I was gonna write a review of my experiences with vegetarian food in London, as I have recently done in Berlin, New York and Paris. However after my experiences on my first two days here I decided to stop this endeavor.
The current issue of Time Out magazine contains the Eating & Drinking Awards 2012, the overall winner is described as follows: “Meat is all over the menu in 2012”. That probably says it all, never count on vegetarian food in a trend-driven city like London …
Four locations in Belgravia, Kensington, Notting Hill and Islington
I checked out three of the much hyped Ottolenghi Delis and I have to say I was very disapointed. The presentation and look of the place is spectacular (as is the Logo and general Design), and the dishes even sound amazing, on paper, but the actual food just didn’t look all that fresh to me, especially the cooked dished on display actually turned me off with some dried out cheeses and egg bits. If I just walked in knowing nothing about Ottolenghi, I would call this an over-priced deli in a yuppie neighborhood. I guess I will just stick to cooking delicious Ottolenghi menus at home using my fresh, home-grown vegetables. Now that food rules.
370 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NN,
I had heard great things about The Gate. They also have published two pretty awesome cookbooks. So let’s just hope the cooks had a bad day when I went there. Brown salad leaves, dry lentil-bulgur cakes, not very appealing. And with super small portions I walked out hungrier than when I entered. Again the decor, interior design and everything else is fantastic, and the menues sounded great. But to actually eat it did not compare. Much hype about nothing? It may be too fast to judge. But this was definitely not worth my money.
I was also gonna check out Manna (I have eaten there years ago, and back then it was decent but not exiting, the prices are substantial, so I decided to pass), Nopi (this is Ottolenghis Soho restaurant, but after re-checking the menu I realized it’s not really that vegetarian friendly at all) and Ottolenghi Islington
All places excel in presentations, logos, interior design, they are brilliant hype machnies. But the food lacks the same excellence. I’ll just go for vegetarian friendly ethnic food from now on, lebanese, indian. I am very much open to suggestions for affordable, decent vegetarian food.
And of course I could not really leave it at that. As food obsessed as I am I had to keep hunting for decent vegetarian food around London. A few things were disapointing, others were actually fantastic finds.
Honey & Co.
25a Warren Street, London W1T 5LZ Tel. 0207 388 6175
Honey & Co. came highly recommended, so I was eager to try it out. However their menu is not very vegetarian friendly or at least it wasn’t on the day that I went. I can’t recall now, there was either no vegetarian option for a main dish on the menu or it was one that did not appeal to me. At any rate I ended up eating a meze selection, which was quite good, but since I had craved a warm meal, I probably wouldn’t able to be very objective. It was quite a small portion though. And the cake I took to fill me up was not at all great.
44 Cloth Fair London EC1A 7JQ – 0207 6007778
I had found the website for this place online doing my google searches before the trip, but dismissed it because it was in a neighborhood I didn’t plan to visit. But when I suddenly just stood in front of it, I decided to give it a try. The food was decent, but not at all exiting. What is a nice way of saying not exiting? Deflating? At least they had nice portions and I didn’t walk out hungry for the first time. The Italianita felt a little performed. But hey…
Ottolenghi – next try
I simply needed to try out one of the Ottolenghi delis, but to visit the Notting Hill branch on a Saturday morning might not be the best idea. The place felt messy and overcrowded with some people still enjoying their breakfast while I already wanted lunch. The portions were quite small and of the three salads only one actually blew me away.
So it was now time to search for “Best Hummus in London” and it seemed like all “roads” lead to Edgware Road, sorry. I checked out the three listed places but decided to try:
36-37 Upper Berkley Street, London W1H 5QF
Green Valley is a supermarket and turned out to be a foodie paradise. Tons of spices, special breads, sweets and in the back they whip out some excellent deli food and sandwiches. The falafel sandwich is a total bargain and their hummus is fantastic. But what makes this place especially great is the vast selection of baked sweets, the baklavas and you name its are what makes this place unbelievable.
128 Edgware Road, London W2 2DZ, 020 7224 8382
This is a Syrian restaurant, Damascene is what it says on the menu – a word that I love. I had checked the place out on the previous nights, but it looked very busy and like you had to fight to get a seat. On my last night I finally was able to muster the courage to go in and oh boy, did I not regret this. 7.50 for a three dish meze selection with Hummus from heaven, Hara Isbah (pasta cooked with tamarind and lentils plus fried bread and fresh coriander) as well and a sligtly less fantastic Foul Mukalla (broad beans with fresh coriander). The place was buzzing around me, but I was mouthgasming inside my bubble.
By far the most exiting food related thing during my trip was the fantastic Eat Your Heart Out 2012 show at the Pathology Museum at St. Bart’s Hospital. Creative cake makers got together to create some deliciously creepy cakes and sweets, venereal disease cupcakes, eyeball popsicles, blood sample jams, petri dishes. Perfect setting for a show that had such a great sense of humor and fits the Halloween season perfectly.