Review: Zara’s Treats takeover, The Birds

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Flavourful, mouth-pleasing, healthy comfort food

the birds
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Sometimes the best nights out are completely unexpected. Take Tuesday, I wasn’t even supposed to be in east London, but a friend cancelled on me last minute, and it being far too nice an evening to stay in, I strongly suggested to the boyfriend that he might like to go out for dinner in Leytonstone instead. He agreed.

Our first-choice restaurant was closed, so we went to The Birds to regroup and make a new plan, picking up the menu out of curiosity on the way in. Turns out it was a Zara’s Treats kitchen takeover and on closer inspection there were multiple tasty-sounding vegan options on the menu of Caribbean fusion food. Happy days.

We ordered nearly every vegan dish on the menu – spinach fritters, sweet potato fritters, Ital roti and jerk tempeh. The fritters being sides meant I’d barely had time to arrange them into a pleasing set up and take a photograph for Instagram when the mains arrived (I know, I hate me too).

The perfectly imperfect (but no less photogenic for it) fritters arrived on a bed of spinach, surrounded by artful swipes of dipping sauce. Lightly crispy exteriors gave way to melt-in-the-mouth insides. They were gone in a couple of minutes.

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Ital roti came in two bowls, with a folded homemade roti on the side. The first and biggest bowl was arranged almost yin and yang style: on the one side was stewed pumpkin, and on the other, sautéed spinach. The second bowl was filled to the brim with creamy potato and chickpea chana.

Jerk tempeh consisted of a generous bowl of black rice with an almost sticky texture, mixed with chunks of spicy, smoky jerk-flavoured tempeh, topped with cucumber and sliced, roasted tomatoes, alongside a generous bowl of jerk barbecue sauce.

It was flavourful, mouth-pleasing, veg-packed, healthy comfort food with a kick that brought sunny Caribbean vibes to E11 and, with mains coming in at £9 each and sides just £3, it was brilliant value for money too.

On the recommendation of one of the bar staff I had a glass (ok, two) of vinho verde. The peachy flavour and slight spritz added up to a win for me and I plan to drink this all summer long.

There were meat and fish options on the menu too which seemed to be going down well elsewhere in the pub. Sadly we were too full to try the vegan blueberry cheesecake dessert. Maybe next time.

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Zara’s Treats are having a Bank Holiday bbq on 28 May at The Birds and look out for Zara’s Treats kitchen takeovers on the second Tuesday of the month. The Birds, 692 High Road Leytonstone E11 3AA. @zarastreats @TheBirdsE11

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