For veggies in the North East, a fully plant-based pub was probably a dream that never seemed likely to come true. But it did.
The Ship Inn in Ouseburn used to seem like a boring little brother of the neighbouring Cluny, but has since been reborn as a vegan oasis with a vibrant menu intriguing enough to bring in diners of all persuasions.
Aside from the entirely vegan menu and drinks selection, it remains very much the classic suburban pub.
There are no Ban the Bomb signs or meat is murder banners. It’s a very much a pub for everyone, not some sort of compound for Earth warriors.
Though heading here for food after a running session with four fellow herbivores, the term “sweaty vegans” would have been more accurate than insulting on this occasion.
One thing you don’t tend to find on the bar of your usual pub are dishes of fruit – and at 50p, slices of watermelon did us nicely as a combined starter and hydration aid.
The varied menu at The Ship changes regularly, and features a mix of veganised pub staples such as burgers and risottos, and dishes from around the world with everything from tacos to kimchi fried rice.
After bounding about in the sunshine, I had a hankering for something of substance and stodge, so ordered the “lucky fish and chips”.
The fish in this case was constructed of cleverly crafted and flavoured tofu, wrapped in seaweed and then the traditional batter.
It’s hard to say how close the tangy goujons are to the real thing (I haven’t eaten fish for 20 years), but they definitely packed a pleasing texture and flavour.
It’s also worth noting that once you’ve forsaken meat for a while, often fake flesh can seem too meaty, if that makes any sense.
The piscinesque fingers came served with vegan tartare sauce, homemade mushy peas, lemon, and laudable chips – well worth the £9 price tag.
Three of my sweaty comrades went for the Buddha bowl (also £9), a laksa-style dish with Asian vegetables and shiitake mushrooms in a coconut, chilli and ginger sauce with cashew nuts, topped with a vegetable flower.
The fourth ordered a vegetable curry – always a risky move in a pub, but the dish seemed to have more authenticity, flavour and substance than the soggy excuse often served up in chain bars.
After finishing our main courses, I was duly dispatched to see what desserts were on the board.
Sadly, the hour hand had ticked past 8pm and I was told the kitchen had closed.
This seemed a little early, especially for a pub whose main selling point is arguably its cuisine, but it was a week day and the business is fairly new, so it was understandable.
We shall just have to run faster next time. The early vegan gets the plant-based dessert, as they say.