I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited The Gate restaurant, a place that claims to be the most successful vegetarian restaurant in London. Being a fully-fledged meat eater, I guess in some way, you have this weird expectation that people will know you’re not ‘one of them’ and that you’re not really in the veggie club, you’re a fake. I admit, I even went with quite low expectations, thinking that everything would be a bit too virtuous, completely forgetting that I like vegetables, I eat vegetables every day! But no, here’s some shock news for you – vegetarian restaurants can be amazing too.
I ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc and my friend and I decided to dive into a mezze platter. One of the things that owners Adrian and Michael Daniel pride themselves on, is serving food that is ‘visually pleasing’. The mezze platter was certainly that. In fact, it was so pretty, it looked like they’d been putting it together like a piece of art for days.
We all know a plate of food isn’t worth its pretty appearance if it doesn’t taste good though. Yet much to my delight, it was packed with all sorts of punchy flavours.
So the fresh buffallo mozarella was nestled on a bed of courgettes with candied lemon and marjoram oil; the halloumi cheese was paired with a freekah, pomegranate and mint salad with roasted red peppers, harissa and onions. And the tart was packed with peppers, onions, feta cheese and accompanied with a balsamic reduction.
The three lentil pate terrine didn’t last in my memory as much as the other parts but the plate as a whole was fantastic and a great way of offering a little taster of the key starters The Gate serves. I was chuffed we’d been able to sample so many different flavours in one delicious plate.
The more we ate, the more I began to realise this restaurant is right up my street. The owners describe themselves as ‘Indo-Iraqi Jewish’ and place their food in the ‘Arabic with French and Italian influences’ box. I can’t really say I’ve tried a food genre of such an eclectic description before, but I could certainly see the Arabic influence. And I love Arabic food.
After the winning mezze and a refreshing glass of sauvignon blanc; the mains arrived and I’d forgotten the fact we were in a vegetarian restaurant. We were in a restaurant. And so far, a bloody good one at that – where service was timed just right, the tables were pristinely laid and the place was buzzing with content diners.
For mains, we had the tortillas and the roast heritage beetroot tart. I think my friend may have been a bit less bowled over by the tortillas. On paper they sound great (they were made up of sweet potato, sweetcorn, feta, chill, lime, and served with guacamole, sour cream and salsa) but I think she felt it needed that little bit of something else (meat perhaps?!) That said, it was a more than satisfactory dish.
After quite a ‘hearty’ mezze, I think I equally could have tucked into something meaty but the beetroot tart was very delicious. If I had to change one thing, I’d say it could have benefited from a splash of more seasoning or a spicy chutney on the side. But the Wensleydale, herb cream sauce and oh-so-sweet caramelised onions made for a rich and indulgent dish. The polenta chips which we ordered on the side weren’t needed but were great.
Speaking of rich and indulgent, I couldn’t help but try the creme brulee. It was served with yorkshire rhubarb and ginger jam which in my opnion is the best kind of creme brulee you can ever try. It was absolutely divine. Please make it your mission to try it.
The chocolate and pear tart was as rich and powerful as it looks. So order this only if you have space. Pear and chocolate are such a gorgeous combination and this was the final reminder that these guys are masters of flavour.
The fact this restaurant is vegetarian is irrelevant. But hey, to all the vegetarians who find themselves confined to the same old meat-free options every time they eat out, I insist you try The Gate. It’s a breath of fresh air and meat-eaters, yes, you’ll like it too.