-flavoured foil to these stodgy delicacies.

My main course was equally impressive – a root vegetable casserole of celeriac, swede, potatoes, sage, parsnips, topped with sinful dollop of horseradish cream.

Slightly tough veggie suet dumplings were the only let down, but an accompanying spring cabbage roll filled with Lancashire cheese and herb stuffing was a perfect addition.

It being a cold night, Ross went for more stodge for his main course in the form of winter vegetable pie, which proved to be as mighty as expected.

The ubiquitous butternut squash featured heavily in the filling, and he mused that while vegetarian dishes perhaps need to diversify a little from this staple, it was pleasing nonetheless.

A slightly lighter dessert followed in the form of an apricot and pistachio bakava. Delicious, he said, but I couldn’t get past the weirdly chewy dairy-free ice-cream. With drinks, the bill came to about £40.

Jane O’Neill