What do we want from a salad bar? A few pieces of leaf taken down quickly and a generous helping of assuaged guilt? Not any more. We want it all: we want protein and superfoods, some chunky walnut bread to nibble on and a chic setting in which to enjoy it slowly. Vego salad bar, which opened a new branch earlier this month on street 294, wants to give it to us.
The old Vego experience was an in-out affair at their peculiarly narrow cranny near Wat Lanka. The pick-your-own salads were always fresh and fantastic – although invariably missing at least one ingredient ordered – but the eating experience crummy and usually seated almost on the lap of some acquaintance.
No more. Revamped Vego has invented the kick-back salad break. The airy, modern space is made for lazy lunches, with lots of wooden tables, comfy sofa cushions, and a leafy outdoor dining area. There’s a back room study space – it’s a little dark but has a homey feel and already the glow of iPads and e-readers.
As well as the usual salad deal – basic for $3.75 but extras push it to the $5 mark - you can even get a hot meal. The place was previously home to Villa Khmer – a cheap and tasty Khmer buffet, and now some similar fare can be found at its replacement. Pad thai, stir-fry – all for about $2-3 – are on offer.
We went for a quick post-gym salad and ended up with a four-course lunch: two plates of smoked salmon salad with Vego dressing, a sweet wrap bulging with crispy noodles, pad thai, a pomelo juice and an enormous chocolate brownie.
The salads were what great salads should be: generous, juicy and crunchy with colourful, fresh produce. Peppers were candycane red. Broccoli deep, dark green. Olives black and shiny as buttons. Sadly I had ordered avocado.
No walnut bread, but three meager slices of dry French bread – unnecessary. Also unnecessary was the sticky, tasteless pad thai. Perhaps the Vego brand needs to focus on salad, I thought, but then I caught a whiff of fresh baking: rows of gooey chocolate brownies, placed cruelly by the till to tempt a last-minute surrender. They were perfect: fudgy with the rich, melting centre of a Lindt chocolate.
I left confused but sated, and with a distinct indifference to branding.
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