Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

After losing my vegetarian restaurant virginity at Vanilla Black a few weeks back, it appears I’m embracing veggie dining.

So too is high-end Malaysian restaurant Awana, in Sloane Avenue:  ordinarily it serves a  huge range of Malay delights including meaty stir-fries, street-food style noodles and chunky peanut laden satay sticks to keep a committed carnivore, vegetarian or even vegan  happy.

For two weeks’ this month , AWANA is running a vegetarian festival and offering a special selection of dishes for the vegetable-inclined among us.

We perch on low leather stools and indulge in Awana’s signature cocktail

the Hibiscus.

DeCaDeNt,sweet champagne tinged pink by an edible hibiscus flower 

which unfurls in the gentle bubbles

at the bottom of the glass…

Our table is in the corner, giving us a good view of the open satay bar where roti is kneaded and stretched into thin pancakes. Low lit, with wooden slatted partition walls, pink and yellow ceiling lights give Awana a radiant glow and a touch of funkiness to the atmosphere.

First to arrive are Popiah Tohu dan Cendawan, a twist on traditional spring rolls served with vinaigrette sauce.

Lightly battered, stuffed with tofu, enoki mushrooms and  a sugar snap in the middle. This made for a refreshing and satisfying crunch tempered well by the slightly acidic dipping sauce. Having spent a fair amount of time in South-East Asia There is no doubt I am somewhat of a roti snob.

It can’t be too greasy, or overcooked. Whatever the roti is flavoured with shouldn’t be overpowering and must compliment the dipping sauce it’s served with. 

Torn between GaRLiC stuffed and rosemary & sage rotis, invevitably  both were ordered.

Sweet red curry sauce. Crispy crunchy squares of goodness.

There is nothing more to say:  I’ve not tasted roti this delicious since I was in the Cameron Highlands

The roti was always going to be a tough act to follow, so the Tohu Bakar was already at a disadvantage when it arrived.

I’m not a massive tofu fan, but was pleasantly susprised by this dish –

tofu wrapped  tenderly in a bAnAnA leaf

served with a tomato-y, shitake-y and button mushroom sauce.

A wee bit heavy on the tofu and not quite enough sauce for my liking,

but not bad at all.Three mains are on offer, the first is Cedawan Goreng – a mushroom and vegetable stir fry with kung po sauce

 Fungi-phobes should steer well clear of this one as

combining button, shitake and oYsTer mushrooms with a kick of chilli,

this has an intense, rather than subtle mushroom flavour.

 For a lighter option choose the Sup Sayaran

broth packed with glass noodles, tofu, pak choi and lots of healthy vegetables,

Great for cleansing the  palate after such a smorgasbord of  flavours.

It’s a case of ‘third time’s the charm’ on the mains, when the Kari Terong arrives. 

Blended pumpkin and aubergine curry

scattered with chickpeas

and lashings of coconut cream…


If you can only choose one main – it HAS to be this.

My tastebuds thus far have been tantalised

Through nice and spicy to dreamy and creamy

I can’t even think about dessert.

Manager Andy recommends us a roti tissue. I have no idea what this is, but it sounds less than appetising.

If I came away from Awana learning only one thing it would be:



judge a dessert

by its name…

A huge bowl shaped roti appears before us.

dusted with cinammon and vanilla sugar

it smells like Christmas,or heaven,or both.

There’s a hole cut in the bottom and the roti is suspended over several scoops of cinammon ice cream.

Andy pours rivers of chocolate sauce over the roti,

it spirals down the inside, causing a Willy-Wonka esque waterfall of chocolate to flow over the ice cream.

A fabulous flourish to end a delicious meal. 

The vegetarian festival runs until October 16th, the to-die-for roti (both savoury and sweet) however – are available year round!

©Ianthe Butt 2011

Awana  85 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea SW3 3DX

020 7584 8880

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I’ve been veggie for 21 years and recently came to the realisation that in those 21 years I’ve eaten at restaurants across the globe,  attempted to eat at a Steak House (don’t ask) but OnE thing I’ve never done is visit a VeGeTaRiAn ReStAuRaNt.

To say a veggie-friendly menu was overdue would be an understatement.

Vegephiles flock to unassuming Vanilla Black near Chancery Lane. Tucked away in quiet  Tooks Court you could miss it if you didn’t know you were looking for it. The decor is similarly understated, simple with occasional vintage touches like an old phone perched on a shelf.

Taking a seat at a table in my first vegetarian restaurant how did I feel? Honestly? Overwhelmed… usually I don’t have much choice on the menu. I’ve eaten more mushroom risottos than  bears thinking about. The first thing to arrive, was a curious looking dish which turned out to be a tomato and strawberry shot with toasted black pepper Turkish delight. The shot was bursting with flavour and a real contrast to the grainy and savoury Turkish Delight.      

One thing I love about my friends is that they are little-bit’o-this sharey type diners – with very different tastes meaning I get to try LOTS of dishes.

