I can't believe it took me 6 months of looking at signs for “Loving Hut Vegetalien 100%” (vegetalien is french for vegan) before I actually had the chance to go and eat here myself. I finally went over the weekend, and it is now my new favorite place to eat in all of Benin.
For those of you who know Loving Hut, I want to start by saying that I believe Loving Hut Benin IS related (at least in theory) to the Loving Hut family of restaurants. Our lunch was accompanied by a small television screen showing Supreme Master videos and there were vegan advocacy posters and booklets available to those who chose to read them. I was a little uncertain going in – since generally Loving Hut (as a chain) serves fast food and Asian food... and this is West Africa.
I don't know how to express how amazing Loving Hut Benin is. I don't know how to describe how ecstatic we all were at finding this gem tucked away in Porto Novo.. it is really just that amazing. Kind of unreal.
This little restaurant completely embraces the idea of Vegan dining and seamlessly translates it into Beninese cuisine. At first glance, this beautiful hidden away maquis could be any other Beninese restaurant. The prices are comparable, the menu is (visibly) the same, and while a little cleaner and perhaps even a little fancier, the atmosphere can compare to most higher class local eateries (thankfully minus the blasting loud music and drunk men). I admire the way that Sumason (the brains behind the operation) really made his vision happen.
They serve spaghetti, cous cous, Beninese sauces (with pate), salads, french fries, brochettes, legumes.. all of the standard Beninese fare. They produce their own gluten based proteins as a meat substitute, and they have used it to veganize all of the ethnic cuisine. When I ate here with my friends the other day, we were not sure what to expect. Two of us ordered the cous cous dish, and another one of my friends ordered the salad with protein. We ordered a plate of brochettes (normally street-meat kebabs) as an appetizer and split a large pineapple for desert. Now that we know how amazing all of the food is, we are ALL looking forward to going back and trying their vegan take on some of the more classic Beninese dishes.
Some will say that perhaps I have a slightly slanted view in saying that this is the best meal that I have had in Benin – but it really was the best meal I have had in Benin. The food was spectacular, the prices were more than fair, the atmosphere was relaxing, and the staff was friendly and informed. I will definitely eat here many more times while I am living in Benin and I really hope that this restaurant succeeds.
Its not every day that I am so impressed by something in this country.
It is also not every day that I can say I have eaten so well.
Here's to good food.