I have eaten cauliflower for dinner for three nights in a row this week.
This is something I never thought I’d do by choice following years of being subjected to my mum’s boiled and unseasoned take on the vegetable. However, after coming across The Happy Pear, a vegan cookery account, I began to realise just how versatile the vegetable can be. I began making elaborate cauliflower-based recipes, including tacos and curry tray bakes, for my once carnivorous boyfriend (who converted to vegetarianism during lockdown). After scoffing my latest Brassica-based dish, he announced that “I’ve really fallen for cauliflower” and patted his stomach contentedly.
So, when the Editor of Northern Soul asked me if I wanted to review the new cauliflower cheese menu (which is part of the Sunday with Sides menu) at Manchester’s Ducie Street Warehouse, I jumped at the chance and took my cauliflower convert with me.
Traditionally, when you think of Sunday lunch, you conjure up an image of succulent meats, piles of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puds. You certainly don’t think that the humble cauliflower would have a starring role. However, renowned chef (and Sunday lunch expert) Andrew Green begs to differ and has created Manchester’s first Cauliflower Cheese Menu, featuring an impressive eight variations of the popular side, including classic, vegan, truffle and one that even features bacon ‘frazzles’.
Now, if I have one issue (and it’s certainly minor), it’s that the idea is a little confusing at first. It’s not immediately obvious that the concept is similar to tapas in that you choose a combination of cauliflower dishes and delicious sides. Ideally, this would have been explained on arrival. Instead, we panic ordered the most recognisable option for us herbivores, the vegan roast, along with a couple of sides. As we watched other diners’ food arrive at their tables, we began to experience serious FOMO, concerned that we’d not made the most educated choice (and failed to enquire more about the process).
But when our food arrived, we forgot about everyone else. The vegan roast, which changes regularly, was a tasty and well-seasoned garden pie, accompanied by herby roast potatoes, broccoli, braised leek, buttery mashed swede and lashings of thick vegan gravy. We also plumped for a side of salted caramel parsnips, something about the balance of sweet and savoury reminding us of Christmas. I could have eaten a whole bowl (and, reader, I did).
But the highlight by far was the gooey, indulgent and rather sizeable dish of truffle cauliflower cheese. It arrived piping hot, topped with a lovely layer of golden melted cheese, which made a satisfying crack when we greedily attacked it with our spoons. In the wrong hands this could have been overpowering, but there was just enough truffle in the dish to give it that decadent taste.
As a veggie, Sunday roasts are like playing Russian roulette, and I’ve certainly had my fair share of bland nut roasts and over-spiced meat substitutes. So, to be presented with a menu that offers a vast range of non-meat options is a real treat. While I’ve never liked meat, my boyfriend sometimes misses its the substance and texture, especially during a roast. But neither of us felt like we were missing out.
A bonus is the price point. Not only is this a tantalising menu, it’s also affordable (a vegan roast comes in at £12) and the setting is modern, relaxed and chic. A measure of the meal’s success is that we were already planning our next visit before we’d finished our lunch.
So, if you’re not afraid of cheese dreams, or perhaps you’d welcome them, I can’t recommend this menu highly enough. Wear your stretchy pants.
By Emma Yates-Badley, Deputy Editor