Burgh Hall Brunch
If you're in Dunoon or the surrounding area, you probably know about Dunoon Burgh Hall and you probably know that there's a cafe inside. But did you know that the cafe serves a predominantly vegan and vegetarian menu? No? Me neither! This has to be the best kept secret in Dunoon but I think it's time we get the news out there - what a great selling point!
First, a bit about the hall - this historic B-listed building is a triumph. It was rescued from demolition by the community, bought from Fyne Homes in 2008 and restored sensitively, to bring it back to its former glory, reopening in 2017 as a cultural, creative hub for the town - with a cafe.
Once I'd heard that the cafe is vegan/vegetarian, I knew I had to get along to see what was on offer. My own preference is for an omnivorous diet where I often eat vegetarian or vegan food simply because I enjoy it - I have no agenda here - the sort of veggie/vegan fare I enjoy is what you might call 'accidentally vegan/vegetarian'. Think...the tomato and basil soup I favour for lunch, or the mixed veggie frittata that I love for dinner. And when I say 'accidentally vegan/veggie', what I mean is that it's not a meal constructed to be a substitute for an animal product - a vegan burger or veggie sausage, for example.
So, with that in mind, we headed off to The Burgh Hall for brunch. I've been a few times before but only really for a cuppa, so I hadn't paid much attention to the menu. I'm pleased to say that I found it refreshingly uncomplicated and very accessible - I have a number of allergies that rule out certain cuisines...Indian and Chinese, for example, are pretty much a no-go unfortunately. Luckily the Burgh Hall's menu was really simple and classic which meant I could eat pretty much anything on there - yay!
I would imagine that the simplicity of this tight, short menu, also means that it'd be quite easy to find something for the kids to eat too. I love, for example, that there's a little 'pizza' on there - cute! I also liked the line offering to discuss dietary requirements, indicating that they'll do their best to accommodate. Normally I don't bother anyone with my requirements, I pick what I can from the menu, but it's nice to know an establishment will help where possible. You'll also notice that several of the items are marked gluten free - perhaps a more common issue now - so it's good to see there are options for coeliac customers too.
There were two soups on offer - a mixed vegetable soup and the lentil soup that the hubster went for, and I plumped for a panini. The coffee and cake came later! I have to say, the soup was fantastic. It was a good, thick soup with so much flavour that I want the recipe! I love classic soups and this was delicious. However, I had to make do with a spoonful! My panino was simple and tasty, as any toasted sandwich should be. I was also pleased to see sourdough as a bread option - it's my favourite bread! Once we'd scarfed that lot, the staff tempted us (clearly, it was their fault!) into some cake. There was a great range of cakes on offer (below) and a number of these were gluten free or vegan or both - again, a really impressive feat to have such a range packed into a small cafe. I could honestly have eaten any of them - they all looked spectacular - but I opted for the vegan chocolate cake. When it comes to cakes, I'll be honest - I'm a bit wary of vegan baking. I love baking and firmly believe that it needs eggs and butter - not vegan spread, butter! But I'm also pretty open minded and so vegan choccie cake made its way over to our table, along with two forks so we could share.
The cake looked quite dense in structure but was surprisingly light in texture. There was a flavour in the background that I couldn't put my finger on but the cake was really tasty! It was suitably chocolatey in flavour, the icing bringing a nice moistness and some additional chocolateyness to it. I want the recipe for this too - the baker in me is curious to know how it was made!
When we arrived the cafe was quite quiet but by the time we left, there was only one empty table - and rightly so, what a lovely place to go for a bite to eat. The ambience is one of comfort - the space benefits from skylights which allows in lots of light - and the benches are lined with cushions made in the Cowal Tweed (pictured below, the tweed can be purchased in the shop, I believe'). I would love to see The Burgh Hall make much, much more of the fact that their offerings are vegan and vegetarian - this should be such a selling point as it distinguishes them from the other cafes in the town. It also gives them so much scope to experiment with the menu and still retain its approachability, and I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next with this great wee cafe.
A final note - as an indicator of quality, the sugar is in the form of rough cut sugar cubes!