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Ramsgate Promenade Market's The Little Vegan Food Place review

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I'm a stone's throw from the giant Wetherspoon in Ramsgate on a dark and chilly Saturday night. A town recently described as "lawless" upon an evening.

Plenty of folk are milling around the various fast food outlets which line the marina at Ramsgate - one of Kent's most picturesque spots by day, a dodgy area to be at night, if we believe the hype.

The Ramsgate Promenade Market
The Ramsgate Promenade Market

But the evening is but young. However good or bad my choice of cuisine I can confidently say that the passing of years means the chances of me still strolling these streets at 3am, when the inebriated spill out on to the streets from the late night bars, are about as likely as me appearing on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Instead of a local hostelry, I dive into what the sign describes as Ramsgate Market - but, just to confuse us, its Facebook site calls Ramsgate Promenade Market. But let's not get bogged down by the branding issues here.

There are a few seats and tables outside and the atmosphere is completely unthreatening. Everyone seems in good spirits and determined to have an enjoyable evening.

Inside is a smattering of food and drink outlets. It's all subtle lighting - albeit a tad gloomy - balloons hang off the wall (which may, for all I know, just be because it's someone's birthday) and there's an eclectic mix of decorations. The ceiling is coated in old posters for live events.

Worryingly, there's a piano in here and an acoustic guitar hanging on the wall. It sends a shiver down the spine in the same way spotting someone boarding your train with a guitar slung over their shoulders does. ("Please," think the entire carriage, "don't play something you appalling attention seeker.")

Inside the Ramsgate Promenade Market
Inside the Ramsgate Promenade Market

Apparently they have live music in here some nights - nothing wrong with leaving it to the professionals. But at 6pm, the place is relatively quiet.

If you've been to the Old Kent Market in Margate, it's a small, one storey version of that...where outlets mingle to provide a genuinely interesting place to pop in and explore if you're feeling peckish or in need of some liquid refreshment.

Granted, the initial impression of the clientele is not ideal. There's a chap with a trilby hat animatedly effing and jeffing in the door way - not in an aggressive manner, it should be said, before they, rather uneasy on their feet, head to a bar at the rear of the market area. I'd argue they've probably had enough already.

But he seems harmless enough.

And halfway down is the place I've come to experience, a little vegan food place called, ahem, The Little Vegan Food Place.

The Little Vegan Food Place is a hidden gem
The Little Vegan Food Place is a hidden gem

The chap behind the counter looks like he can handle any trouble and is covered in tattoos. I feel confident that if the Ramsgate hordes suddenly storm the place hunting out non meat-eaters for a bit of recreational duffing-up he will, if nothing else, let me cower behind his counter.

We slip off our coats and take a seat on one of the benches outside his serving hatch.

This place, judging by the menu alone, has got serious sounding potential.

If you've ever cut meat out of your diet, or at least aim to reduce it, but longed for a kebab, hotdog, burger or even southern fried chicken alternative then this, people, is the place to visit. Because boy is it good. And that's good in a 'you don't need to be vegan to enjoy this stuff' good.

The menu on the table, positioned next to a Jack Daniels bottle holding a lit candle, is all talk of 'messy burgers' 'giant messy dawgs', 'southern fried chickun', 'vebabs' and 'loaded fries'...what's not to like apart from the abuse of the Queen's English?

Loaded fries...glorious
Loaded fries...glorious

Well, the only issue is that the southern fried 'chickun' is off the menu. Which is a crying shame. But does, at least, provide a ruddy good excuse to come back and try that at a later date.

We place our order and settle down... leaving our seat briefly only to pop over to a bar on the other side of the aisle to order in some drinks. It makes for a rather convivial atmosphere with the different traders contributing to the experience.

The 'cheese and bacun' burger (£7) arrives (it's vegan cheese, natch) and certainly looks the part. The quarter-pounder patty holds together well, the 'cheese' melted in a rather picturesque fashion and is festooned with the 'bacun' pieces, all of which sit on tomato, pickles, red onion and a cheese sauce.

