Either way, we went for it over lent – 40 days and 40 nights for those not of a religious persuasion – with me going full-blown vegetarian while my wife, Kelly, dabbled with vegan.
I wasn’t ready to take that plunge. The thought of no cheese, milk or eggs fills me with absolute horror and, if I’m being honest, having gone veggie for a few weeks after Christmas following the meat explosion that is the festive period, I know for sure now I could not give up meat and fish for ever.
To be honest, I’m not even sure I agree with all the principles behind being completely vegan for farming and agricultural reasons, plus I like chatting to my butcher. But I think it’s best to leave that one there for now . . .
So, anyway, having chosen to go veggie and vegan we then had to choose where we wanted to eat fairly carefully too.
You do suddenly realise how few options there are at so many restaurants. No-one is forcing eateries to choose more wisely and put more effort into their menus to cater for such diets, but with a growing population becoming more conscious of what they eat, perhaps adding a few more veggie and vegan dishes to the menu might make economic sense.
One other thing we noticed was how much money not eating meat and cutting back on dairy saved.
We pretty much cut the weekly shop in half and where the freezer was once stocked up with meats and fish, the cupboards were now bulging with beans of all varieties – I never knew there were so many.
It also makes you get more creative in the kitchen because while there is nothing wrong with meat and two veg, two veg on its own is a bit bland to say the least, so it made us try out new foods, spices and tastes.
Kelly eats very healthily at the best of times, so she only lasted 20 days of lent before turning back to meat. The main reason was the addition of so many carbohydrates, which she said made her feel worse rather than better.
But during those 20 days she created a lovely bean chilli in the slow cooker at home, got back into Quorn bolognaise, ate veggie sausages like they were going out of fashion and just enjoyed experimenting with new foods.
I found it easier, probably because I’d continued with the dairy, but the hardest part was ordering from the chippie, when my dinner became chips and curry sauce. It was nice the first time but then it started to get a bit tiresome.
But the biggest challenge was choosing where to eat out.
Vegan and veggie menu
Luckily for us, however, The Fellows in Dudley had created its own vegan and vegetarian menu.
It provided us with lots of options and we ended up popping along and choosing starters and mains we probably would never have dreamed of looking at before.
That comes with pros and cons, but the whole point of challenge, such as lent, is to try new things and maintain your discipline at all times (Kelly isn’t religious, so she gets a pass) – and that includes not ordering a large kebab meat and chips when the urge is almost too overpowering in the chippie, and ignoring the mixed grill even when it is served to a couple sitting opposite you that looks simply amazing.
However, we were nicely surprised with our own orders, which were served during a Saturday afternoon trip to the pub with our four-year-old daughter, Annabelle.
The Fellows Bar & Grill is a pretty historic place too. Formerly know as The Fellows Club, it has been part of the Dudley landscape for many years.
It now has a new team and menu – and their motto is simply “to make your experience of drinking, dining and relaxing always money well spent”.
And we were treated very well from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.
The veggie special menu was filled with plenty of simple-looking dishes as well as some we had never heard of or tried.
Starters included freshly-made homemade soup of the day, served with crusty bread; breadcrumbed brie wedges, deep fried and served on a bed of leaves with cranberry sauce; and a stack of nachos with jalapenos, salsa, sour cream and chives, guacamole and cheese – either for one or to share. Kelly went for soup of the day and I opted for the brie wedges.
The brie bites came who you’d hoped they be served, crispy on the outside and oozing that piping hot cheese in the middle. Very nice when eaten with a scoop of the cranberry sauce.
Kelly said the soup was really tasty, especially as she hadn’t had tomato for a long time, especially with the added naughtiness of cream swirled through the middle. Served with nice chunky bread and real butter, it ticked all the boxes.
Again, there was plenty of choice when it came to the mains, with vegan cashew nut paella, served with salad; Moroccan nut roast, with a choice of jacket potato, new potatoes, peas or vegetables; spicy vegan smoky three bean chilli, with rice or homemade chips; vegan shepherd’s pie, served with bubble and squeak cakes; homemade broccoli and cauliflower bake with veg or salad; and vegetarian sausage and mash, with vegetables.
For a traditional pub in the middle of Dudley, that is a lot of choice and I’m sure it would be appreciated by all the full-time vegans and vegetarians out there.
The vegan paella sounded very intriguing, so I went for that – and I really enjoyed it, too.
It wasn’t a traditional paella, coming served in a huge dish, it was placed in the middle of the plate, with the salad surrounding it.
Not that it detracted from the flavour, of which there was plenty. To pull off a paella with no fish or meat is no easy feat, so hats off to the chefs from coming up with a meal that was tasty, different and filling.
It still retained a paella flavour but at the same time tasted a bit like risotto. Either way, I was pleasantly surprised.
Kelly, if she was being honest, was not a huge fan of the nut roast. She gave it a go but it just wasn’t for her and, had she not given up meat, she would’ve tried something different.
Whilst it had a nice flavour, the texture was not to her liking and not what she was expecting but she was impressed with the veg – although there could have been more – and the gin selection was also very good, for those who fancy a tipple.
And, because it serves Holden’s ales, you can be assured of a good pint too.
The children’s menu is also pretty good value for money, with everything costing £4.75.
There was the usual chicken nuggets and chips, cheese and tomato pizza, fish fingers and spaghetti bolognaise. Annabelle, as ever, went for the latter and devoured the lot.
Side orders need a mention too. We added some homemade chips and onions rings.
The chips were simply delicious. Thick cut and chunky, just everything you hope a homecooked chip will provide, while the onion rings were huge, crispy and stacked six high. Very filling and very nice.
Of course, for those who haven’t gone veggie or vegan, the menu opens up much further with houses classic, fish dishes and grills, as well as a cheaper lunchtime selection. The dessert menu also changes on a regular basis.
The restaurant’s opening hours are noon to 2pm, and 5pm to 8pm, Monday to Thursday; noon to 9pm, Friday and Saturday; and noon to 4pm on Sunday. Definitely worth popping along to for food or even just a pint.