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The carnivore is over

AA Grill reviews The Egg cafe and almost manages to get through it without resorting to a single bad eggy pun. Almost

Published on January 14th 2010.

The carnivore is over

WHAT is it about vegetarians? Your average veggie wouldn't hurt a fly – he certainly wouldn't eat one – yet everywhere is subject to hatred, ridicule and contempt.

Even as I write, a vegetarian Wall Street financier is suing his former boss for an alleged campaign of vilification that included introducing him at a restaurant as “a vegetarian homo”, the implication being that vegetarianism is a certain indicator of homosexuality.

This is not a modern trend. The great Irish playwright and committed chop dodger George Bernard Shaw was minding his own business tucking into a plate of dressed green vegetables one night. A fellow diner, who just happened to be Peter Pan author JM Barrie, took one look at what was on Shaw's plate and observed, “have you eaten that, or are you going to?”

In his famous Beachcomber column for the Daily Express, JB Morton defined the poor vegetarian in damning terms. They have, he wrote, “wicked, shifty eyes, and laugh in a cold and calculating manner. They pinch little children, steal stamps, favour beards... “ Funnily enough, the Express now applies the same description to Muslims.

There were no beards in evidence at The Egg the day we climbed the long flights of stairs: a couple of ponytails, some plaits among the plates, one or two copies of the Guardian. If there was one common trait among our fellow patrons it was the demeanour of one who is not planning to render their fellow man unconscious and slit their throats, a fate meat-eaters mete out to cows and road rage victims.

Even vegetarian graffiti is less aggressive: lavatory wall ravings in Liverpool generally feature sex, violence and death or, in the case of Evertonian contributors, all three. At Egg, the most abusive specimen urged its readers to “boycott Israeli goods!!” (their exclaimation marks, not mine!!).

But vegetarians get angry too. Even in this haven, high above the city streets (there isn't much to see out the windows, mind), where you could while away most of a day on the thinnest of budgets. Like the chap at the next table, pouring his tea, poring over his newspaper, a study in serenity, until the Football Shirt walked in.

“Remember me?” it said. “Mind if I join you?” “No”, said our man, but everything else about him said “yes”.

What the Football Shirt didn't mention was that he had arranged to meet his mates there. All of them. And one by one, they all turned up, and one by one the spare chairs on our man's table were seized. But our man didn't get nasty about it; instead, he acknowledged each arrival with a rapidly cooling civility, and his elbows expanded into what little of the table had not fallen to this army of occupation. We've all been there.

Normally speaking, The Egg is a big, colourful, warm, cheery, friendly sort of hangout. There's a lot of green, as you might expect; the floorboards, plants in pots, plants painted on to the purple beams. Brightly painted wooden chairs stand at ease around refectory style tables. The white walls feature exhibitions by local artists. I say white; here and there the paint is peeling, or spattered with another colour – but somehow it only accentuates the charm of the place.

But ithe biggest appeal of The Egg is its startlingly good value, like the £9.75 for starter, main course and pudding. Half vegan, half vegetarian, this is never less than good solid fare, occasionally outstanding, and loads of it.

A big bowl of smooth, creamy cauliflower and coconut soup (£2.50), with sweet root vegetables whizzed in, came with garlic crusts and was enough for two. They should put it in cartons, sell it over the counter, and watch the money roll in. Heaps of tandoori mushrooms (£4.95) came in a spicy, purpley, rather salty broth, with raita and sweet, warm pittas and more beans.

A workaday chilli beanburger (£4.95) was a coalition of whole and pulsed pulses, enlivened by a fresh and well balanced tomato and onion relish; ratatouille (£5.95) a dark, rich, and deeply flavoursome stew.

Meat-loving cynics might suggest I only enjoyed this the most because it had the name of an animal in the title, but they would be wrong.

Mains all came with the same twirly, multicoloured, but cold, pasta, a well seasoned bean and white (brown might have been better), rice salad, and lettuce and tomato that really should have been better. Unlike espresso (£1.20) that found the spot along with home-baked chocolate crunch (£1.75) which was veined and crowned with the richest of cocoa solids. Tip: Avoid the filter coffee.

