The UK's first fully vegan 'fish' and chip shop is a delight to behold, writes Charley Rogers
Eating out as a vegan can often be a bit of a disappointing experience. I can’t count the number of times I have been presented with a flavourless risotto, or a panicked waiter explaining, “we have salad…”, and fast food is pretty much a no-go.
Of course, as the years go by the offerings available are becoming more and more frequent, and of much better quality, but it is not until this year that a momentous leap has been made in the arena of vegan fast food: a completely vegan, organic ‘fish’ and chip shop.
Located in Bristol’s Fishponds, Matter Fast Foods has become an overnight sensation; not just for the local vegan community, but for the wider population of Bristol. The unassuming former Chinese takeaway on Fishponds Road is now home to John Aaron’s astonishingly popular vegan takeaway, and has seen a glowing welcome from the city.
At Matter, John is offering up a full menu of homemade, organic vegan junk food, including a gorgeous nori-wrapped tofish, and a divine battered sosmix sausage, both of which went down a storm not only with my vegan self, but also with the meat-eater I dragged along to try it out. The batter is light and not too greasy, and really packs a satisfying punch for those craving some junk food.
Speaking to John about the reception of Matter, he was completely bowled over by the reaction of Bristol locals, commenting that “one day, I was outside chatting to everyone in the queue, and every single one of them were meat-eaters, just wanting to try our stuff out and loving it.” John cites a ‘necessity’ for good vegan takeaway as his reasoning for opening Matter, saying that “there are plenty of places where you can eat non-vegan food, obviously with some vegan options, which are much appreciated, but as time went on I thought it would be nice to have an exclusively vegan place – not necessarily exclusively for vegans — but just an exclusively vegan restaurant, so that there’s no mix-up, no cross-contamination, no problem.”
And an exclusively vegan place it is. Everything is made on the premises from carefully sourced organic produce, even down to the oil that is used to fry the food. As well as vegan twists on classics, such as battered tofish, vegan sausages, and of course chips, Matter also make their own falafel and hummus, alongside a range of sides from tempura vegetables to kimchi and sauerkraut. All offerings are also very affordable, with a decent portion of organic chips only setting you back £1.90. In the grand tradition of British takeaways, Matter also serve up a selection of Chinese-inspired dishes, including sweet and sour tofu, stir-fry, and mushroom curry, all with a side of organic brown rice. Even the largest of these portions are available for a very reasonable £6.50. The restaurant only accepts cash at the moment, so be sure to stock up before you go – you’ll want everything.
Alongside the extensive savoury offerings, John and his team also make their own raw vegan desserts, including brownies, cheesecake, and even their own raw chocolate bars. A big lump of raw chocolate will only cost you around £1.50, and is the closest thing you can get to milk chocolate without ingesting numerous questionable ingredients. The chocolate is even quite creamy, and the bar tastes not unlike Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, if you’ve ever had it.
All in all, Matter Fast Foods is a huge triumph not just for Bristol, but for the UK. John and his team are ever so friendly, and happy to chat about all things vegan, and swap foodie tips. And on a wider scale, they are an integral part of the growing community of conscious food and lifestyle throughout our lovely city. Definitely worth a visit, vegan or not.
Matter Fast Foods
660 Fishponds Road