Epicentre – Paignton

Another foodie story from our trip to the ‘English Riviera’ to celebrate our anniversary! I’m doing these all in the wrong order and I’m not entirely sure why – we actually ate at The Orange Tree on Saturday night, Epicentre at Saturday lunchtime and TJ’s on Friday night. But I’ve done them in the opposite order…

So, Epicentre is a vegetarian cafe/bookshop/art centre/music venue in the centre of Paignton. Jack of all trades! I found the cafe while searching for veggie places to eat in Paignton – whenever we travel somewhere I always try and find somewhere that does good vegetarian food so that Benji can sample some exciting new stuff πŸ™‚ Their menu was extensive and varied and they are the only veggie cafe in Torbay so it was pretty much a definite!

We rocked up to the cafe about noon on the Saturday after a morning spent shopping and exploring the pier. When we walked in I was a little apprehensive…the cafe was tiny and there was a big group of about 15 people sat in the middle talking and laughing and singing really loudly. There was one guy sat with a laptop and a coffee and all the other tables were occupied but no-one was eating. Hmmm. No one greeted us or acknowledged our presence…it was pretty awkward. In an attempt to assess the situation and decide what we wanted to do we squeezed through the crowd towards the back of the cafe, where there were a number of bookshelves groaning under the weight of hundreds of books and magazines. We held a brief, intense, whispered conversation where I essentially said I would like to leave and Ben said he wanted to stay and give it a try. He won. Our whispering must have been louder than we thought because a guy came up to us with a questioning look on his face – we assumed he was the owner. I asked him if they were serving food and he said they were and told us to find a seat…he then realised there were none and asked a teenage boy if he wouldn’t mind moving. I’m pretty sure he did mind but he moved nonetheless and we sat down at a table by the window with a nice view of the high street outside. Phew! I really hate to give anywhere a bad review and the food at Epicentre was amazing as you’ll see, I just think they need to work on their first impressions!

I grabbed a couple of menus and we poured over them, trying to decide what to order from the vast selection. We got drinks first – Ben chose freshly squeezed orange juice and I was in the mood for an exciting drink (I almost always order Diet Coke…dulllll) so chose an iced mocha. I got a whole pint of it! The lady who served us was lovely and I love that she asked if I wanted dairy, soy or almond milk. I panicked at this unexpected decision requirement and got dairy although on reflection I should have got soy as it is both delicious and lower in calories. Next time!

After much deliberation we placed our orders. The menu at Epicentre consists of burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, soups and salads as well as a ‘Mexi Cali’ section which has burritos, quesadillas and nachos! It’s really cool because with all the options you have a choice of which protein to add – tofu, soy burger, bean burger, tofu burger or veggie hotdog! They even have a vegetarian cheesesteak sandwich with wheat steak. Ay-may-zing. After we’d ordered we had about a 15 minute wait in which we could smell our cooking lunch wafting over from the out-of-sight kitchen and making us extremely hungry.

When our lunch was bought out, I was absolutely blown away! I ordered the ‘pesto burger’ with the tofu patty but souped it up with multiple toppings and add-ons because I’m greedy. I really wanted pesto to be a component of my lunch having not had it in ages but I also wanted avocado, cheese and onions which weren’t included with the pesto burger. Possibly because they don’t go? Anyway. The guy was really accommodating and said it was no problem to add on all the greedyboy extras. And curly fries, obviously, we always get curly fries if they are an option. Ben even said ‘Look! Curly fries are the same price as normal fries!’ This is a very rare occurrence and an opportunity not to be missed.

So I think the photos of my burger speak for themselves:

I have to say I was slightly intimated by the sheer height of the burger and the obvious difficulty I would have in picking it up. Β This was not a lady-like meal – by the end I was covered in ketchup, cheese and avocado and the less said about the crumbs in my hair the better. As you would expect by the appearance of the food in the photos, my burger was delicious. The tofu patty in particular was in fact a bit of a life-changer – I had never thought to use tofu in this way. I asked the guy how he made it and he said it was crumbled tofu, garlic, seasoning, liquid amino and a bunch of other stuff I can’t rememeber and wish I’d written down. I’ll definately be trying to recreate these though as it was seriously the nicest vegetarian burger I’ve ever had. The rest of the ingredients – fresh, juicy tomato slices, caramelised onions, rocket, carrot ribbons and what seemed like an entire avocado were all packed into the ciabatta bun and complimented the patty perfectly. But, the star ingredient was the pesto! I don’t know if it was home-made – it definately tasted like it and judging by the freshness and quality of the other ingredients I would guess that it was. Strong and pungent with a course texture it was spread liberally on both halves of the bun, ensuring a pesto-y taste to every mouthful. My only complaint would be that the ciabatta bun was not toasted and got a little difficult to eat towards the end. But that’s mainly because I’m a wuss and need to man up when it comes to supersized lunch portions.

Ben’s burger looked a little less impressive but that is only because he quite sensibly didn’t add 57 additional toppings to his.

He went for the ‘Western burger’ – a Fry’s patty drenched in BBQ sauce with caramelised onions. He actually wanted to get the tofu burger but forgot to specify when he ordered so he just got the regular one, bless him! He absolutely loved his though and preferred it to mine so it all worked out well. I tried a bite of it and I was really impressed with the rich, smokey sauce. Yum!

So both our burgers were delicious. But, the real highlight of the meal came from a surprising source….

A condiment!

We asked for ketchup with our curly fries, natch, and recieved this exciting bottle of organic goodness! It was the most flavourful, intensely tomato flavour we’d had since the infamous tomato flatbread at Disney’s California Grill. I had no idea ketchup could taste this incredible having been very loyal to Heinz from an early age. We’ve decided we will be tracking down this wonder product ourselves so we can dip curly fries in it to our hearts content.

Our bill at Epicentre came toΒ Β£17. Not a cheap lunch but a small price to pay for delicious, freshly cooked vegetarian food and the feeling that you are supporting an independent cafe. The group that was in there when we arrived left about 40 minutes later, leaving the place nice and quiet. We think it was a walking group or something that meets in the cafe due to it’s central location. Just something to bear in mind if you visit Epicentre on a Saturday lunchtime! Overall though we had a wonderful experience here and we will definitely be back if we are in the local area again.

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