Review: Grumpy Panda vegan diner, Regent Terrace, Gateshead
Being vegan often sees you being lumped in with the clean-eating brigade.
It’s probably fair to say that members of the veggie fraternity tend towards a healthy diet.
But not everyone who wants to avoid meat and dairy wants to live solely on courgetti spaghetti, cashew nuts and kale crisps.
Sometimes they just want something fried, iced or smothered in faux cream.
This is where Grumpy Panda steps in. After wowing vegan festival punters with its range of veganized traditional comfort food, the pandanistas opened a sit-in diner earlier this year which has proved a runaway success.
Stepping through the door from its Victorian facade, you’re greeted with an the interior decked out with Americana and a menu full of dishes from across the pond.
There are reuben sandwiches, slaws, mac n cheez and sloppy joes, together with mighty milkshakes, donuts, waffles and other stodgy delights.
But this isn’t pure processed junk food: the meat and cheese replacements are all made in-house, and even the mud pie milkshake I ordered was made using a base of fresh banana (albeit whizzed with chocolate and topped with faux cream and crumbled Oreos).
I was a little confused by the menu system – part on laminated sheets, part chalked on the wall.
That said, for the veteran vegan, having more than one choice at an eatery can lead to information overload.
I ordered a cheezstake grilled sandwich, which comes with “slaw” and tortilla chips – and the option of upgrading to house fries for £1.
In for a penny, in for a pound, I ordered San Fran garlic fries, with those, the sandwich and the hefty mud pie milkshake coming to about £11.
The savouries all came together cheap-and-cheerful-style in a basket, and proved filling and flavoursome and, in the case of the fries, packing a punch.
To my surprise, I didn’t feel weighed down after polishing that lot off – so, despite being full, I decided to try again with a donut and a coffee.
Desserts seem a little hit-and-miss at Grumpy Panda, with no set dessert menu (not that I could find, anyway) and dependent on what lies beneath the domed dishes on the counter.
The popular and unusual delicacies go fast, and some days are more adventurous than others – with Biscoff and Oreo donuts, pistachio brownies and Snickers cheesecake being among the delights I missed out on.
I was a little disappointed to have to settle for a chocolate donut, and find these can often be disappointing – but not here. Fudgey, fluffy and fresh-tasting, it was a far cry from the flavourless stodge I was fearing.
Feeling a tad full after eating what was a fairly modest amount of food compared to some of Grumpy Panda’s fare, I staggered off promising myself a) to burn off the calories consumed with some exercise later and b) to return and try even more food the next time.