“ Address: 43 Hallgate, Wigan, Wn1 1LR „
There is something about Maria
A rare find...
It was my husband that discovered this delightful eating place - he had been browsing the internet to see if a suitable eating establishment existed in the town of Wigan, near Manchester, that catered for persons such as me - I'm vegan.
Why The Coven?
This place sounded perfect from what we read on the website. Not just catering for Vegans. The management cater for all nutritional requirements to the best of their ability - this includes coeliac, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free.
This sounded too good to be true and if I'm honest I was sceptical until I had eaten there myself and seen what was actually on offer. It is an incredible task to find somewhere that caters for specific nutritional requirements so I was also very hopeful.
The Coven has a reputation for serving up quality creations that are based on fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Some of the fayre is grown in The Coven's garden eating area! This all sounded very appealing to me and I really hoped that I wouldn't be disappointed. Sometimes things look good on paper but the reality is quite the opposite - come on The Coven lets see what you are made off! Please don't let me down.
First things first - The Coven is ideally situated for diners who are arriving via train as it is just a 5 minute walk away from the Station. If you have used the bus service then your walk will be approximately 2 minutes from the Bus Station and if you are arriving by car there are car parks dotted about the centre and you will have a short walk from whichever one you choose. If you are dining on the Thursday evening gourmet night then parking is free on the street outside The Coven and you will be on the doorstep!
I have visited Wigan town centre for a shopping trip on numerous occasions over the years and it is an attractive centre with some beautiful architecture - I particularly like the black and white buildings. I have never been to Hallgate, Victorian Square before though which is a very pretty little area that has real character and a nice ambience to it. I was impressed with the location.
The exterior of The Coven is modest and I would say quirky - I liked it immediately as it felt comfortable. The front of the premises is clean and is presented in a visionary way - someone is obviously artistic and creative - the blackboards are fun to read. I found myself quietly confident and excited and was intrigued by the offerings on the board outside.
The welcome that we received when we entered this establishment on our first visit was incredible - we felt like old friends who had just returned from a long journey. Colin (who owns The Coven with Maria) greeted us and asked us if we were eating in - as we were he allowed us to choose our table and then he discussed our dietary requirements in detail before returning with a whole vegan menu for me and a vegetarian one for my husband. My husband is a meat eater but he wanted to try vegetarian. On occasions you are offered a paper menu which still has all of the vegan and coeliac options displayed and they are clealy marked with V or C with everything else being vegetarian.
The interior is really eye catching and once again it is innovative - with a very personal touch. The colours and unique antique furnishings are complemented by eye catching lanterns and almost Eastern looking trinkets. I loved the mystical style candlesticks too. I liked the fact that the tables and chairs were mixed and matched wooden style - it really adds to the character of the place and it feels cosy. Candles are lit during the day and this makes the place even prettier. I would describe the place as intimate.
It is not the largest of eating places and seats up to 18 people, sometimes you will share a large table with other diners and we have not found this to be a problem as everyone is so friendly - this allows for the atmosphere to be the way it is. It is very friendly. Other diners greet us warmly - I have never been in a place like it. Everyone chats away with each other along with Colin and Maria - it is a great place to be.
Colin allows time to peruse the extensive menus - yes can you believe that the vegan menu was comprehensive! This is a first and I was incredibly impressed with what I was offered. Not the usual jacket potato and beans - this was enthusiastic and creative stuff and I could not wait to eat. I was helped by Colin with my choice and asked if there was anything else that I fancied that could be adapted! I thought maybe that I was in a dream and soon I would awaken from it - I wasn't, it was real.
I had a rosehip soya milk shake to begin and my husband had a strawberry milkshake - this was delicious and a real treat. A large glass and a similar price that you would pay elsewhere. Really satisfying.
When the main meals arrived our faces lit up - Maria arrived with them and had the warmest smile on her face, she is just lovely. The plates were presented with a creative flair and it is in line with the fine dining that you see on Master Chef - I was so impressed.
My husband had vegetable lasagna, there was a large portion that arrived in a dish with a pretty fresh salad to the side that was finished in a unique and delicious homemade dressing. He said that it was the best he has ever tasted and that he was very satisfied and had not missed meat at all. The flavours were a taste sensation.
I had a mushroom burger on a vegan bagel with caramalised onions - side salad with the amazing homemade dressing. It was great to have faith in people who understood the vegan diet and knew to omit milk and eggs too. Also, the food was all fresh, high quality and so very creatively done - the presentation really is the icing on the cake, great care goes into everything that they do and it makes a difference. The food was absolutely divine and I mean scrumptious - I had never had a vegan burger before and don't really tend to eat things like that - this was unlike any burger I had ever eaten before - this was seriously good stuff! The salad was superb - Colin informed us that they test the food out on themselves first and as they don't like an undressed salad that is how they came up with the recipe - that knocks your socks off - for the dressing. They are always striving to get better and better!
I was offered a number of choices for desert and opted for a homemade vegan muffin with freshly made to order soya custard! This was gorgeous and rounded the meal off nicely. My husband had the same but with regular creamy custard - he enjoyed it.
We were full to the brim and both extremely impressed with the whole experience - my husband said that he was definitely going back again and no doubt would be having the lasagna as it was so good! We have returned a number of times and enjoyed the delights in the warm and friendly ambience.
We were surprised when the bill arrived as we expected it to be more than what it was - it just gets better. You are served high quality food that tastes delicious in a very friendly environment at competitive prices! This really is the jewel in Wigan's crown!
