Crowdfunding can go a long way. In this case, it’s made it possible for Adam El Tagoury, the owner of the sadly now defunct Cafe Atma, to open up Cardiff’s first and only completely vegan cafe.
From mid-August onwards, Anna-Loka will be serving healthy, wholesome and delicious food that will cater to almost all palates, and wow people in its path.
We sent our City Editor Amy Pay, a long-time vegan, to check it out and see if it lives up to the hype.
Anna-Loka is situated at the bottom of Albany Road, just after the turning to Wellfield Road.
Walking from town, I worked up a little appetite, a hunger I was excited to fill with all sorts of vegan eats.
The decor inside is very earthy and back to nature, with bare brick, stripped wooden tables and epic stone carvings adorning the walls.
I certainly didn’t feel like I was in the middle of a student area of a fast paced city.
There are a fair number of tables inside, perhaps twenty, but it doesn’t take long to become standing room only.
It seemed I wasn’t the only vegan in Cardiff who couldn’t wait to crack open a menu and be able to eat anything they want on it. No dull jacket potatoes here!
We found a space to perch and ordered two drinks from the bar. On the left in the photograph above is an original kombucha, a fermented tea with high health qualities and a slightly tart taste.
On the right, a virgin mojito: brown sugar, apple juice, soda water, plenty of lime segments and a handful of fresh mint, muddled with ice.
Both were a pleasure to drink – smooth, sweet and refreshing.
The open kitchen means that customers can observe the chefs crafting their meals.
It’s fascinating to watch the staff work together to put all of the different elements into each of the dishes.
We worked out fairly quickly that if you see Adam, the owner (below), holding a silver tray with box-like cardboard plates on, it means that food is coming your way. Drum roll please… (or is that my belly rumbling?)
The savoury dish on offer this evening was a warm pitta pocket stuffed with carrot and chickpea curry, served with sweet potato cubes and side salads.
Despite its size, it was really filling due to the wholesome nature of the ingredients. The curry had just enough of a kick to it to distinguish it from being a thick stew, and the fries had the perfect amount of bite.
I did make quite a mess of eating the pitta pocket though. Curry everywhere!
The sides were probably the best part of the dish. A warm beetroot salad with courgette ribbons and seeds cut through the pulses in the curry beautiful and lifted all of the flavours.
There was also a raw taco – a perky lettuce leaf filled with cashew-based guacamole, tomatoes and raw slaw.
Words cannot describe how yummy the guac was, or how unique it tasted. The cashew nuts blended in the base of the guacamole made it taste almost like a healthier, less sticky version of peanut butter, but with an avocado twist. I was sad to finish it.
After a few more kombuchas, we were starting to swell up a little bit with all the good-for-you food in our tummies.
However, when someone emerged from the kitchen with the tray below, we forgot that we’d ever eaten anything and made like we’d never ever seen a brownie before (although, to be fair, it isn’t easy to come across great vegan brownies when out).
This little fella was the most delicious, gooey, fudgy brownie I’ve tasted in years! Vegan chocolate cake can be a disappointment at times because it doesn’t always rise as well as its eggy equivalents and doesn’t have the same lightness.
This, however, was so far from an anticlimax. Thick and riddled with chocolate chunks, the brownie was delicate, fluffy and rich. Topped with a salted caramel moon sauce that I wish I could bathe in (it smelled and tasted unbelievably good) and a minted berry compote, I was in absolute heaven when demolishing it.
There wasn’t a single remnant of brownie left on my plate. If I could have, I would have happily stayed there all night and eaten brownies until my jaw got cramp, but that’s for another day. It’s safe to say that I will 100% be returning to Anna-Loka.
Cardiff has a lot of places that cater for vegans and vegetarians, but the novelty of being able to eat everything Anna-Loka serves without worrying about the ingredients or cross-contamination, and the fact that the food is genuinely delicious, make it a sure-fire contender for Cardiff’s best veggie and vegan eatery.
Anna-Loka is at 114 Albany Road, Roath CF24 3NS. For more information, check out their Facebook page.
Check out our guide to vegetarian and vegan food in Cardiff for more great suggestions