High Street, Rhuddlan
Take one small-ish Welsh village (population <4000). Add six hungry people seeking lunch. Factor in a vegan, a vegetarian, some lactose intolerance and a wheelchair. Expectation: we’ll need to drive somewhere. Reality: the answer is on my parents’ doorstep. Almost literally.
Green Island Bistro opened in October 2020, an inauspicious time to launch a new venture, what with COVID and all its attendant chaos. But owner Sarah Turner clearly welcomes a challenge. Sure, plant-based diets are all the rage, but still – are there really enough vegans here (even part-time ones) to make this work? It turns out the answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced by the tiny eatery’s Best Café/Bistro in North Wales award.
Things get off to a good start early in the morning, when Sarah sends me a detailed message in response to my query about wheelchair access. It’s the kind of thoughtful approach that lets you know this is someone who really cares about customer satisfaction and wants to get it right. She includes photos of both exterior and interior seating, and a close-up of the small step that leads inside. Dad’s impressed, and reassured that his needs will be met.
Tucked behind Rejuva beauty salon, next door to the King’s Head Pub, Green Island Bistro has space for just sixteen covers inside, but there’s a sweet little courtyard too, which can seat the same number again. It’s not especially warm today though, so we opt to go indoors. The reception is relaxed and friendly; we’re immediately at ease.
Only one of us is actually a vegan, so the rest of us are expecting to feel the weight of compromise, but the short menu looks interesting, and we all find something that sounds good.
Both I and my sister-in-law opt for the daily special, which is a seitan kebab – and really enjoy it. The flatbread is clearly home-made, and the seitan (which I’ve never tried before) has a lovely savoury flavour, and a pleasingly firm texture. There’s also a spicy sauce, which adds a welcome hit. Philip and my mum have the hoisin duck flatbread, and are delighted with it. Philip says he can’t taste the difference between this and ‘real duck’ – and he likes the way it’s presented too, on an impossibly long board. My brother – our favourite vegan – has the cheese platter. He acknowledges that he’s taking a risk because some vegan cheeses are beyond the pale, but these four are all delicious. I sample one to check, and he’s not wrong. It’s like a cross between cheese and hummus, and a real pleasure to eat. That just leaves dad, who has a baked potato with vegan cheese and beans. They’re all simple dishes, but they’re perfectly executed, and we’re happy with what we’ve had.
Of course we have pudding, sampling a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, a chocolate fondue, some lemon drizzle cake and a gluten free carrot cake. The cakes and the fondue are beautifully made and presented. We’re not super keen on the ice cream: it tastes nice, but we don’t especially like the texture. Still, it’s a very minor quibble, all things considered.
We have some drinks too. I have my first ever espresso martini. It won’t be my last. The menu also boasts bottled beers, a few nice wines, and a range of coffees and soft drinks – and we put a fair few away between us.
We’re impressed. Green Island Bistro ticks all the boxes, and we’ll certainly be back for more.