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.

 

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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.

Review: Brunch at The Gate (London)

The Gate is the best vegetarian restaurant in London. It says so on the website. So as we woke up on Saturday we knew we had to go. Also the Marylebone location was close to our hotel and serves a brunch menu from nine on Saturday. With convenience like that who can argue?

the gate outside

We had the entire beautifully decorated, not-a-hair-out-of-place restaurant to ourselves which kind of makes what happens next really embarrassing. I ordered the shakshuka (or rather Kate ordered it because my lisp won’t let me say that many ‘sh’ sounds in a row). Its description in the menu begins with ‘scrambled tofu seasoned with turmeric’ and ends with ‘replace tofu with poached organic egg – not vegan’ in parentheses.

no egg

You can tell what happened right? I thought that the dish made with tofu was standard, the waiter thought the dish made with egg was standard and so I ended up with poached eggs. I apologised, he took it back, and eventually a second, tofu topped dish appeared. It was delicious, if somewhat ruined by awkwardness.

pancakes

Kate, meanwhile, was enjoying a lovely stack of banana and berry pancakes. Which probably had enough fruit to count as one of her five a day (right?). Kate liked her pancakes but she loved her almond hot chocolate. She took one sip and basically swooned. It was rich, thick, creamy, and decadently dessert-like.

P1060384

Do we recommend going to The Gate for brunch? Well it is pretty poor that my order got messed up when we were the only ones in there but mistakes happen and they did correct it. The food was good, the hot chocolate great and it was still cheaper than the (not remotely vegan) continental breakfast at our hotel. So yeah, why not?

Review: Woodlands Restaurant (London)

Kate and I had to go to London so we figured that we could combine obligation with a little bit of sightseeing, some shopping, and a lot of eating. We stayed close to Paddington Station so I spent a lot of time Googling and Happy Cowing (well, it should be a thing) vegan eateries in the area. Strangely thin on the ground once you rule out menus full of raw food or other dishes Kate wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Kate does like one thing however, and that is South Indian food. So off we went to  vegetarian India restaurant Woodlands. We rocked up to the Marylebone location on Friday night and prepared for a feast.

chatt
Happy Chatt

At this point I’d like to apologise for the pictures. The lighting was bad and so is my camera. I really wanted to talk about this place though because I loved the food. We ordered from a few places around the vegan menu (PDF) and started with the incredible Chatt Bombs. Tangy, tasty and full of tamarind. Sev is always welcome on my plate and pomegranate seeds added a welcome burst of freshness.

idli
Idli

We also split an order of Idli. Kate couldn’t decide if the pillow like texture was a good thing or a bad thing. I’m firmly on the side of good thing. Undeniably the sambar is a good thing. I can see why they have extra portions on the menu. I could have drunk it down. I restrained myself though. Gotta have your best manners on when you are in the nation’s capital.

dosa
Dosa

On to mains then. We needed dosas; who doesn’t, right? We split an order of the masala dosa with rice and lentil batter. Classic. I thought it was a little underdone in the middle but the taste was good and it came with more sambar. So can’t complain too much.

saggaloJPG

Considering we were trying a few we things we thought we’d order our old standby of Sagg Aloo. Just in case. As it turned out that was a bad idea. Kate, as we’ve mentioned before, is not a chilli fan. She can tolerate a little heat but it was rather hot. It was right in the middle of my comfort zone. I loved it in fact. Kate was a little overheated though.

Mixed review then. Me, I recommend Woodlands on the strength of the chatt and sambar. Kate doesn’t recommend it because of the strength of the chillies.