Chickpea Buddha bowls. Black-bean burgers with avocado and vegan mayonnaise (the kids call it veganaise). Semolina-encrusted halloumi. Meatless is a far cry from the gastronomic offerings of Smithdown Road of recent years.
Ten years ago a vegetarian and vegan cafe on Smithdown Road would have been unthinkable. For years Liverpool got by on The Egg Cafe, pretty much the sole purveyor of meat-free food in the city. But the explosion of vegetarianism – not to mention more people willing to forego flesh – has changed the game. And so it is that Smithdown Road – not so long ago the realm of sad pubs and takeaways (Purple Carrot excepted) – saw the arrival of Meatless.
Straight away it feels part of the scenery. An attractive, tasteful makeover of the former Frangipani tea room turns the eccentric diagonal shape that typifies units on this street into a cosy space. As befits a cafe that eschews meat and single-use plastic, there’s a hefty reclaimed vibe at Meatless.
Two long church pews, rescued from a church in Widnes, are a striking feature, while bare brick, buffed-up scaffolding planks and plenty of greenery ensure Meatless looks contemporary without laying it on thick. Clove-studded oranges are the… well, clove-stuffed oranges on the cake.
The menu is smartly simple. Breakfast is available in vegetarian and vegan flavours for £8.50, whole avocado with feta and poached eggs on sourdough is £7. Granola bowls and homemade beans on toast (which sound well worth investigating) are also available.
Lunch and evening meals at Meatless are junk-food flavoured, with lots of burgers and chips. The former come in the form of soya patties or spicy black beans. There’s also semolina-crusted halloumi, which is crispy, chewy and chunky. It’s available in the vegan brioche, or in Buddha bowls or fried with pomegranate molasses. We’ve tried it and expect it will be a best-seller. All burgers comes with potato fries and some greenery.
There’s also a chickpea Buddha bowl with sweet potato falafel, tabouleh, hummus, pickled red cabbage, bang bang cauliflower, crispy chickpeas, tahini and pomegranate. The bowls are the most expensive items on the menu at £9.50, but the halloumi fries are a wallet-friendly £5.50. Sweet potato wedges and Greek Fries, with feta and salad, round out the Meatless menu.
There are various desserts on offer, all from Liverpool’s own Little Eden gluten-free and vegan cake shop. Think peanut-butter brownies and coffee-and-walnut cake. There’s a wide range of hot drinks available, with decaf and a range of plant-based milks (and the cow-based alternative) available.
Meat-eaters will barely notice the lack of flesh, while prices are reasonable and the interior and service seem well-judged for the area and likely clientele.
There’s a vegan Biscoff and Oreo hot chocolate too, to warm hands and cockles. There’s no booze but you can take your own during evening opening hours, when Meatless is open til 9pm. Deliveries from Meatless are available though Just Eat.
Meatless is simple, straightforward – and very good. Time was a vegetarian restaurant was a bit of a hair shirt, but this new addition is cannily conceived and well executed. Meat-eaters will barely notice the lack of flesh, while prices are reasonable and the interior and service seem well-judged for the area and likely clientele.
If you live on Smithdown Road it’s surely one of the more welcome signs that the area continues its regeneration (see also Belzan, Little Furnace and Bean There). If you don’t, well, you might just have to take a trip to Meatless and Smithdown Road to find out for yourself.
• Meatless is open 10am-6pm Sunday to Thursday; 10am-9pm Friday and Saturday.
Meatless312 Smithdown Road,