The cheese and 'bacun' burger
The cheese and 'bacun' burger

As for the taste? Delightful. The burger is meaty in texture (which is not true or all vegan alternatives) and is complemented well by the accompanying garnish. True, it's not perfect as one of the elements - and it's hard to tell which (although I'd possibly point the guilty finger at the cheese) - doesn't quite work how it should. It's hard to describe but it's not got the smooth taste you'd hope for as it slips down the old throat.

But it doesn't detract from what is, otherwise, a highly tasty experience. Oh, and it comfortably lives up to its 'messy' title - you'll be pleased it comes in a box.

One of my fellow diner digs into his foot-long 'dawg' (£10). And this is a case of the first bite being with your eyes, because not only would any meat-eater comfortably mistake this for being a whole hunk of pig, but the garnish is piled high in a manner which makes it almost perfect Instagram material for you young folks. It looks sensational.

A foot-long 'dawg'... be fair that looks good doesn't it?
A foot-long 'dawg'... be fair that looks good doesn't it?

And, I'm reliably informed, tastes "really meaty" although the toppings are so thick it does make actually eating the thing in its sour dough roll something of a challenge. But if your only complaint is there's too much to stuff in your mouth then there's little to worry about (stop sniggering at the back).

But perhaps the real surprise of the night is the 'vebab' (£10) another fellow diner ordered. Yes, the name is daft, but not only is the presentation (again) first rate, the thing tastes incredible. Called the 'chickun shish' the marinated 'meat' chunks are reassuringly big and chunky, sit on a bed of slaw all within a flatbread surround.

Ignore the fact it's called a vebab...this is vegan fast grub at it's very best
Ignore the fact it's called a vebab...this is vegan fast grub at it's very best

The marinade adds a tang of (light) spice and is described as "the tastiest vegan fast food" she's ever tasted. And you can't argue with that.

And that, in truth, is the sign-off to this whole review. Because it really is the tastiest vegan fast food I've had. It's that good.

You wouldn't want to eat it day in, day out, but if you want to chow down on something that's made with clear attention to detail, a fine blend of flavours and great value for money, it's hard to see how this could be bettered.

The obligatory picture of your reviewer chomping down on his burger
The obligatory picture of your reviewer chomping down on his burger

Eating this on a summer's day watching the waves lap at the sandy beach, I would imagine, would take some beating. But on a gloomy, dark January evening, it still packs a punch.

By the time you've taken into account the loaded fries (£6) - which do not let you down in terms of scale or tastiness - you have not only eaten more than anyone with a slight eye on their waistline could comfortably cope with, but you'll also be, frankly, amazed by the sheer quality of what you're eating.

Says all you need to know
Says all you need to know

Vegan food has come on in such tremendous leaps and bounds over recent years I remain convinced the extra effort poured into many of the offerings out there to enhance flavours and textures, now means you can comfortably dip in and sacrifice a meat dish in your weekly diet and be all the better for it.

And at £13 for a lot of chips and a decent burger, it's not going to bankrupt you.

The Little Vegan Food Place is a triumph and it's food, on both a visual and taste level takes it to a higher plain. It's meat-free grub with all the bells and whistles. And those behind the counter were nothing but friendly and helpful.

It's not fine dining, and the experience is very casual, but it's all the better for it.

This could be the pearl in Ramsgate's culinary fast-food shell - and could, whisper it, even make Desperate Dan put his cow pie on hold for a night for something rather kinder on both the environment and the animal kingdom.

The Little Vegan Food Place in Ramsgate
The Little Vegan Food Place in Ramsgate

Ratings out of five

Food: Everything looked great, tasted fabulous and came in decent sized portions. Nothing to complain about, in fact *****

Drink: The way the place is set up, you can buy a beer or even a reasonably priced bottle of wine across the aisle at another trader so the choice is endless (and the £12 bottle of vino very drinkable) *****

Decor: If you want somewhere a bit different, where you can takeaway or sit inside and have stuff to look out, this could be the place. It is, however, a tad dingy upon an evening. ****

Staff: Friendly and clearly took great care in the presentation of what they were preparing *****

Price: For the quality of food you're getting it was hard to argue with the value and the quantities. Loses a star only because £6 for the loaded chips, however nice they are, is perhaps a little steep ****

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