Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Review: The Gate vegetarian restaurant, Islington
Although I'm not a vegetarian, I eat a lot of veggie food and I'm actually quite fussy with it. I think veggie options can be quite lazy - a lot of places think that just removing the meat is the only way to go, but of course it isn't. A good vegetarian meal has been planned without any meat in mind, making a hero out of the vegetables used (I'd also accept the cheese), and as a dedicated carnivore, I don't want to be eating it and thinking 'If you just added some bacon, it'd be perfect.' So I'm all for the inclusion of a really good vegetarian option on a menu. I fight for your rights, veggies.
So here I am, reviewing The Gate restaurant in Islington with all that in mind. I don't frequent veggie restaurants often, so I was excited to see what they did with that option - was it going to be run of the mill, or innovative? Well, I'm happy to say it was the latter - this is a place that loves vegetables, and wants to show people what they can do. Not only did I not miss meat during my three course dinner, I really noticed the difference in how I felt afterwards - much less bloated, much less heavy - enough to make me consider ordering the (V) option even more frequently, and not always succumbing to the allure of a steak.
We started with cocktails - now this is a good cocktail menu. It's not ridiculously long, but what I liked about it was everything was a bit different. Yes, there was a Margarita, but it was infused with Jalapeno. The Amaretto Sour had absinthe in it. The Manhattan contained a dash of maple syrup. The blogger writing this is now feeling upset she only had one. But my Lychee Elixir was delicious - not overly sweet, like a lot of lychee drinks can be, and super refreshing. Anne had the Gypsy Martini, which contained raisin infused gin - intriguing. It was sweet and syruppy and delicious. One little criticism is that our cocktails came after our starter, and we had to ask if they could delay our mains a little so we could finish them. I always think of cocktails as a warm up to the starter before the wine comes out - just me?
Onto the food! I ordered the Grilled Halloumi in Chermula and Anne had the Three Lentil Pate Terrine. In hindsight, I wish we'd shared the Mezze Platter so I could have tried more! But I love halloumi, especially when it has an exciting marinade, and this was really tasty with just the right amount of freekeh to compliment it without being overly filling. I loved the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds alongside the salty halloumi. Anne enjoyed her starter too, which was a combo of different pates served with homemade pumpernickel bread.
For mains, I was seriously tempted by the Tortillas, which sounded like the best veggie fajitas ever - sweet potato, sweetcorn, goats cheese, chilli, lime and coriander, baked beetroot, feta, guacamole, sour cream and black bean pepper salsa... I am going to have to go back to have this. But after reading Erica's review, I had to try the Aubergine Schnitzel - it was unlike anything I'd had before, and it came with dauphinoise potatoes and I am mad for dauphinoise potatoes. It was really good - I'm actually not a huge horseradish fan, but the horseradish sauce it came with worked really well and wasn't too overpowering. It was crispy, flavoursome and delicious, and the potatoes were good too, actually a lot lighter and less rich than they usually are, but it really worked. Anne had the Wild Mushroom Rotolo, and the bite I had was delicious - it looked so light, but was actually pretty filling and a big flavour punch.
For sides we had the mixed steamed greens which were simple, but good, and the rocket and balsamic reduction salad topped with hazelnuts and blushed tomatoes which was AMAZING. Technically it was Anne's side so I only got a bite, and then had to deal with the red mist of food envy for the rest of the meal. Getting my own next time.
A lot of the desserts are vegan, although we both ended up choosing non-vegan options. If I'm honest, we wanted the real stuff. It seemed a little odd that the creamy items were vegan, but the items that seemed easier to convert - like the Chocolate and Pear Tart and the Bread and Butter pudding - were not vegan. But I guess they like a challenge, and I respect that. And my non-vegan Creme Brulee was delicious. It came with rhubarb, and the tartness was a welcome addition to the creaminess of a traditional brulee. Creme Brulee can often be a little bland, but this really mixed it up. Anne's Orange Marmalade and Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding was nice and fluffy, but a little too heavy on the marmalade.
The house red was good too, and had a really cute label. Anne insisted I photographed the label. Hi, Anne.
Overall, it was a really delicious meal, and I loved the fact that I didn't wake up the next morning feeling poisoned and bloated. I mean, I had a big cocktail and half a bottle of wine with dinner, so I didn't feel GREAT, but I felt a damn sight better than if I'd eaten a giant, meaty dish instead. I'd really recommend The Gate - it's lovely inside, quite a fancy spot, in fact - and the service was great too, with our waiter happy to make recommendations. It's absolutely somewhere I'd go back to, with or without a vegetarian pal.
The Gate is at 370 St John Street, London EC1V 4NN. The restaurant paid for our bill in exchange for this honest review.
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