Add a drop of Vanilla to a pinch of Black and, together with an adventurous head chef and his barrow-load of vegetables, you have yourself one of the most innovative vegetarian restaurants in London. Hidden away in a Chancery Lane corner, Vanilla Black is a haven for bored vegetarian diners who crave something more than humdrum mushroom risottos. This is exciting, playful vegetarian cuisine and I can guarantee that even the savviest of herbivores won’t be able to predict the menu.
Our family of five (including two vegetarian parents and two very carnivorous siblings) opted for the Vanilla Black lunch menu, most of us kicking off the feast with a wonderfully colourful potato and watercress soup decorated with tangy goats cheese croutons. The star of the starters, however, was the sweetcorn crème brulée: this little pot of creamy heaven served with fiery paprika biscuits and a homemade salsa tingled the taste buds and put me in the mood for experimental food.
Next came the main course menu and it read as if it was written in another language. The adventurous foodie within me couldn’t wait to give the poached duck egg dish served with ribblesdale pudding, hickory smoke potato croquette and pineapple pickle a whirl. The most explosive taste on that plate happened to be the smallest – the pineapple pickle was jam-packed with exotic flavours and to my surprise it went wonderfully with smoked potato. That’s the thing about Vanilla Black: it shocks its diners with strange flavour combinations, then sits back and watches you enjoy them.
It wasn’t just us diners who were enthusiastic about the food. Our bubbly (vegetarian) waitress was eager to recommend her favourite dishes and she even offered us some Vanilla Black culinary secrets (top tip: baby chives really compliment spicy foods), making us feel like honorary members of the restaurant’s exclusive foodie fraternity.
Being a sweet-toothed kind of gal, I depend upon a good pud to polish off a meal and Vanilla Black didn’t fail to deliver. Sticking to an adventurous tone, head chef Andrew Dargue has created an array of quirky desserts and, intrigued by the punctuation, I eventually settled on the lemon meringue ‘pie’ with a coriander purée. Sandwiched between layers of wafer-thin shortbread, the swirls of homemade lemon curd and delicately placed mini meringues were so shockingly delicious that we re-named it the laugh-out-loud lemon meringue pie. A taste of my sister’s devilish sticky toffee pudding convinced me that Vanilla Black is, in fact, master of two trades: vegetables and puddings.
Vanilla Black takes the burden of cooking without meat or fish and turns it into a challenge – a passion which keeps their imaginative minds ticking and helps produce fresh, funky and fashionable food.
Cuisine type: Vegetarian
Lunch per person (ex. drinks): 2 courses £18; 3 courses £23
17-18 Tooks Court