Review: Deliciously Ella (London)

When we discovered our one-day trip to London was going to last another three days, Clare headed back down to Torquay to grab some clothes and arrange for the pets to be looked after, leaving me to explore London by myself. Not enjoying crowds or noise, I took a long walk around Hyde Park before heading off along the minor roads in the vague direction of Crosstown Doughnuts.

On the corner of Weighhouse Street and Binney Street I discovered Deliciously Ella, and several hours later I returned, clutching a bag of Lush bath bombs, for a late lunch. You order at the counter and then sit around a communal wooden table where the native Londoners try to avoid making eye contact.

deliciously-ella

This is the sweet potato, chickpea, and pumpkin curry (£8.95), which is served with brown rice and optional coconut chips and chilli flakes; I turned down the chilli. It’s a wholesome and delicately flavoured dish, which unfortunately suffers from having too high a rice-to-curry ratio. In the corner of the photo is the organic chocolate cashew blend, which was pricey (£6.95 for 500ml) but wonderfully rich. For a cheaper drink, Belu water is available from a fountain in exchange for a donation to WaterAid.

While not that special for an (impromptu) holiday meal, I can imagine Deliciously Ella being a great option for those who work nearby and want good quality food without a wait.

Review: Temple Of Seitan (London)

How long have I been wanting to go to Temple of Seitan? It’s been a while I have to admit. Childhood memories of KFC and Allen’s Fried Chicken made the prospects of a vegan chicken shop sound really good. Kate, however, was not convinced. She kept asking me when Chicken shops became a thing and anyway she was more of a McNuggets girl. So it’s taken a fair bit of persuading to get her there. We went to check out the Camden location.

I went for two piece, hot, and a snack box (half popcorn, half fries) and I had mixed feeling. I didn’t enjoy the hot chicken. The hot coating wasn’t incorporated into the batter so the mouth feel was a little dusty. I also wasn’t that keen on the seitan itself. I liked it in the popcorn but I didn’t enjoy it in the larger pieces. It just wasn’t very chicken-like. It had that slight spongy bounce that seitan can have. Honestly I prefer the fried chicken I’ve had at Samphire, in Plymouth, or V-Rev, in Manchester, for texture.

That being said the popcorn chicken is amazing. And the fries are pretty good too. I loved the popcorn chicken. The coating was amazing. Really crispy. It almost… pops. Kate, who only ordered the popcorn chicken, thought the colour and texture of the seitan was off-putting but loved the coating.

Temple of Seitan hasn’t quite made it to my must-eat list but I’d still be happy to go back. The trick, I think, is to order the popcorn chicken.

Review: Café Forty One (London)

Way back the week before last we went up to London for a one day trip and ended up staying three more days. It’s a long story but when we thought we were only staying one day we decided to treat ourselves to a trip to Café Forty One, a vegan pâtisserie.

After a brief debate about the merits of tarts we decided to splash out on the Valentine Afternoon Tea (available until the 28th). We were advised to start with the still warm scones. They were served with a berry compote that was wonderfully fruity and perfectly straddled the line between too tart and too sweet, a yummy clotted cream and a vegan honey substitute. As we’d just come from Devon the addition of honey was puzzling to us. Not that it was bad but… honey… on a scone?

Going down to the patisserie layer we had plenty of perfectly crafted treats. Our favourite was the Pistachio and Milk Chocolate Brioche. The pistachio creme was heavenly: light, soft and sublime. Kate also enjoyed the shortbread with chocolate cube and caramel creme pâtisserie although she was a little dubious about the gold leaf. I really liked the Black Forest entrements, griotte, dark chocolate and vanilla chantilly. The pecan and almond cookie was nice but not quite as show stopping and neither of us were keen on the redcurrant macaron. We didn’t think the redcurrants really worked.

On the bottom layer we get to the fancy sandwiches which was my personal favourite. Kate claimed the brioche roll with dill cream cheese and smoked carrot ‘salmon’. She was impressed with the realism of the carrot salmon. I enjoyed the BLT with aubergine ‘bacon’ which was also unexpectedly realistic with that wonderful hit of sweet, salty, smokey. The chipotle cheese with caramelised onion chutney and rocket on rye was amazing. The best vegan cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a few. The hummus and cucumber was a little disappointing but I suppose every tea has to come with some form of cucumber sandwich and every vegan tea has to come with a hummus sandwich so you might as well combine them and get the boring stuff out of the way.

It would be wrong to finish up without mentioning the price which is a nice, steep £35 per person (not including the service charge) but there are a couple of things that mean I don’t regret paying that. First of all the food is really well done; you can see the craftsmanship. Second, you do get a a good amount of food. We left absolutely stuffed. We give this place two thumbs up. If you have a special occasion coming up Café Forty One is absolutely perfect.

Review: Tibits Heddon Street (London)

It’s been years, maybe even half a decade, since someone first recommended I visit Tibits and finally I made it through the door. Obviously this isn’t breaking news but we loved this place so we’re going to give it a review anyway.

The buffet (is it egg-shaped or avocado-shaped? or a very badly shaped boat?) is all vegetarian with clearly marked vegan options. And you pay for the weight of food you have on your plate. I tried to restrain myself a little but we all know I didn’t.

I can’t remember what exactly all that was. I do remember the highlights: the glass noodles and wakame, the jollof rice, and the pak choi were my favourites. The only thing I didn’t like was kimchi which was oddly bland. Kate had less of a selection and wasn’t a great fan of the wakame but she had a good meal. Not good enough to skip desert.

Kate loved the Victoria sponge, my favourite was the mango mousse, and we both liked the chocolate. We may be late to the party but we had a great time. And we’ll try to make it back to Tibits sometime in the next five years.

