As the year draws to a close we thought it time to shout about our favourite veg dishes of 2015. While some are still relegating veg diners to “same-old” risotto’s, this list praises the creative, bold, talented and downright impressive veg creations we’ve seen this year.
10. Kohlrabi Ravioli at Grainstore Unleashed
It can’t be a surprise to see Bruno Loubet on this list. A true master of cooking with veg, his Grainstore Unleashed pop-up graced Clerkenwell for but a few weeks in the summer, but long enough for this magnificent creation to grace us with its presence. Wafer thin slices of Kohlrabi (there’s no pasta in this ‘ravioli’), stuffed with broad bean and tofu and served with a smattering of peas, further broad beans and wild garlic.
Try Bruno’s cooking at Grainstore Kings Cross: www.grainstore.com
9. Polenta and Artichoke at Jones and Son
Slightly tucked away just off Dalston’s Kingsland Road, Jones and Sons served up an unconventional veg main when we visited in July. Flipping the typical polenta orientation on its head, this was a creamy and provocatively placed fritter. The veg abundant and in many forms: whole artichoke hearts, fresh salsa and a chestnut purée. We want more of this kind of fresh thinking with classic veg ingredients.
8. Beans and Artichokes at Rotorino
Staying in Dalston and with artichokes, we visited Rotorino in August and found this tasty, cheesy stew. In the company of several meat eaters, we shared the veg dishes: all who tried rated this dish one of best of the night. The highlight was the elegant yet simple broth, pulling together the mushrooms, beans and artichokes that featured. Topped, of course, with parmesan for a salty southern Italian kick.
7. Mushroom, Miso, Bean and Cabbage at Paradise Garage
We’ve been dazzled every time we’ve been to Paradise Garage. Incredibly honed dishes, fabulous wine and wait staff, and THAT rabbit, what higher praise? Well, alongside the meaty tasting menu magic they also conjure up a vibrant veg tasting menu. This bean and cabbage number with miso may look and sound simple, but Robin Gills pulls these ingredients together with the kind of precision we’ve come to expect. Every element perfectly prepared, and the overall result: an artful plate.
6. Beetroot with Horseradish at Primeur
There’s an awful lot of beetroot around London restaurants these days. Seldom however, is it prepared and served as perfectly as this. Primeur has gently cooked this heritage beetroot so they’ve an al dente texture with an ever so slightly candied edge. Served warm with horseradish, hazlenuts and parsley, it’s a starter that screams “you’ve only just begun”, in a dulcet Karen Carpenter kind of tone.
5. Courgette stuffed with Provençale sauce
If the chef at La Ferme were an artist, I’d have to guess a Parisian abstract expressionist. And the visual impression is what grabbed us the moment this dish arrived at the table. The round courgette was stuffed with a feta, pepper and olive sauce, and sat atop a bed of puréed corn.
Despite escaping a lot of mainstream foodie attention, La Ferme has established itself in a busy, competitive setting. The menu changes seasonally, so expect good variety of veg dishes, and hopefully the Courgette makes a return in the spring.
4.Vegetable Spring Roll at the Modern Pantry
This is the sort of veg main that screams “who needs meat”. And, we weren’t all that surprised, Anna Hansen can always be relied upon to served up an impressive vegetarian main. Packed with persian spices characteristic of the Modern Pantry’s Asian-fusion style, we adored these crispy spring rolls, and the beetroot chutney they came with. The filling includes spiced roast parsnip, cassava and swede and shaved turnips. These have crunch and flavour punch.
3. Gorgonzola Arancini at Bernardi’s
Italian food is such a fruitful cuisine for the vegetarian. And although Arancini are often stuffed with ground veal or pork, that’s not always the case. Relative newcomer Bernadi’s has been well recieved in the foodie community. And we’ve found a lunch at this Mayfair bistro can really lift your day. This gorgonzola stuffed arancini was pure food porn and ticked the oozey satisfaction box too. On a grey autumn day, it bought a splash of sunshine. Oh and so did dessert (but that’s another top 10 list).
2. Acorn Squash Risotto at Holborn Dining Room
It’s not often a Risotto takes our eye. Though a well-made Risotto is an angelic thing, too often a mushroom or pumpkin risotto is a catch-all in the vegetarian section. Calum Franklin, Head Chef at the Holborn Dining room went out of his way to create a distinctive acorn squash risotto in the Autumn.
“Acorn squash are at their best in Autumn, dense and with a decent amount of natural sugar, we slowly caramelise them to transform the flavour,” Franklin says. The risotto is topped with crispy sage and diced squash, with a flash of Perigold truffle in the evening service to give a touch of earthy luxury. When designing the dish, Franklin says his aim was “to feel like someone putting their arms around you and giving you a hug whilst you were eating,” we think he achieved that.
1. Bao’s Daikon Bao
Unassuming looking fella, isn’t he? Looks can be deceiving, this Bun filling is anything but boring. The daikon is steaming hot inside, giving it a softness that compliments the pillow like texture of the bun. But with a crispy, breaded coating in between, there’s serious contrast in texture. Add a squirt of coriander salsa and a little chilli sauce, there’s a flash of zing too. We first tried this dish in the launch month, overhearing a certain Times food critique describe it as “just a radish sandwich”. We prefered our waitresses interpretation “it’s just sheer comfort, you gotta try it”.
To the chefs that put the effort into creating these meatless marvels, we salute you. And if you’re reading and craving veg, we suggest you head along to these restaurants. These dishes may have changed now, but safe to say, these restaurants take their veg very seriously indeed.