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Sunday
Oct132013

Review: Vanilla Black

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Vanilla Black. It wasn't my first time in a posh restaurant, but this is by far the poshest veggie place I've ever encountered.

Our visit

I wondered whether the restaurant would be a bit stuffy considering how fancy it looked from its website, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The restaurant was full, what with it being Saturday night, but Vanilla Black manages to pull off an atmosphere which is a lovely combination of busy enough so that you don't feel awkward, but calm enough so that you feel like you're visiting somewhere for a real treat.

The members of staff who served us were friendly, yet professional. They didn't intrude on our conversation, or interrupt us by constantly asking whether everything was OK, but still managed to appear at the right times whenever we needed them.

What we ate

Starter

  • Whipped Jacket Potato and Crispy Shallots
  • Brie Ice Cream, Picked Plums and Mulled Custard
  • Pea Soup

Main

  • Double-Baked Ribblesdale Pudding and Smoked Croquette
  • Fried Mushroom Mousse and Rosemary Sauce
  • Salted and Ash-Baked Celeriac and Foraged Sea Asters
  • Braised Leeks, Jerusalem Artichokes and Iced Verbena

Dessert

  • Raspberry Vinegar Ripple Ice Cream, Berries and Brioche
  • Smoked Paprika Fudge, Malt Loaf and Builder's Tea Ice Cream
  • Lime Meringue

The menu was impressively interesting, and I was excited to try such inventive, unusual-sounding dishes - there's certainly no vegetarian lasagne or mushroom risotto here! I did think that my three non-vegetarian fellow-diners might have been a bit daunted by the unusual combinations, but they were all up for trying something new.

For starters, the 'Whipped Jacked Potato' and 'Brie Ice Cream' went down especially well, and the non-veggies seemed pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed their starters, so this made us all extra enthusiastic to taste our main courses. The only criticism from our table was that the soup was so nice, that it could have been four-times bigger and still the bowl would've been emptied!

The main courses also proved to be a big hit, with the 'Fried Mushroom Mousse' and the 'Ribblesdale Pudding' being raved-about the most. The effort, care and attention that had clearly gone into each dish was evident, and the general consensus was that the flavours were delicious. Again, it seems unfair to criticise such delicate food, but it's probably not really a bad thing to be mentioning that we all could've eaten more of it.

Desserts also resulted in clean plates all round, although after so much positive praise for the starters and main courses, the desserts were less enthusiastically received. The combination of the 'Smoked Paprika Fudge' and Builder's Tea Ice Cream' was certainly not something I'd heard of before, but was delicious all the same.

One small criticism is that a lot of the components of most dishes seemed to be mousses or sauces or creamed etc. and some dishes did feel like they were lacking a bit of texture or crunch as a result. However, ultimately, the beautiful flavours were a joy to experience.

The verdict

  • Perfect atmosphere for a special dinner - posh, but not stuffy
  • Unusual, inventive, fully-vegetarian menu
  • Beautiful, delicate, and interesting flavour-combinations

I would be delighted if I had the opportunity to visit Vanilla Black again in future. The atmosphere was lovely and the food spectacular. We spent around £60 per head (with wine), so it isn't a cheap place to eat, but nor did it feel expensive for somewhere special. Maybe we're a greedy bunch, but we could've eaten bigger portions, after a busy day travelling around the city, but it's probably no bad thing that we left the restaurant satisfied rather than stuffed! And, I was pleased that the non-vegetarian diners enjoyed their experience too!

It was a genuine pleasure to be able to visit a veggie restaurant that catered for veggies who want to push the boat out, and Vanilla Black is somewhere I'll be very keen to visit again next time I am in London.

 

For more information on Vanilla Black visit www.vanillablack.co.uk