But this is fantastic value food, for any time of day or night. Try that stunning soup with cheese on toast and salad for lunch, all at £2.70, or settle in for the night with your own wine.

Or a few cans of Castlemaine Four Eggs.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes.

Following on from this, the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Don't be daft.

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20 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DigMarch 13th 2009.

I was hoping somebody would say 'What about as or the as?'. I was going to say 'yes an ass too'. Never mind.

AnonymousMarch 13th 2009.

I agree with AA with the white rice, I would much rather see wholemeal rice and pasta, and warmed if possible! I have to say though Egg was much better a few years ago, now with the new owner standards do seem to be slipping, good, but could do a lot better.

WappingMarch 13th 2009.

The problem with vegetarians is they're neither fish nor fowl. They'll happily use eggs and dairy products but not meat, I don't get that - you're either against the exploitation of animals or not. And always the emphasis seems to be on the ethos not the cuisine. Most vegetarian restaurants (including Egg) could do with a proper chef at least nearby to lend a hand. Nice cuppa though (if you don't mind cow's milk).

AnonymousMarch 13th 2009.

Thou dost protest too much

Hungry of MayfairMarch 13th 2009.

I suppose you think it's funny to put up pictures of bile and stool samples?There are other things on the menu you could have chosen.

DigMarch 13th 2009.

Is think he means rat in ratatouille Anonymous. Although the Lesser spotted beanburger catcher does live at Martin Mere in the Summer catching Beanburger fish.

AnonymousMarch 13th 2009.

What animal is a beanburger?

Dr. QuestMarch 13th 2009.

A human beanburger?

Sunny side upMarch 13th 2009.

Very amusing Grill I would go to The Egg cafe myself, but I heard that only yokels go there.

professor chucklebuttyMarch 13th 2009.

There's no point in giving stick to vegetarians, they'll only eat it and try and convince us it's delicious. Is that Stephen Twigg vegetarian? Don't give him a stick, somebody on Bookface told me he used to beat Michael Tortillo with one at public school.

Graham BandageMarch 13th 2009.

Dunno, Grill started it. Up there, just above the mushrooms. I trust, sir, that you are one of those gentlemen who wear football shirts in public and yet are not members of the Liverpool/Everton first team. That being the case, may I commiserate with you for not achieving your childhood ambition? You might have had more luck with being a train driver, or secret agent. But, then, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I've got a degree in Wisdom After The Event. I'd have been better off doing the Wisdom Before The Event course. Ah, the irony!

As-boMarch 13th 2009.

Shouldn't that say I've come "as" an imbecile? or is there something you want to share?

Grill's PublisherMarch 13th 2009.

Grill, give vegetarian weirdos more stick next time, they deserve regular beatings with pepperami sticks. Funny piece, my money is being spent well.

live cleanlyMarch 13th 2009.

Whats wrong with eating good food instead of slurping down artery-clogging fat?This restaurant should offer coach parties, educational trips and discounts for schools eager to educate obese burger eaters.The snide comments above only prove how brain washed we are by the brutal "food" industry instead of valuing purity and quality.

DigMarch 13th 2009.

I think it's the way the animal is treated that determines what a vegetarian eats. No animals get slaughtered to produce an egg. They mustn't be bothered about the thought of eating chicken foetus.

Graham BandageMarch 13th 2009.

Ah, the football shirt. What is it that makes grown men think that they are allowed wear them? If I went to the pub dressed as Buzz Lightyear I would be, at best, shunned. Go dressed as Jamie Carragher, however... Fancy dress for imbeciles, that's what I say.

DigMarch 13th 2009.

I watched an episode of Star Trek once where Ryker made love to a Vegetarian from the planet Vegetaria. I think it was the sequel to the episode when they went to Planet Lesbos. Unfortunately I missed that one.

Mike HomfrayMarch 13th 2009.

I do sympathise with anyone who has an eating disorder. Vegetarianism must be one of the hardest to bear.

DigMarch 13th 2009.

I'm in fancy dress. I've come an imbecile. I did read the article, honest.

DigMarch 13th 2009.

What does wearing a football shirt at a pub have to do with a vegetarian cafe? Rants by imbeciles, that's what I say.

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