Intrigued, my friend and I (neither of us is vegan) brave stormy weather to sample what’s on offer – and we’re pleasantly surprised with what we find. Inside, it’s warm and inviting; lighting on the walls creates a cosy ambience; dark wooden floorboards exude character; paintings of birds and trees on the walls give it an arty edge; and the staff are incredibly friendly. It’s one of Europe’s oldest vegan restaurants, celebrating its 44th birthday this year.
THE GRUB: Put aside thoughts of lentil burgers and nut roasts, and instead think more creatively. We start with the basil & cashew cheese croquettes (although there’s no cheese involved). Served on a bed of watercress & pea sprouts with chili jam, these nuggets burst with flavour. And the colourful spiced jerk tofu, plantain & sweet potato kebabs are equally impressive – the Caribbean coleslaw, lime cream & toasted cashews topping it off nicely.
Each of the meals is presented like a small work of art. For mains, I go for tofu steak and mash served with crisp onion rings. The tofu is surprisingly flavoursome, although the mash needs more seasoning.
Across the table, the meat isn’t being missed with the ravioli. The casing is thick and a little chewy, but it’s filled with a delicious wild mushroom & walnut pate and served with a moreish fennel cream sauce and sundried tomato pesto & balsamic reduction. Stuffed, we share dessert. One cranberry & orange cheesecake is gone within seconds – the amaretto brittle ‘vice’ cream rivalling any ice cream I’ve tried.
BEHIND THE BAR: A huge selection of wines (all organic) as well as champagnes, liqueurs and beers – all vegan, and lots of your usual brands.
BILL PLEASE: Starters from £7; mains from £11; desserts from £5; a glass of wine from £4; bottle of Asahi £3.
VERDICT: Don’t avoid this because of a mis-conception about vegan food; instead, try it for the culinary delights on offer.
4 Erskine Road, NW3 3AJ
Tube: Chalk Farm
Review: Carol Driver