Saturday 15 April was the Viva! Vegan Festival in Birmingham this weeked. Note the crucial ! in their brand, it’s because being vegan is fun! and exciting! If it wasn’t for that ! everyone would think vegans are weird sanctimonious extremists out to spoil their enjoyment of bacon sandwiches.
Well, we are but that’s not the point. Vegans can have fun too! Which you would know if you had been bothered to go to the vegan festival this weekend. But you didn’t because you are a bad and lazy person, but I, as a righteous, smug vegan DID go. Just so I could tell you what it was like. And have cake.
There was cake
Take a vegan out for dinner and I guarantee they will start wanging on about dessert. Is there dessert, they’ll ask? Because, for some reason, all desserts are decreed by farmers in collusion with the government to have some form of dairy in them. Some places still manage to use weird ingredients, like fruit and vegetables, to make desserts. Much weirder than say, a substance extracted from the bones and skin of cows and pigs to make gelatine to thicken up a chocolate mousse. Yeah, that’s definitely normal, unlike putting avocadoes in a dessert, which is just freaky.
Basically, vegans love dessert, like cakes, ice cream and brownies. So the Viva! Vegan Festival was about as close to vegan heaven as you can get. There were cakes and desserts all over the place. People were wandering about with ice cream cones, but by that point I’d had so much to eat I knew I had to avoid that particular stall because I am physically capable of refusing ice cream.
There were queues
Along with the desserts there were plenty of other stalls, including loads and loads of food. The event was spread across three venues; the Burlington Hotel on New street, The Studio on Cannon street and the Gunmaker’s Arms on Bath street.
We turned up at about 11:15am; it started at 10am but obviously we are much too cool to get there that early. Just like everyone else, it turned out, as the place was really busy. Once we’d figured out how to get to the bit of the Burlington hotel where the festival was being held, we had to join a queue which, despite the absence of any kind of roping or guidance system, was pretty neat and orderly. No queue jumping was going on, even by accident. The EU would ban all queues like this one because it had a bend in it, and you know what the EU are like about bendy things. Good job we don’t have to worry about that anymore! Right??!?
The main room was packed with stalls, and it was difficult to navigate without someone’s hair, back pack (soz people behind or near me) or elbow in your face. I guess the fact it was busy is a good thing, but I always find it difficult to buy things when the tide of people dragging you along makes it impossible to stand still for longer than 30 seconds. I mean, it’s go with the flow or you’re stuck next to the dudes selling totally vegan, paleo, gluten free protein power for the next 10 minutes and I can guarantee you we have nothing to talk about.
We did manage to moor up long enough to buy a pie from Mr Nice Pie and a couple of brownies. The nice pie guy had a range of pies for £3.50, including a Moroccan style one, a drunken mushroom (mushroom and red wine gravy, sounds delicious) one and a thai coconut curry one.
However, he also had a basket full of wonky pies for just £2, which were apparently slightly misshapen, although I couldn’t tell the difference. He only had the Moroccan one left, which I wouldn’t go for usually but at £2 cheapskates can’t be choosers. The pastry was perfect and the insides were delicious and very Moroccan tasting, I imagine.
I didn’t manage to catch the name of the brownie stall as a rip tide of small children almost washed me away. We went for the Oreo brownie and the peanut butter brownie and to be honest they were a bit meh. The oreo version seemed to be a normal brownie with an oreo pressed into the top of it, same with the peanut butter brownie; it had some peanut butter drizzled over the top. The flavour was rich and chocolatey but the texture was dense and a bit dry. I’ve had much better vegan brownies from 3 Threes (read my review of 3 Threes here) so it’s not that hard to get them right.
There were burritos
After we’d had our healthy pie and brownie lunch – sitting by the Town Hall, because despite the signs advertising places to sit and eat at the Burlington Hotel, we couldn’t find anywhere – we moved on to the second venue, the Studio, on Cannon street.
The sign posting here was better.
It also had the majority of the food stalls, so of course we were obliged to eat more. We decided to share an achiote ‘chick-n’ burrito from Mex it Up between us. We went for hot sauce as well because we are hardcore.
The burrito was really tasty, although less rice and more chick-n and hot sauce would have been better, but maybe I’m just being greedy. Mex it Up also sell their wraps and sandwiches readymade at the Purely Vegan store in Kings Heath, so you can try them out for yourself next time you’re in the ‘Heath. Big up the vegan ‘Heath massive! I’m sure there is one, that’s the sort of thing they like in Kings Heath.
There was beer
After we had stuffed ourselves, we decided on a nice walk in the direction of beer. The Gunmaker’s Arms is home to the Two Towers brewery, which makes a number of vegan brews and this weekend was home to Vegan beer festival, which was totally free to get into.
Typically, we went for the strongest and prettiest beers. My BVF (best vegan forever) went for the Defeating Synths, because it was 7.2%. I went for the Sympathy for the Devil Pale Ale because it was a pale ale and the can looked cool. I can confirm they were beer and we enjoyed them. The Gunmaker’s Arms is a really friendly place, with a great range of beer generally, including vegan options, so it’s worth making the detour from the very centre of town to check this place out.
If you missed the festival this weekend, there are more coming up either in Birmingham or a short train journey away – check out my round-up of the best (er, closest) festivals coming up.
If you didn’t miss it, tell me what amazing cake you had.