*Disclaimer* This blog post was written pre-COVID-19 and I put the publication on pause, so the experience you have at Thirsty Meeples might be a little different now! But I took the time to write it so I wanted to share it (read to the end for my premonition about the need for hand sanitiser with finger food, which was written way before the pandemic reared its head). Please do consider supporting small, local businesses like this one where you can!
One of the few places still thriving in Gloucester Green, Thirsty Meeples is a popular board game café which offers you access to hundreds of games, hot and cold drinks, from a variety of teas to vegan-labelled beers, and plenty of snacks. We booked a table for a Friday night – one of their busiest times so definitely don’t just show up – for three hours of board gaming after work. The deal is you pay £7.50 per adult for the games, or £6 if you order food and drink. You can pick from old favourites or ask a member of staff to recommend you something based on the sorts of things you like to play. We’d planned to stay for a couple of hours then go home for dinner, but while we were there I thought it was a good opportunity to try their vegan food and let you know my thoughts!
After we’d been seated and had our first game introduced to us, I asked whether they had any vegan hot chocolate. They said their dark hot chocolate powder contained no milk and could be made with soy or oat milk, so I ordered it with oat, my favourite for an extra creamy and indulgent hot drink. I probably didn’t pay too close attention to the menu because I was shocked when we got the bill to see that I was charged 60p extra for the oat milk, the highest surcharge I think I’ve ever seen. They should definitely make it clearer about the additional cost because that brought my hot chocolate close to an eye-watering £5 and more than I’d ever be willing to pay if I’d have realised. Assuming it’s cheaper, I’ll definitely opt for soy next time! Regardless, it was a very nice hot chocolate, and gave me the sugar hit I needed to start beating my friends at every round of card games 😉
After an hour or so, I was getting a bit peckish and decided to give some of their food a go. I had a chat with the guy at the till who explained they no longer stock vegan cake because they are expensive to buy in, you had to order in large quantities, and they weren’t able to sell much of it. I asked him whether they could be a bit more clever with their labelling so that people wouldn’t necessarily know the cakes were vegan, and he said that’s what they’d done, but they just didn’t sell as well. I personally wonder what kind of cakes they were buying in. Maybe they were raw or energy balls or something, because I don’t understand why a chocolate fudge cake (for example) wouldn’t sell as well as any other cake if it looked the same but just happened to be vegan.
Happy with my sweet hot chocolate anyway, I opted for a couple of savoury options, of which they had plenty. The first was the ‘Unbound’ falafel sandwich, vegan if you order without butter, which I ordered on granary bread, and was also available with a gluten-free bread. The freshly made sandwich arrived at our table pretty quickly. It’s £4.60 so not cheap, and it’s served alone as is so no handful of crisps on the side or anything like that. There were just a couple of falafel balls in there, and they tasted like the cauldron ones I regularly buy from the supermarket. However, it was actually a very nice sandwich. The bottom was layered with sweet roasted red pepper, juicy enough that despite the lack of spread the sandwich wasn’t dry. There was lots of fresh salad between the slices of bread, with peppery rocket adding to the flavours. It was a fairly small sandwich so it didn’t last long, but it was a nice tasting snack.
The other thing I ordered was the spinach and chickpea pie, which was recommended to me by the guy serving us. I had imagined little individual pies but it came as a thick slice out of one big pie. It had been warmed through in the oven for 15 or so minutes. Again, not served with salad on the side or anything like that, but at £4 next time I’d order this over the sandwich. Layered between thin and crisp shortcrust pastry was a really deliciously seasoned mix of spinach and chickpeas, nicely salted, and with a beautiful soft texture. I enjoyed every bite and despite it not being his usual sort of thing, Jamie happily tucked in too.
Pro-tip, which I didn’t think about until after I’d finished eating, bring hand sanitiser! Once I got thinking about the fact that I was licking the salt and vinegar off my fingers from a bowl of crisps (an extra £2.50 but they were very tasty) in between handling cards and game pieces that dozens of other people had played with, I was a little put off my food. All in all, no one is choosing to go to a board game café just to get lunch, and certainly not expecting a cheap lunch, but it’s so great to know that if you want to spend three hours there getting your geek on, you won’t go hungry! I also really appreciated that the staff were very knowledgeable about the menu, what was in the food, and what was and wasn’t suitable for vegans. We had a great evening and I’m looking forward to going back.