Since our first experience we have been back and sampled more of the menu - a real delight was The Stack! This was a layered masterpiece which had gorgeous textures mixed together with incredible flair - the flavours were tantalising and the variety of wholesome and nutritious food impressive. This was followed by a fruit crumble with a difference - this is fresh fruit and in the middle was a soya custard and topped with raisens and flakes of nuts - just incredible and absolutely delicious! Maria should be on Master Chef (veggie version of course) she has a real talent for knowing how flavours work. I had a traditional, organic ginger beer and later on a Japanese Matcha tea (used for centuries by Bhuddist monks before they undertook a 12 hour meditation - it calms but also energises and is best consumed earlier in the day so as not to keep you awake at night). The conversation was really interesting with hosts and diners alike - the atmosphere very homely and comfortable. We never feel rushed either - anything but.
More Coven facts...
The interior is quite a small room and at busy times you may have to return to get a table - this place is very popular with those in the know but it is well worth the wait if you have time to call back. There are quieter times such as earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. You can order a meal to take out which is a great option for people who work in the area as they get a very healthy, quality meal at a competitive price - served with a smile! And the smile is genuine! There is a small step to the front door to navigate but nothing other than that is on the floor area. On fine days there is a garden to eat in and this caters for a good few diners - this is through a small gate to the side of the establishment and the food is brought to you.
There is a customer toilet that you are welcome to use - it is via the kitchen so you need to just check if the timing of your trip is okay with Colin or Maria prior to making your way - the passageway is slim and has a step. The toilet is clean and I liked the small candle that was burning in there. There is soap and a small sink with access to hot and cold water. Once again I would describe the facility as quirky.
I like the feeling of being part of the group of people who are in the restaurant - you are in the hub of the activity and its nice to see Colin and Maria at work - they enjoy it. On one end of the dining area is the bar where you will see Colin work his magic with beverages and sweet treats - cakes and other such goodies. The small sink to the other end of Colin's bar is where you will see him perform some washing up duties - I love the intimacy!
Colin and Maria have been asked numerous times if they would open in the evenings - as they are the main staff they cannot work all day and then all night as well but they have arranged it so that they open on Thursday evenings till 20.30 and this needs to be arranged via a booking as there is high demand. These evenings are gourmet and include Raw Food nights. We have booked for one in March and we are very much looking forward to it.
The Coven cater for evening parties and will also bake specialist cakes on request to suit your nutritional needs. If you fancy learning how Maria works her magic in the kitchen then you can book for one of her workshops at approximately £70 for the day and including lunch and drinks. I would be interested in doing this as she is so inspirational and very approachable. The pea houmous that she makes which is fabulous is revealed on one of the workshops!
Maria has recently branched out and started buffets - these are not the bog standard ones though as Maria plans to make it an evening to remember by providing creative treats that will be presented to each table - no mad rush for the buffet will be necessary when Maria provides the fayre.
It is outstanding at The Coven - they could not do anything more in my opinion. We are treated like friends and receive care and attention to detail. Nothing seems to be too much trouble. Here you have a chef who knows how to cook and has the ingredients to whip something up for you - there is something very special about Maria! I can relax when I visit this venue as I know that both Colin and Maria are knowledgeable about the vegan diet along with gluten free and coeliac - it is a real treat for me to be pampered like I am by the hosts. I love the fact that they make the effort to get to know you and enjoy your company - if we are the only diners for a while we have such a good conversation with them. They check if you are happy with your meal and I feel that it is important to them that you are enjoying it - they are always wanting to improve and do their best to please. I cannot fault this place at all for the service and it feels genuine.
Wednesday 10.30am - 17.00pm
Thursday 10.30am - 17.30pm
Friday 10.30am - Late
Saturday 10.30am - Late
It is worth visiting the website or telephoning beforehand to see any seasonal changes to the opening hours or book a table.
This is well worth a look as you will see the gallery - stunning images of the plated creations! And menu's along with news about The Coven and upcoming events.
It is worth 'liking' The Coven on Facebook if you use the website as you will automatically get all the important updates and events.
Fabulous food in the North West...
I cannot believe that we have this establishment in the North West - I am so lucky! You don't have to be veggie to eat here and actually a high percentage of patrons who dine at The Coven regularly are not veggie but like the food so much they keep coming back! My husband is a good example as he likes his meat but he appreciates just how good and tasty vegetarian and vegan food can be. The welcome at The Coven is warm and Colin and Maria become like old friends. The atmosphere is relaxed and it is easy to chat with other diners if you want to. The premises is quite small and space is limited so at busy times you may struggle to get a table - it's worth waiting and going back as the food is awesome and healthy! The prices are competitive, especially when you consider that you are getting fresh, local produce and it is prepared with enthusiasm, passion, care and attention to detail. It's a great location and the locale has character. We keep going back - I don't have to encourage my hubby to go as he loves the food! Must be good! Well worth a visit if you are in Wigan at any time and once you have tried it you will be back!
Update 8th November 2012:
I have just had an email message from Colin & Maria. They are handing over the business to a former regular customer, Sue and her daugher Ellie, who they say is passionate to maintain to same standards of quality that Colin & Maria provided. Sue is a fabulous cook and very organised and is reported to want to maintain the same warm and friendly atmosphere that the Coven has afforded to many satisfied diners. I look forward to dining in the future and wish Colin and Maria all the best in their new ventures.
Thanks for reading...
Also published on Ciao, Trip Advisor and The Coven Website