I love vegetarian food, but walking to The Gate I couldn’t help but feel sceptical that an entirely veggie or vegan meal wouldn’t fully satisfy my rumbling belly. I hold my hands up - boy was I wrong. This modern bistro plates up dazzling meat-free meals with Asian and Middle Eastern flavours that don’t just satisfy, but take taste buds on a magical journey. Plus there’s not a nut roast in sight…
I headed to The Gate’s newest restaurant in Islington (about a five minute walk from Angel station), but the original eatery is located in Hammersmith, just behind the Carling Apollo Theatre, off Hammersmith Broadway. The original owners, brothers Michael and Adrian Daniel, set up the original Gate in Hammersmith nearly 25 years ago, cooking food based on childhood memories of their Indo-Iraqi Jewish heritage. These influences are still very much evident and alive in the restaurant today, and as we walk inside we’re greeted with the most wonderful, spiced aromas.
The restaurant itself has been done up in a modern bistro style, with low pendant lighting, reclaimed Victorian tiling and a long cocktail bar. We took a seat on the raised mezzanine area which was filled with lots of intimate two-person tables. It’s a big space but it’s cosy, with wooden logs piled up on the walls and glowing candles on every table. The restaurant was packed even though it was a weekday evening, with hipsters galore and groups of bearded twenty-somethings enjoying craft beer and vegan treats.
A friendly waitress greeted us and I took her recommendation for a cocktail: Lychee Elixir (£9) which was pink, fruity and refreshing with a hint of sharpness, and served with a trio of blueberries. I sipped while mulling over the menu, and was surprised not to see the typical, mushroom and halloumi vegetarian dishes. The la carte menu here is innovative, creative and each dish sounds delicious. After a bit more mulling and another cocktail, (a Camden hells for him), we decided on the mezze platter to start.
It arrived as quite the spectacle on a huge plate, and consisted of arancini of wild mushroom with a moreish sun dried tomato pesto, sesame coated smoked tofu with coriander pesto, pickled vegetables and seaweed salad, a mustard seed potato cake filled with spiced baby corn, courgette, carrot and green peas, pan fried and served with a tamarind sauce, mint and coriander chutney, grilled halloumi in chermula with freekeh, pomegranate and mint salad, roasted red onions, peppers and harissa, and a leek trompette and stilton tart baked with crème fraiche custard, served with crisp leaves. And breathe! We polished it off in minutes and I can honestly say it was one of the best starters I’ve eaten in a long time.
For mains, I chose the vegan Asian dumplings of water chestnut and shitake, which was served on a Jerusalem artichoke puree with crispy sprouting broccoli and an aubergine lime pickle, finished with a teriyaki glaze. Every component had been perfectly cooked, but the crispy broccoli was to die for, producing the most wonderful crunch. My dinner date went for the vegetarian, gluten free wild mushroom risotto cake, with sauté girolles, king oysters and paris brown, served on a pan fried risotto cake and finished with creamy cep sauce, rocket and cheese shavings, in lemon and truffle dressing. We didn’t speak much while eating, which is always a good sign.
We skipped dessert for wine, intrigued by the fact our waitress had told us even the wine list was meat-free. To be honest we hadn’t really thought about the fact the usual wine we drinks contains cow collagen - so we’ll probably be sticking to the Vegetarian stuff from now on. Overall, the food was so good it could make a tiger turn veggie. I left with a full tummy and the cookbook, so I will definitely be trying to recreate the deliciousness at home!
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