January. The excesses of the Christmas season are now memories and thoughts turn to detoxing and embracing healthier life choices. Dry January and the Dryathlon are two charity initiatives where people give up alcohol for the month of January. Veganuary is a campaign to encourage people to become vegan in January while also providing advice and information to help those who wish to transition to a vegan lifestyle. To mark Veganuary, I decided to write about a delightful and independent vegan wholefood shop in Portsmouth which also happens to have a takeaway counter and juice bar, Wild Thyme Wholefoods.
Firstly, a little about the shop. Wild Thyme is a worker co-operative that sells vegan foodstuffs, green and cruelty free household products and toiletries, organic vegetables and locally produced, organic bread. They also stock gluten free, local and fair trade products and have a very handy self service herb and spice section. I love Infinity Foods in Brighton, another worker co-operative which is vegetarian rather than vegan. Affiliated to Infinity Foods is Infinity Foods Kitchen, an organic vegetarian cafê on Gardner Street that is a few shops down the road from the main shop. I am not vegan (I have been described as a pescatarian who eats jelly babies…) but I eat plenty of vegetarian and vegan food. One of the best meals I have eaten ever was a vegan meal at the Po Lin Monastery near the Tian Tan Buddha on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island. A tureen of mock sharks fin soup was included and I must have had at least three bowlfuls.
I have always thought that there was a gap in the Portsmouth market for shops like Infinity Foods and Infinity Foods Kitchen and then along came Wild Thyme in May 2015. Wild Thyme has the lovely addition of an in-store takeaway counter and juice bar which is open daily.
On the menu, you will usually find one hot main meal, one soup, one wrap, one raw salad and a selection of sweet treats such as macaroons and raw cheesecakes. Everything is home made, freshly prepared and cooked on the day. The menu changes daily and is pretty eclectic – curries, scrambled tofu ‘eggs’, houmous wraps , raw pizza, elderflower fritters (yes!) and ghoulash have all appeared at some time and there will usually be gluten free options. Coming up with a different set of dishes everyday is surely no mean feat. You can also order a made to order juice, tea and coffee and there is a small eat in area by the window, perfect for people watching. You will find the week’s menu posted on the company Facebook page on a Monday morning. I’ve included a few things I have tried from cheesecake to Reuben wrap below 🙂
I usually pop in for cheesecake. I have written previously about vegan cheesecakes in a post about another lovely Southsea establishment, Southsea Coffee Company. For anyone who is not in the know, the cheese element of a vegan cheesecake is usually made from cashew nuts or vegan cream cheese. There are some recipes which use silken tofu or avocado. I have eaten only the cashew nut version.
Wild Thyme’s cheesecakes are usually raw and / or unbaked and are made with cashew nuts. I have tried quite a few flavours including lime and wheatgrass, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry, chocolate mint and the Summer cheesecake (when it was summer) of lemon, goji berry, coconut and mango. I have enjoyed all of these – they are right level of sweetness, have the richness of a cheesecake and feel vaguely healthy! However, they do not taste like cheesecake in the same way that a vegetarian burger will not be like a beef burger. Do not let this put you off – I love traditional cheesecakes but there is definitely a place for the vegan version too.
From the hot savoury menu, I have tried tofu quiche, soup (leek and potato and African peanut) and a wonderful ‘stew’ of creamy mushrooms, kale, chickpeas and gnocchi. The leek and potato soup was warming, creamy and very well seasoned – perfect for a cold January day. African peanut soup was a new soup for me and one that I will order again or even try to make at home! I didn’t ask what was in the soup but I’m guessing there was a root vegetable base as the consistency was similar to carrot and coriander soup. There was a hint of nuttiness and a nice kick of chilli too! This did not taste like a spicy satay soup – it was more subtle than that. The soups were served with a couple of pieces of a very fine sourdough baguette.
The quiche was less satisfying – as much as I love tofu, for me, it cannot replace eggs and cream in a quiche filling. However, this is my personal preference as a non vegan 🙂 The creamy mushrooms, kale, courgette and chickpeas with gnocchi was another matter – this was delicious! I could detect coconut milk as the ‘cream’ element and the whole dish was perfectly seasoned – I could happily eat it again and again.
I have tried the Reuben wrap – this had a filling of tempeh bacon, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. I understand that non meat versions of meat will puzzle meat eaters (I do understand this and I can’t bring myself to try a vegan fish finger). However, I am a keen consumer of meat free ‘meat’ such as vegetarian hot dogs and quorn. There are obviously better vegan and vegetarian meal options as these are processed foods but they are good protein sources, good for variety and I like eating them! Anyway, I enjoyed Wild Thyme’s Reuben wrap very much – the Russian dressing was deliciously tangy and brought everything together. I could have eaten two wraps! I’ve also eaten and enjoyed the satay tofu and sweet chilli cabbage wrap. I do intend to try some more dishes, in particular the pulled jackfruit wrap. I hope it appears on the menu again. Savoury dishes are usually £3 – £5 (slightly more to eat in).
I am yet to try a juice from the juice bar but I can say that they are made to order and look pretty good!
Wild Thyme is a fantastic addition to Portsmouth and not just for vegans. The shop is great for stocking up on natural, ethical and organic products. If you are a die hard carnivore, then sadly the takeaway food may not be to your taste. However, if you are willing to give vegan food a try for Veganuary (or any other time), then you won’t find much better in Portsmouth – and that is coming from a dairy loving pescatarian who eats jelly babies 😉
Update 11th August 2016: This post has been updated to include some other dishes I have eaten.
Wild Thyme Wholefoods Takeaway & Juice Bar
102, Palmerston Road
Hampshire. PO5 3PT
Tel: +44 (0)2392 073768
Takeaway counter opening hours: Monday – Saturday 10.30 – 17.30
Sunday 10.00 – 1700
Typical cost per person for takeaway: Up to £4 for a slice of cheesecake; Up to £9 for a savoury meal and a juice