Usually when Gillian McKeith raves about something it makes me want to run a mile. That’s not to say that spirulina can’t taste good, but when dished up with a side of guilt, it’s not an alluring idea. Thankfully in this case I didn’t listen to the urge to flee, and when looking for somewhere to dine in Cambridge on a recent trip, decided to swing by the vegetarian Rainbow Café.
In a basement down a side alley, and marked only by a colourful sign on Kings Parade, the city’s only vegetarian café could easily be missed by the hordes of tourists bustling for dining options. Those who do are missing out. There’s far more on offer here than just vegetarian lasagne. Also specialising in vegan and gluten free food, the menu is packed with delicious, hearty and varied dishes, with a rotation of specials also on offer.
We go for the Vegan Artichoke Parcel, where flaky filo pastry parcels envelope artichoke heart, red pepper, black olives, sun dried tomato, and vegan cheese, and the ever popular Tagine L’Algerienne, where roasted sweet potatoes, aubergines and whole roasted carrot chunks, are slow cooked in a rich North African tomato casserole. All meals are served with salad, brown rice, cous cous or pasta, covering all food groups and appetites. The idea is that not only are diners treated to a trip of the tastes, but also the world, and are introduced to different national cuisines, reflective of the vast travels of owner Sharon Meijland and her staff. There’s Jamaican Roti Cups, Latvian Potato Bake, Indonesian Gado Gado as well as Italian Pasta Marinara. Portions are vast, and even though we struggle, the taste means it is impossible to give up. And besides, we’re staying at nearby St Catherine’s, the college dating from the 16th century, and only a stumble away.
No one said that treats have to be unhealthy, and even the wines, beers and ciders are organic and vegan. The scrumptious ‘Miracle Cake’ tastes like the very best rich chocolate cake, but is actually made of super nutritious chestnuts, dates and walnuts, and Nigel Slater apparently described their carrot cake served with sour cream as the ‘best I’ve ever tasted.’
In addition to being wholly vegetarian, additives, colourings or flavourings are avoided, which means that nearly every dietary requirement can be catered for. But what is crucial is that so can every taste. The room, with its open kitchen, softly lit nooks and crannies, small and large tables is filled with all different types of people. Vegans sit alongside normal carnivores, glowing yogis with big burly men, couple and families, all just here for tasty food.
Ethical, healthy, and delicious dining at its best.