Posts Tagged ‘veggie’

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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