London’s menu x two

Just the prospect of four days in London got my taste buds all worked up in anticipation for another big city’s intentional vegetarian cuisine.

I had escaped Doha’s desert twice earlier this year, delighting in some gastronomic plant-based meals at eateries in New York and Paris. So I was ready, and expectant, for more of the good stuff!

Of the five restaurants we ate at, and I’ll review them all, these first two left us roller coasting on some highs and lows. Here’s why…

Manna Straight off the flight and into the charming area near Regent's Park
Manna Straight off the flight and into the charming area near Regent’s Park

Manna restaurant is a small 100% vegan restaurant. Impressively tightly packed for a Wednesday night did however present some serving difficulties. The first of which was not having enough menus to put in front of inquisitive, hungry patrons.

So instead of savouring our first 15 minutes scanning through our food choices, I was unfortunately positioned, that I looked onto a woman wearing an animal fur ‘scarf’ (the pelt of torso, tail and limbs). At her feet lay a shaggy bag closely resembling or, perhaps more accurately, being the wooly remains of a sheep. In a vegan restaurant, seriously?

I soon came to understand (unintentionally, but nevertheless easily overhearing her conversations) that she come into this vegan hub of culinary compassion without a shred of related awareness. Her male friend seemed keen to share his healthful knowledge, so perhaps the first seeds were then planted.

crisp seasonal veggies in a rice flour (great to be gluten free) batter served with sweet chilli & tempura dipping sauces
Vegetable tempura Crisp seasonal veggies in a rice flour (great to be gluten-free) batter served with sweet chilli & tempura dipping sauces

Talking of seeds, the black sesame seeds sprinkled over this ‘more-ish’ starter could certainly be cause for an unattractive smile, post meal, (dental floss essential) but worth the chance nevertheless.

tortilla topped with black beans, cashew cheese, guacamole and salsa
Nachos especiales Tortilla topped with black beans, cashew cheese, guacamole and salsa. A far better tasting & healthier choice to the dairy variety

The starters were super, the mains a little forgettable and the deserts diabolically divine, specifically the Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Always a winner with my kids, and a manna speciality
Organic spaghetti & veatballs Always a winner with my kids, and a Manna speciality
Kids are drawn to this but the fennel & pumpkin seed sausages are too much of an acquired taste. Served on a bed of dill & carrot mash, seasonal greens on a red wine leek & thyme jus topped with onion rings
Bangers & Mash While kids are drawn to this type of meal, the fennel & pumpkin seed sausages was too much of an acquired taste for mine. Served on a bed of dill & carrot mash, seasonal greens on a red wine leek & thyme jus topped with onion rings
manna's traditional favourite (we know why!) served with the tastiest brandied pecan vice cream & caramel sauce
Top: Coconut & passionfruit cheesecake. Bottom: Sticky toffee pudding The 2nd being Manna’s traditional favourite (we know why!) served with the tastiest brandied pecan vice cream & caramel sauce

Our next fully vegan choice was Saf restaurant & bar. Positioned above the impressively well-stocked Whole Foods Market in Kensington, this open kitchen styled restaurant hugged the building’s periphery, as did a whole host of other eateries.

We arrived for a very late lunch so it was quiet
Saf Kensington We arrived for a very late lunch so it was quiet

The convenience of shopping post meal was the highlight of our experience. Which says little of the Saf experience. From an uninterested waitress to some peculiar combinations, the burger a case in point, left us all underwhelmed.

This starter was so tasty we all tucked into another serving. Grilled rice pastry dumplings filled with spinach, sorrel and courgettes, served with tamari-sesame vinaigrette
Spinach & sorrel gyoza This starter was so tasty we all tucked into another serving. Grilled rice pastry dumplings filled with spinach, sorrel and courgettes, served with tamari-sesame vinaigrette
seasonal vegetable patty, grilled inions, gherkins, tomato, baby gem lettuce with homemade tomato fig jam and tarragan aioli. It was the unusually sour organic gluten free bread that made this combination almost unpalatable
Saf Burger Seasonal vegetable patty, grilled onions, gherkins, tomato, baby gem lettuce with homemade tomato fig jam and tarragon aioli. It was the unusually sour organic gluten-free bread that made this combination almost unpalatable
Not a delight for me. This otherwise super combination was drenched in so much tamari it was impossible to enjoy the flavours of corn, corvettes, mange tout, baby spinach and shiitake mushrooms
Lo Han Chai (Buddha’s Delight) Not a delight for me. This otherwise super combination was drenched in so much tamari it was impossible to enjoy the flavours of corn, courgettes, mange tout, baby spinach and shiitake mushrooms

If I were to have visited all the other plant-based restaurants in London, only then would I return to Manna & Saf. Gladly so.

But it was time to keep searching for a London vegan restaurant that could dish up on consistently tasty choices, through all courses, offered by friendly, knowledgeable service staff, with an authentic ambiance. Had New York’s vegan restaurants spoilt me with their superb delivery?

3 thoughts on “London’s menu x two

  1. It’s a shame the Buddha’s Delight was drenched in Tamari- it looked yummy otherwise. The nachos looks great!
    So do the desserts. 🙂

    1. Hi Ally, you’re so right – have an eye for desserts too do you? It was amazing to think that the chef couldn’t better gauge, even visually, the amount of Tamari. Maybe he simply had a slip between bottle & dish!

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