No gluten, no wheat, no dairy... Any fun?
WHEN did Bold Street become so…healthy?
Whereas once, the most nutritious thing you’d find being dished out there was the handful of lettuce dumped on your post-Saturday-night-out kebab, it’s now filled with outlets proffering vegan brunches, juice cleanses and £7 loaves of organic sourdough.
And now, hot on the heels of this bandwagon comes Vincent Kitchen which offers gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free “bowl food”.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what “bowl food” is, it’s literally “food which comes in a bowl” (As opposed to a plate, slate or trough.)
Popularised by clean eating gurus such as Deliciously Ella “bowl food” tends to be ridiculously healthy, ridiculously photogenic and ridiculously hip. Who knew the receptacle you ate your tea out of could be so on trend?
Of course, it was only a matter of time before some savvy scouse entrepreneur decided to monetise this and, in our case, it’s Southport’s Vincent Group.
On first appearance, Vincent Asian Kitchen looks more like a remarkably fancy branch of Subway than a Japanese izakaya. You step up to the counter and either choose your preferred bowl from a selection or build your own comprising of the various different ingredients on offer. Just pick a base, e.g. noodles or brown rice, select your protein, add a few vegetables – this is a healthy eating establishment after all – pour a sauce on top, include a sprinkle of something tasty and away you go.
In keeping with the whole healthy and happy vibe, cutlery, napkins and even the bowls are recyclable, there are unlimited refills on soft drinks, service is efficient and friendly – no mean feat when you’ve got queues of hungry people all asking you to help them decide what they should have for dinner - and they’ve even got plug sockets by every table, making it the perfect place for hungry freelancers looking to spend the afternoon in a warm working space while lingering over a bowl of noodles (and before you say anything, I definitely count myself among those ranks.)
If you feel like rounding things out a bit, they also offer a selection of salads, soups and puddings (the day we visited, there was a rather interesting looking chocolate chia seed concoction on offer.) They even provide a selection of gluten free wines and beers. We pick up the selections from Brewdog and Peroni and, while they’re nothing to rave about, it’s genuinely refreshing to see a restaurant putting its money where its mouth is.
As for the food? Well, actually, it’s not bad at all. We choose one of the Protein Bowls (£6), a combination of sesame oil-coated noodles, Thai grilled chicken, bang bang peanut sauce, kimchi pickled vegetables, crushed peanuts and charred corn (“charred?” says my friend, “Don’t they mean burnt?" Well, not quite. Although the charred element doesn’t quite manage to surface amid all the other ingredients piled into the recyclable bowl).
The result is punch-up of flavours vying for dominance, before settling into something rather satisfying. The pickles are definitely what make this bowl shine, although it could definitely have benefited from a few more of them. While, it’s not the prettiest meal I’ve ever photographed, it’s certainly much better value than a few other similar dishes I’ve tried on Bold Street which cost twice as much and taste half as good.
My companion - who isn’t as fond of interestingly prepared vegetables as me - builds his own bowl (£6), a combination of rice noodles, Thai chicken and a yellow curry sauce. It’s reminiscent of a Burmese khao soi, yet tastes lacklustre, requiring more than one squirt of sriracha to pep it up a bit.
It’s fast food, but not as we know it, and it would be really easy of us to be cynical about a dining concept which appears to have been created solely to crest the wave of a current trend rather than out of any love for a region's cuisine.
And with its mish-mash of influences all heaped into one environmentally friendly bowl, Vincent Kitchen probably isn't going to win any awards for authenticity any time soon. But if you're out and about and looking for something quick and relatively healthy to fill up on, you could do a lot worse.
Hey, even if you're not a fan of the food, at least it's somewhere you can charge your phone.
Vincent Kitchen 31 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4DN. Bill came to £21.70 for two people
All scored Confidential reviews are paid for by the company, never the restaurant or a PR outfit. Critics dine unannounced and their opinions are completely independent of any commercial relationships.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind in the area: fine dining v the best fine dining, Sunday roasts against the best Sunday roasts, etc. On this basis, the scores represent...
1-5: Straight into the dog's bowl; 6-9: Netflix and chill; 10-11: In an emergency; 12-13: If you happen to be passing; 14-15: Worth a trip out; 16-17: Very good to exceptional; 18-20: As good as it gets
Protein Bowl - 6/10; Build your own bowl - 5/10; Gluten free beer (Brewdog) - 4/10; Gluten free beer (Peroni) - 4/10
Efficient and friendly
Healthy and happy