Fuelled by compassion

Hello from sunny Luxembourg! No, honestly, the weather is gorgeous here – perfect weather to sit at an outdoor terrace catching up with friends over white wine, beer, or sparkling water depending on your preferences (or coffee, when your caffeine withdrawal headache kicks in as you woke up too late to gulp down something caffeinated before bursting out into the sunshine). Slightly less perfect weather to run around an indoor 200m track for a couple of hours in the middle of the night.

Luckily, I am getting the chance to do both! The main reason Ben and I are over for a fleeting weekend trip is to run around the aforementioned 200m track from 4am until 5am as part of a 24-hour relay team, running as a display of solidarity towards cancer patients, survivors, victims, and their families and loved ones. I took part last year, but only spoke about it so briefly even I wasn’t sure I had ever mentioned it on here.

Relais pour la vie 2013

Me wearing our team shirt, Ben behind me, and two random guys who also look like they are having fun

I could say more about the event itself, but I wouldn’t be able to put into words the buzz of it, the vibe of optimism and goodwill about it all. Imagine 1% of the population of any country taking part in a 24-hour event in which there is no winner, no loser, no faster, no slower, and – more importantly – no money involved. You pay your €10 entry fee, and you can buy candles and food and drinks and make donations, but the point of the event is not to raise money. People just take part to be part of something. How wonderful is that?

What I probably can do a little more justice to are the new vegan offerings around Luxembourg City!

Although I’ve posted a few updates here and there (and mainly here), I’ve never really made an effort to round up the options in a “Vegan Luxembourg” post before because, well, there’s not been much. But the last few months have marked a turning point, and I think it’s time I got on top of it.

Places I have mentioned before include Table du Pain, with a couple of shops in town and a vegan-friendly tapenade sandwich, but whose staff have never heard of the word “vegan” or the concept of “dairy free” from my experience.

Konrad sandwich

Grilled aubergine and zucchini sandwich at Konrad – better than it looks

We’ve also tried out Konrad (Facebook page here), who offer soy milk in their coffees and are happy to make their grilled veggie sandwich vegan by omitting the cheese.

Urban is always a safe lunch spot, with their hearty “pub grub” which includes a vegan-friendly falafel salad or burger.

Lately, we’ve relied quite heavily on a couple of Asian restaurants for dinner spots, because they’re good and reliable and unpretentious: Wok in Luxembourg City are accommodating and the only waitress I have ever seen there always knows exactly what is in the dishes. The sushi platter and fried tofu are great, and I have a real soft spot for wakame salad. They also have various stir-fries which can be vegan if you make sure to ask for udon noodle instead of egg noodles, and make sure there is no egg.

I was really in love with Wok, though I am now starting to lean towards Aka for my Asian food cravings. This is why:

Aka sushi platterI’ve had their vegetarian maki combo three times and it has been stunning, delicious, and copious each time. On the menu are vegetable tempura (which should be vegan but I’ve never checked), edamame, inari, wakame salad, and a few interesting sorbet flavours, though I’ve never had enough room to try them. We dined there last night and I had the maki platter again; it was totally different to the one pictured above, and just as delicious.

Today marked a turning point in that I actually ate at two establishments which actually advertised their vegan food. As a group of eight, I didn’t get first pick, and wasn’t sure what to expect from Independent Café (Facebook page here) and their 3-page menu of various combinations of bread, meat, and cheese. Imagine my surprise when I saw “The Vegan-Burger” – aubergine, zucchini, and tofu! Admittedly, you’d be pretty stuck in Luxembourg if you didn’t like aubergine and zucchini, but I happen to love them, so I was over the moon.

A #vegan burger? In #Luxembourg?! Well don't mind if I do! #whatveganseat #VeganLuxembourg

A post shared by Claire De R (@claireoftherocks) on

Presentation may have left a little to be desired, and the filling was slightly bland and your burger doesn’t come with chips, but the homemade bun was so delicious I’d have happily eaten it on its own (or preferably soaked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar – is that weird?). But this is Luxembourg, a pork-centric farming-and-banking country of half a million, and they have a menu with not only multiple vegetarian options but a dedicated vegan option – I’m hardly going to spit at them.

I was slightly disappointed their only dessert option was ice cream or sorbet, but I had a not-so-secret hankering to hunt down Am Véierzeng (Facebook page here), an all-vegan café attached to the city’s history museum which happened to be about a 5 minute walk from Independent.

A doorway leads you into a courtyard with a superb view of the old city, and the rear portion of the museum building houses the café, a spacious urban-chic space of white chairs and quirky drawings on blackboards and more stunning view.

Lunch options include salads, soups, curry-type dishes, and empanadas, but we were after cake.

I had their Banana & Carobella cake (€5) which had a great appearance and texture but tasted very strange, metallic and bitter like they had used baking soda where they needed baking powder. I didn’t mind because I was excited to be eating cake and sipping milky hot coffee, but I’d be embarrassed for a non-vegan to experience that.

Ben was out of luck as they had run out of apple tart, so he got a little apricot empanada, which again was undersweetened and could have been better warm. Other sweet options included a raw cheescake and a coconut cream pot, and they give you the choice of a variety of plant-based milks (as well as cow juice) for your hot drinks.

Am14 March menu

I’m so excited to see vegan options popping up around the place – this time next year, maybe they’ll all taste fantastic!

So vegans of the world, don’t be scared to visit Luxembourg, even if it’s only for a passing visit.

As for us, we’ve just come back from watching the opening ceremony and Ben’s making dinner; we’ll chill out for a couple of hours before our first stint, then probably kill the hours between our next stint sitting there crowd-watching and catching up with other friends who are taking part, before coming back in the early hours of the morning to catch a brief nap until it’s time to leave for our flight.

As I said, this isn’t a fundraising event, but if you would like to donate you can do so here by clicking on the “Contribute” tab.