Rupert Parkers samples vegetarian fare in London’s West End.
Just five minutes walk north of Marble Arch, Seymour Place is a quiet street lined with small restaurants and even a laundrette. Many have tables out on the pavement and The Gate is no exception. There are other branches in St John’s Wood and Hammersmith, with Islington, set to open later this year.
We chose to dine inside, and it’s an attractive space, white painted brick walls and ceiling with splashes of black and grey. The bar and kitchen occupy the end opposite the door and downstairs are further tables. There’s a neighbourhood feel about the restaurant with a clientele drawn from all ages. It’s probably a tourist-free zone, its location hiding it away, even though Oxford Street is just a stone’s throw away.
I start with a glass of prosecco and my partner has an elderflower spritz. There’s a good choice of cocktails and mocktails plus an extensive range of juices. We nibble on bread and olives while studying the menu. All is vegetarian here and letters after each dish helpfully list whether it’s vegan, gluten-free or contains nuts. Happy to say that they’ve been creative in the kitchen and there’s scarcely a lentil in sight. A QR code links to the dish of the day which is cauliflower with smoked paprika tahini, pomegranate & pine nuts.
Service is efficient and shortly our starters arrive, beautifully presented. I’ve got mango, avocado & Shimeji mushroom Ceviche. Tomato salsa and pickled red onion counter the sweetness of the mango and a hint of chilli gives it extra spice. Radicchio leaves add a welcome touch of bitterness.
My partner has decided she needs to eat something new so has chosen stuffed courgette flower. The outside is crisply fried and inside is sweet potato mashed with goat cheese, pine nuts and basil. Blobs of tarragon aioli complete the mix. Both definitely disprove the mantra that veg is boring.
So to the main courses and this is where it gets tricky. We decide we must try the Beetroot Cheese Burger, as it’s such a novel idea. Serving up meatless variations of popular dishes is often less than satisfactory and but not here. However, the flavour of the beetroot is almost completely masked by the topping of gherkin and smoked tomato relish. Once we remove the bun, the beets come into their own, delicate and subtle.
I’m well rewarded with the tagine which of course is not too far away from its Moroccan origins. Veggies here are fennel, pumpkin, courgette, chickpeas & apricots with a Yemenite chilli sauce and all works well. On the side is herby couscous, very fresh, with pomegranate and pistachio nuts. This is comfort food and all the better for it.
Portions here are on the large side and we’ve been persuaded to try the herb polenta chips, chunky and very thick cut. It makes a change from the potato version but too filling at this juncture in our dinner. We also have a cauliflower side order which comes covered in smoked paprika tahini, pomegranate and pine nuts and hits the spot.
So to dessert and I can’t resist the Tiramisu, curious to see how you can concoct a vegan version without mascarpone cheese. In fact, it’s a great improvement on many restaurant offerings and works well. Whatever the substitutions, there’s no heaviness here, just very airy and light as a feather. We also try some sorbets but strangely they’re more like ice creams than water ice, confirmed by the waitress who says that there’s coconut milk in the mix.
Vegetarian food often gets bad press, sometimes because it tries to pretend to be something it’s not, blindly hoping you’re not going to miss the meat flavours. At its most extreme, it just leaves out the animal bits and just serves up the sides. Usually, the best dishes are found in ethnic cuisines, like those of Southern India or Lebanon who’ve been doing it for years.
Yet at The Gate, the chef is genuinely imaginative and we’re impressed both by the presentation and combinations. Personally, I could do with more garlic, chilli and ginger, aromatics that bring vegetables alive, but after all, this is the West End and they need to cater for all palates. And, in spite of the old adage of not trying things at home, they also publish a couple of cookbooks so you can impress your friends.
Tell Me More About The Gate Restaurant
The Gate Restaurant 22-24 Seymour Pl, London W1H 7NL
The all-day menu is served from 12 noon with last orders at 9.15 pm.
Starters £6 – £12, Mains £14 – £16, Sides £3 – £4, Desserts £6 – £7
There are also branches in St John’s Wood and Hammersmith, with Islington opening soon.