Love, Food, Energy: Cafe Maitreya

"Cafe Maitreya blows the fusty vegan image clean out of the water, and the staff are so lovely you want to take them home." - Metro Life

As an ex-vegetarian who has enthusiastically embraced (mostly) local and organic meat in the last few years, I can sometimes forget just how delicious vegetarian cookery can be. One restaurant in Bristol, in the South West of England, is making it its mission to remind people that vegetarian chefs can be every bit as innovative, creative and down-right decadent as their carnivorous counterparts. In fact, one could argue, they actually go that extra mile, rather than slapping a slab of dead animal on your plate.

Under the rallying cry of "Love, Food, Energy", Café Maitreya has been serving up delicious local, seasonal food for over three years now. The chef's aim to use organic and even wild ingredients wherever possible. In fact, the restaurant has made such an impression that it was voted the UK's top vegetarian restaurant both in 2004 and 2005 by the Vegetarian Society of Britain, people who certainly know what they are talking about when it comes to eating your greens. This is not, however, a restaurant solely for vegetarians. The chef's create mouthwatering dishes that should keep the most skeptical meat-lover happy. Sample menus on their website feature such delights as wild mushroom brioche with girolle and blewit stroganoff, aromatic vegetable marinade and a sloe jelly, or roast butternut squash, pistachio and gruyere tart tatin in all butter puff pastry with paris pink mushrooms, watercress dressing. Vegans are also well catered for, with dishes such as the tomato, lavender and sweet basil broth, with gnocchi, crisp horseradish harlech cheese kromeski and autumn aromatic vegetables.

For those who do not live near Bristol, and don't want to burn up precious fuel in getting here, Maitreya offers a selection of their favourite recipes online. I may not give up my sausages entirely, but Maitreya certainly reminds you that cutting out the meat does not need to be a sacrifice. [Written by: Sami Grover]

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