Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Crumbs, Cardiff

I enjoyed an early lunch in Cardiff today, at Crumbs in the Morgan Arcade (the arcade joining The Hayes and St Mary Street). Crumbs is Cardiff’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. It opened for business on the 3rd December 1970.

Judi Ashley started Crumbs straight after finishing a course at Cardiff College of Food Technology. In a recent interview, she recalled how people generally hadn't heard of brown rice in 1970. Crumbs has stuck to its original philosophy. The solid pine tables, and many of the menu items, have been consistent for four decades.
Today, I had the original mixed salad, with coffee. The salads, on display in large metal dishes, are spooned into individual wooden bowls. Servings are generous. Layers of different salad, with an emphasis on grated carrot, shredding red and white cabbage, apple and celery, are topped with flavoursome brown rice. On the way to the bottom, you get some cheese dressing, a hint of Tabasco, a few beans, and so on. This is food that you know is good for you.

I cannot eat this type of food without being reminded of the 1980s: the alternative cafes in Bath and weekends at the Centre for Alternative Technology in north Wales. Wholefood restaurants and left-leaning politics seemed to be intrinsically linked back then.

The food in Crumbs is nutritious, unpretentious and, despite the rise of vegetarian restaurants, still fairly unique. This is because many new outlets shy away from the obviously home-made, simple, filling salads on display in Crumbs (they do curries and other menu items too), for fear of being judged too boring or unsophisticated. If, like Neil Young and his music, you strive to mine the pure source of things, then in the field of vegetarian restaurants Crumbs would be a good place to start.

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