For many people, hearing the word ‘vegan’ triggers images of hippie fascists in moth-eaten cardigans who have perversely purged the fun out of food. If you’re going to shun all animal products, what’s left to put on your plate? A solitary bit of tofu and a soggy lettuce leaf?
However, whatever prejudices the rest of us might hold, veganism is undergoing a worldwide renaissance. It’s suddenly become cool to eat cruelty-free – even if, like New York Times food critic Mark Bittman, you only do so before 6pm. Now Prague, capital city of a land full of carnivores, has its own hipster vegan haunt – Moment Café. The good news is, it’s doing enough things well to please more than just those with special dietary needs.
If I had any expectations of Moment Café’s décor, I suppose I anticipated something reminiscent of a Country Life restaurant – basic chairs and tables, lots of wood, a definite eco-warrior vibe. However, the interior is too interesting to be mistaken for a canteen: quirky details that suggest a good deal of effort has been put into giving the café a unique identity beyond its menu. I was particularly charmed by the antikvariát booth lit by a single lightbulb where one person can ensconce themselves and browse through the collection of secondhand books on offer in complete solitude.
It’s a family friendly hangout too: one corner of the back room is home to a cosy kids play area complete with colouring pencils and toys. Visitors with young children will also be grateful for the baby changing table in the bathroom.
Onto the food. I decided to opt for the wrap (surely you can’t tamper much with a sandwich?) with marinated tofu and salad (75 CZK). I’m not a soyaphobe but I was still impressed with how flavorsome it was. The tofu was creamy with a slight tanginess from the dressing and not radically different in taste to a sandwich with a genuinely cheesy filling. Aptly enough, it’s The Smiths classic tune Panic that was playing while I tucked in: for those of you whose 80s alternative music trivia knowledge is lacking, lead singer Morrissey is a (in)famous non-meat eater. I wash down the savory snack with a small glass of homemade lemonade (36 CZK) – refreshing and not overly sweet. It was also pleasing to see carafes of water available free of charge each decorated with a cutesy polka dot ribbon.
So far my moment in Moment was proving enjoyable. However, a satisfying vegan sandwich is less of a challenge than a successful vegan dessert. As two of the key ingredients in a decent sponge are butter and egg, would consuming a vegan version be like chewing on a mouthful of sawdust?
I grab a seat on the sofa in the back room, admiring the cutesy pop-art portraits of Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, and Toulouse Lautrec with a slice of the kiwi cheesecake (55 CZK). Although there wasn’t much of a fruit flavor, the filling was so rich and velvety that I had a genuine ‘I can’t believe it’s tofu moment.’ The biscuit base provided the right crunchy contrast, although it was so dense that I did struggle to get my fork through the crust towards the end (don’t worry, I managed).
What about the coffee? While there’s no denying that bean fermented liquid doesn’t taste anything like real milk, Moment Café’s soya cappuccino (45 CZK) is the best dairy free version I’ve sampled in Prague. Of course, those with an aversion to soya are unlikely to be converted – and there’s no real milk on offer in Moment – but you can always just drink it black. And just in case you thought veganism was all about abstinence, there’s a fridge full of beers from independent breweries under the dessert cooler.
Moment Café is a vegan hipster haunt with a laidback, welcoming atmosphere. While it might not manage to convert the carnivores amongst you to subsist solely on plants, I for one am grateful to see a vegan eaterie on Prague’s dining scene that doesn’t have a cult connection (yes, I am talking about Loving Hut) or a clientele sporting overgrown beards and jesus sandals.
Moment – kavárna & bistro
Prague 2, 120 00
Mon– Fri: 8:00– 19:00
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