The brie ice cream and rhubarb chutney with baked gingerbread and toasted hazelnut

sounds like it might be found at a culinary confusion party –BUT

bizarrely  it works …deliciously creamy savoury ice cream sprinkled with crunchy sweetness.

Cheese disguised as a dessert?


Also on offer to start was a chilled two-hour poached duck egg nestled on a bed  of whipped spinach

with CrIsPy bread and greens –  a bit like a posh Eggs Florentine…

An interesting and tasty take on a real classic.

Ever heard of Salt’n’Vinegar Gel…? That’s what I thought.

Said gel is served in another starter option with feta, shaved vegetable and lemon oil. Looking like a posy of flowers, bright purple and green vegetables are tossed with feta while dabs of the gel are placed round the edge. The crispiness of the vegetables against the sharper Salt’n’Vinegar gel, citrus flavours and tangy feta is a triumph.

Little Miss Muffet would be impressed by this pimped version of her favourite breakfast treat:beetroot, curds, whey and baked porridge oats.

Fruity, herby – another sweet meets savoury success.

Every starter was exciting and I’d happily eat them all again – the brie ice cream and the poached egg being my personal favourites.

The mains and some reasonably priced red wine arrived: a poached organic hen egg with Ribbesdale Pudding (a cheesey pudding a little bit like a souffle),  a hickory smoked potato and pineapple pickle. I loved the thought behind this dish but wasn’t a massive fan of the fruity-smoky combo – the egg however was poached to perfection.

Other delights were the fried mushroom mousse with tarragon waffles.

Avoid the fennel if you aren’t a fan of strong flavours – but do give it a go –

this dish was loved by a friend who doesn’t even usually touch vegetables.

Also on offer were

a tomato and marjoram tart

with frozen sweetcorn,

MiNt & YoGhUrT curd,

foraged sea aster


Heritage potatoes

A goats’ cheese chantilly

with wilted spinach



a block of

peanut nougat


refreshing apple coleslaw.

Despite  a Yorkshire Gouda and ale bread with salted caramel powder and raisins and a Valrhona chocolate tart with whipped cherry beer  on offer for dessert, we couldn’t fit them in. Despite the small portions  they are perfectly filling – leaving you pleasantly full rather than over-stuffed.

Vanilla Black was a breath of fresh air for me, challenging  the sterotype of boring vegetarian food.

Their experimental dishes are innovative yet don’t put cleverness before taste.

One friend, a dedicated carnivore with a passionate dislike of vegetables  told me she would come back.

With such delicious food I was suprised it wasn’t busier – the only criticism (tiny) I have is that it’s almost as though Vanilla Black could  create a slightly warmer atmosphere  as the minimalist interior feels at

odds with the bright, forward-thinking food.

That said, when the food tastes this good, they can get away with it.

Overall a fun and fabulous evening with not a mushroom risotto in sight.


©Ianthe Butt 2011

Vanilla Black 17- 18 Tooks Court, London, EC4A 1LB  020 7242  2622

Available for Lunch and Dinner: Monday to Friday, 12:00 to 2:30pm & 6:00 to 10:00pm (excluding bank holidays) Saturday, 6:00 to 10:00pm Two Courses      £24.50 Three Courses   £32.50

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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

I’d never forgiven Zizzi for taking my favourite dish off the menu a few years back.

A pile of steaming pasta  in a rich and creamy blue cheese sauce.

Yummalicious.Vegetarian heaven.

Always ended up too full for dessert (this is is big deal in my book).


Since then I’ve thought of it as a standard chain – nice food, recession friendly  but nothing to write home, or a blog post, about.

When I was invited to  try the new summer menu, a little voice in my head whispered that perhaps, perhaps they’d come to their senses and put my fave dish back on the menu.

Sadly the gorgonzola-wonder-dish didn’t appear, but I was delighted by…

the  superfood salad: goats cheese

with butternut squash, courgettes, lentils, broad beans and mint all drizzled lightly with white balsamic.

AMAZING. I would actually have this over a pizza. 

Another great veggie option was the Bietole e Ricotta salad

chunks of beetroot,

zesty lemon-marinated buffalo ricotta cheese

with asparagus and artichokes.

I don’t even really like beetroot and I liked this. Perfect for a warm summer evening.

For me the salads were the stars of the evening, but other new additions included a pizza for

InDeCiSiVe PeOpLe– half calzone (folded pizza) and half normal pizza,

gluten-free pasta and a selection of fab fizzy proseccos.

Dessert wise Zizzi are bang on trend

with luxe gelato -created by ice cream extraordinaire

Kitty Travers.



You know how macaroons were the new cupcakes?

Well gelato is the new macaroon.

Pistachio was my personal favourite, but that didn’t stop me trying the chocolate truffle flavour. And the crema. And the limited edition blood orange – very Club Tropicana.

It would have been rude not to.

Zizzi has upped its game with its  light, bright, tasty salads and managed to move from ‘just another chain’ to somewhere I’d actually recommend.

The butternut squash salad might just be the new gorgonzola-wonder-dish (may it rest in peace).

You heard it here first.

See the full menu here.
© Words Ianthe Butt 2011/Photos Zizzi

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