This review was originally written for the Londonist, as part of my eco eating series.
In need of something a bit swish on a damp, wet and downright freezing evening, we ventured into territories we don’t often frequent due to a light wallet and an embarrassing penchant for things a little trendier. Not an obvious candidate for our eco eating series, Vanilla Black has made it in simply because it’s a vegetarian restaurant.
Apologies to those who love a little flesh between their teeth, but eating meat and fish is one of the least environmentally friendly things you can do. Eat a lot less of both, and you will immediately be more of an eco-eater.
So Vanilla Black then, a solid City establishment with heavy furniture, thick carpets and hushed chatter, that serves gourmet vegetarian fare and comes Michelin recommended. Snacking on slices of bread (wholemeal with hazelnuts and white with sesame) spread thickly with butter (one with sea salt, one with black pepper), we browsed the menu. After ordering we were treated to a cube of horseradish ‘Turkish delight’ washed down with an apple and mint shot. Rather exciting and very tasty.
A sweet sounding starter of Yorkshire feta cheesecake with blackcurrant sauce was brilliantly savoury; cep custard with lemon jelly was deliciously intense if a little odd; beetroot with elderberry vinagerette was simple and fresh. For mains, we chose poached hen egg and Ribblesdale pudding, served with a hickory smoked potato croquette, pineapple pickle and sweet red onions, and a mushroom duxelle with white wine and tarragon. All very rich and flavoursome. Portions were generous and good looking.
Too full for desert, we finished off with tea and coffee and were left to chat uninterrupted until we asked for the bill. Not cheap, it’s actually good value at £24 for two courses, £32 for three. A starter, main, glass of wine, espresso and tip cost us about £35. Bread and amuse-bouche were complimentary.
Service was attentive but subtle and unrushed. Arriving with laptops and panniers we were grateful for a cloakroom. Fairly formal but without pretension or stuffiness, Vanilla Black isn’t a glamorous place, nor is the decor anything to shout about, but the food was adventurous and the atmosphere relaxed enough to spend a good three hours over our meal making.
Vanilla Black, 17-18 Tooks Court, EC4A 1LB / www.vanillablack.co.uk