Review: Crosstown Marylebone (London)

We popped across to London on Thursday. Unfortunately it was just for an appointment, not a protest. While we were there it only made sense to find some yummy vegan treats. I especially wanted to try the vegan location of Crosstown Doughnuts which had opened just two days after our last visit.

The shop is small with just two tables outside and a bar inside. It has plenty of doughnuts though. I was torn between trying one of the more adventurous combinations or getting something more plain. In the end I went for the Vegan Chocolate Truffle, somewhat between the two.

Here the doughnut is topped with dark chocolate and has a truffle filling. It’s a very grown up chocolate doughnut. Dark, decadent and absolutely perfect.

Kate, as is traditional, went for the pink one. This is orange blossom, with pistachios and pomegranate. There is an orange custard inside and it was just as delicious as my chocolate choice but a bit more light and summery in flavour. This would be a two-thumbs-up review that would enthusiastically recommend you go to buy doughnuts if it wasn’t for one thing that’s been bothering me. This is a card-only location. No cash is accepted and that means that anyone who can’t get a card is shut out. Yeah that’s a small minority but its generally a vulnerable one. And as vegans we should be looking out for the vulnerable in society. I still recommend visiting for the doughnuts but if the no cash thing bothers you too maybe shoot an email.

Review: By Chloe (London)

We like Chloe Coscarelli’s recipes — just an hour ago Clare served us pasta with pink sauce from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen — so we had to visit By Chloe during our trip to London. (We’ve since learned that Chloe is no longer associated with By Chloe, following an acrimonious legal battle.)

After a long walk through Hyde Park (home of ring-necked parakeets) and past Buckingham Palace (smaller than I had expected), Big Ben (entirely encased in scaffolding), and the Ministry Of Defence (suitable fascistic), we were ready for breakfast, and found By Chloe on Russell Street around the back of the Theatre Royal.

by-chloe

Inside it was modern and clean, with a choice between normal seating and hanging chairs. It was also surprisingly noisy; not from the customers, as it wasn’t busy, but from the music. This led to communication problems: our receipt shows they thought Clare was called Cleer, while the table next to us had their order messed up not once but twice.

The menu seemed expensive, even by London standards, but a big breakfast is worth paying for. Unfortunately what we received was not a big breakfast. Remember the beautifully presented almond butter and banana on toast from Good Vibes? Here’s what By Chloe managed for £6.60:

toast

That’s a single slice of toast, messily smeared with almond butter and scattered with unevenly sliced banana. I manage better presentation at 6:30am without even trying.

Clare ordered the sunrise burrito and quinoa hash browns. The ‘s’ on the end of ‘hash browns’ might lead you to expect a small plateful. English grammar would lead you to expect at least two. You know where this is going:

hash-brown-burrito

Despite the small portions the food was good, with Clare particularly enjoying the seitan chorizo. The drinks were another matter. Clare had the cuckoo’s nest smoothie, which she describes as “just awful”, with the balance of flavours all wrong and the beetroot overwhelming the other ingredients. I asked for the Jade Tips tea, and was told they didn’t have that but did have green tea, which when it arrived turned out to be Jade Tips after all, in the form of a teabag in a paper cup of boiling water.

There’s something depressing about tea in a paper cup. It’s what you might get at a conference, where they have to provide refreshments but don’t really care. It’s not what you expect from a venue that describes itself as a restaurant. This sense of cheapness was reinforced by the flimsy plastic cutlery. If I had to describe By Chloe in a single phrase, I would say: imagine a vegan McDonald’s.

The great thing about London is that when it comes to vegan food you have so much choice. Do yourself a favour, and choose somewhere else.

 

Review: Wulf & Lamb (London)

After the confusion over eggs at breakfast, it was a relief to have a fully vegan place on the itinerary for lunch. We had spent the morning in The Science Museum where they have three (!) vegan options in their cafe. Unfortunately we had already been tempted by Wulf & Lamb’s menu, and besides we wanted to see if the positive or negative reviews had it right.

Wulfandlamb

We arrived at the middle of lunch on a Saturday. It was busy, but not slammed. You make your order at the counter and sit down with a number. When your food is ready it’s brought over to you. Simple. The staff were friendly and on-hand to explain anything to you. When you sit down you have lovely table that is properly set with actual cutlery (this will become important when Kate reviews By Chloe in a couple of days).

wulfandlambburger

Just before you order your food you walk past a temptation counter of all the doughnuts, cakes, wraps, and sandwiches. I managed to resist and ordered myself what I’d decided on before I’d even left Devon: the Wulf Burger. It is by far the best looking burger I’ve ever had with bonus points for that lovely glossy bun. It is by far the meatiest burger I’ve had since going vegan. The dish is completed with wedges (huge wedges!) of tender potato and sweet potato and a small, very welcome dish of sauerkraut.

wulfpie

Kate opted for the Wulf pie. It’s not overly clear from the menu but it’s a take on shepherd’s pie with a filling of lentils and jackfruit. From the second that it arrived on the table with its adorably piped mashed potato I could see that Kate was in love. That she practically cleaned the generously-sized bowl confirmed it. Between the pie and the burger we’d had the best meal of our trip.

macandcheese

There was, however, one misstep. We couldn’t resist sharing a portion of the mac and cheese. This is the one point where we have to agree with Grace Dent’s review. She says it was ‘dry and welded to its bowl’; I would like to add that it was tasteless, bizarrely grainy and just bloody awful. I’ve made better vegan mac from a powdered mix. That sounds harsh but it’s true. And it’s disappointing. It’s the best vegan burger, it’s an amazing lentil shepherd’s pie, the hot chocolate was great, the juice was perfect and then… disappointment.

But that can’t be the last word in this review. It can’t be. The rest of the food was too good for that. So we’d recommenced that you go and enjoy the food. Just stay away from that mac.