Restaurants for vegetarians and those who love them
A year ago it dawned on me that the 50 weekly views of my blog: The Vegetarians' Guide to Eating Out were me. Well, me and my family. As a result of this slightly disheartening revelation I stopped writing, ending on a high in Byron Bay.
After a year of more travel to countries that are not always veggie friendly I decided that me and my blog were onto a good thing. Today's article is in memory of the said blog.
If, like me, you prefer your risotto sans chicken, and your lasagne all veg and no meat then keep reading. Hold on a second meat fiends, before you go just have a think about whether you know any of my kind...or maybe someone with allergies, or dietary requirements for religious reasons. If the answer is no, feel free to go and read something more relevant to your carnivorous ways. If you answered yes to any of the above, then pull up a pew.
You see, this isn't about restaurants that only serve vegetarian food. This is about five London restaurants that I feel allow veggiesaurs and t-rexes to coexist peacefully: hand in hand, rocking away and singing hippy dippy songs.
There are more than just these five, but after a good twenty years of research, and working all this food off at the gym, these were the ones that stood out.
In reverse order:
5. Polpo, 41 Beak Street, London, W1F 9SB
Don't be put off by the giant octopus on their website... or by the fact that Polpo is the Italian word for octopus.
Between arancini, croquettes, a variety of pizzette and breads, plus a vegetables and salads section, we are not wanting for choice.
Order a selection as polpo is Venetian style cuisine (Italian tapas). Please do leave room for the desserts. That's right, I went plural, but seriously, can you choose between Nutella pizzetta and flourless orange and almond cake. I guess that's an easy one for coeliacs.
Polpo is not one of a kind. There are two other branches in London (Smithfields and Covent Garden), plus it has a number of sister restaurants. But I haven't tried any of these bar Polpetto, so they didn't make my list.
4. Odettes, 130 Regent's Park Road, London, NW1 8X
Date night! Or date day because not only do they have a full veg menu, the lunch menu is a steal. Especially considering how much dinner can set you back.
Because I'm a giant fatty, I tend to order the vegetarian tasting menu. What?! I can't decide. Stop judging.
Based in primrose hill, Odettes is off the tourist track but don't let this fool you into thinking you shouldn't call ahead and book dinner...even on a week night. This one is popular with locals, and those locals can afford to go a lot...and they do.
3. The Garrison, 99 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XB
Posh pub grub, and it's a pub with a cinema screen downstairs to boot. Mind you it doesn't show new releases, but who cares, the world is full of cinemas that show the latest films. The Garrison's cinema listings are all about retro. Actually, how old does something have to be to make it retro? I think the big fashion magazines are referring to the resurgence of 90s clothing as retro...which definitely makes me retro, and thus cool.
I could be wrong about all of that, but basically, The Garrison shows older films: think Grease.
Back to the food, which is always hearty. Occasionally they only have one veg option, but this is very rare. Usually, there are two choices in starters and mains which are always filling, tasty and most importantly, not thrown together as an afterthought...mmm caramelized onion and goats cheese tart.
2. Il Baretto, 43 Blandford Place, London, W1U 7HF
Hmmmm, I'm sensing my preference for Italian cuisine with the country's yumtastic food making more than one appearance in this list. But...but...it just tastes so good.
Black truffle mac and cheese with a side of chilli broccoli for me, the veal Milanese for my baby-cow eating friend please.
Oh, wait, you've run out of that you say...well no problem, I'll just order another one of your vegetarian pastas...or maybe I'll get a pizza. Would my friend still like the veal, you ask? Got any other baby animals he could eat? The lamb you say? Why yes, that would be perfect.
If the above exchange did nothing for you, then think of fresh burrata drizzled in extra virgin olive oil. When you're done salivating, look at the picture below, and salivate some more.
Hold on! Is that a dessert platter?!
Without further ado, my absolute favourite and definitely one to save for a treat as it's not cheap....
1. The Quilon, 41 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, London, SW1E 6AF
Clouds part, sole ray of sun shines, angels sing. Then...fast and funky 50s music plays, and everyone does the jive. So...I think the fact that I'm losing the plot a little bit over the thought of the food here is a good indication of just how much I like it.
Just in case the above was an over-sell, let me take a moment to manage expectations. The Quilon is a Michelin starred South Indian restaurant. Though that still sounds like I'm well in the camp of over-selling, I mention it because my family is from Sri Lanka, and the food at the Quilon reminds me of that: mini dosas (thosais if we're speaking like true southerners), sweet sweet Dhodhol and polos curry (baby jack fruit). Plus, lamb, chicken and all things meaty for well, meaties.
Bonus round because I'm biased towards veggiesaurs:
There are plenty of veg restaurants if you want to leave your bunny-eating friends behind. My top three in London are:
3. Woodlands - a chain that focuses on South Indian cuisine, but pulls in flavours from the North too. Wah Wah.
2. Mildred's - best description is modern European. Filling, hearty and a tasty selection of veg and vegan wines. It's in So - no reservations - ho, be prepared to queue.
1. Saravanaa Bhavan - another South Indian chain (shocking, truly shocking). Great food, authentic flavours and cheap as chips... except it doesn't serve chips. You won't find this chain in central London so get those tube maps out. You will, however, find this chain everywhere else, including the likes of Vancouver, NYC's Lexington Avenue and Singapore.