Crimson Rhino, Vegetarian Cafe, Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth is lucky to have such a great vegetarian restaurant as The Treehouse, but they’ve had it their own way for too long.
A little competition is healthy, and with meat-free days big news now – even beefcake Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing it – Crimson Rhino couldn’t have opened at a better time.

So to celebrate an astonishing 32,000 reads of our blog in 2015 (thank you!), I grabbed lapsed veggie Bethan and finally went to review an eaterie for a change (I note the blog has become more about me drinking spirits at home lately)

Crimson Rhino is the brainchild of Tom Trevarthen, an early-20s entrepreneur.
Although vegetarian, about half the food is suitable for vegans.
It’s on Northgate Street, and brings a little much-needed light to what was, on a rainy day, a slightly forlorn strip of town.
It’s a shame their attractive sign is hidden behind the traffic light.
Crimson Rhino ExteriorIt was busy inside, but felt surprisingly unfinished for somewhere that has been open for over a year.
Crimson Rhino InteriorNo greeting from the staff, so we found a tiny table at the back and looked for menus, but you order at the counter where there is a chalkboard menu.

This is also their surprisingly minimalist kitchen – a basic grill, microwave and smoothie blender, I think.
Crimson Rhino CounterWhile I was queueing up, the little grill had a minor fire, filling the entrance with smoke for a few moments.

The range is small.
But I don’t mind that.
I’ve done many a small menu, deliberately, so you can make sure the food is fresh, and I like blackboard menus as you can replace things that aren’t selling without a trip to the printers.

The choice is ciabatta sandwiches (£4.25), soup or three types of burger – halloumi, veggieburger or peanut burger (£6.95).
Drinks are tea and coffee, and an impressive array of smoothies and shakes.
Loyal reader Sarah Barnett will be disappointed they don’t appear to sell fizzy drinks, but I’m pleased, as who wants to eat with hyperactive, morbidly obese children breaking the chairs and showing you their rotten teeth?
(I’m joking Sarah! Please come back! I give my nephews fizzy drinks! It’s a joke!)

If you visit, make sure you sit in the nicer front part.
Crimson Rhino RearWe were sat at the back, with a view of these young ladies and a mysterious, unused and scruffy kitchen area.
Crimson Rhino Rear 2And we looked at the view for quite a long time, as our drinks didn’t come until we reminded them when the food arrived.

On arrival, the food looked decent.
Crimson Rhino Halloumi BurgerBurgers come with a choice of hummus or guacamole, and potato wedges.
Bethan’s halloumi burger involved a generous and nicely seared slab of cheese.

I liked my peanut burger. It was tasty, with big pieces of peanut in there.
Crimson Rhino Peanut BurgerHowever, it was a bit cold.
We felt both burgers needed some sort of relish or salsa to liven them up and give a bit of kick.
Adding hummus doesn’t really help as it’s just more of the same brown protein.
Speaking of the hummus, it was bad.
Under-seasoned, watery, and no citrus.
The guacamole was better, but it was really just mushed up avocado.

The real disaster were the potato wedges.
Rather than being hot and crispy (yum!), they were lukewarm, soggy and flaccid (horrible).
Bethan loves her potato products, and I can’t remember her leaving 90% of one before.

The drinks are much better.
Crimson Rhino Red Berry SmoothieBethan’s red berry smoothie was large, bursting with flavour, and cold as ice (although at least this was meant to be).
The Americano was decent (as it should be from a serious machine).

If I were a veggie and brought someone here I would be mortified.
The food is exactly what many meat-eaters think veggies eat.
It’s the Citizen Khan of vegetarian cooking.
Where are the exciting fresh salads, the grains, the pulses, the spices, the zest?
A simple menu is great, but one based on veggie burgers, in 2015 – really?
Raw food, superfoods, clean eating – they’re all hot right now. Not here, though.

Normally I offset a review of bad food by praising the staff, but I can’t here.
No greeting on arrival, they forgot to bring us our drinks, they had a bit of a fire, and seemingly every drink order to surrounding tables was wrong and had to be changed.

The decor feels tired and dated – very bad for a place that only opened at the end of 2014.
And what appears to be a toilet at the back is a door with a sign saying “Staff only” taped to it.

I applaud the owner, Tom, for having his own cafe at an age when I was still at college.
And aiming for the vegan market is a wise and ethical choice.

They need a better chef to improve the menu and cooking, some sort of trendier redecoration, and a bit of kick up the arses of the staff.
At the moment, you’d be crazy to go here rather than The Treehouse.

Crimson Rhino
4 Northgate St
Aberystwyth SY23 2JS
01970 627203 – though not updated since they opened
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