Tucked away in the heart of central London, just a four minute walk away from Chancery Lane Station sits Vanilla Black.
Apologies in advance, no pasta bake or vegetable curry.
Established in 2004, this Michelin recommended restaurant is well known for its contemporary style of vegetarian cuisine; with vegan and wheat-free menus also available. A refreshing change from the mill of meat heavy restaurants, Vanilla Black stands out from the crowd with their inclusive repertoire and elegant decor.
With my days in the UK numbered, I was keen to eat as much vegetarian food as possible before heading back to Japan to live off of rice, seaweed and tofu. With mine and my partner Chads’ one year anniversary looming in the near future, we decided that to celebrate a little early and round off our amazing trip with a romantic evening for two. After a little bit of online searching we quickly came across Vanilla Black along with a string of promising reviews. A quick glance at the glamorous and, may I say, adventurous menu later and and we were sold. It took us all of two minutes to book via their website, thus securing our romantic date on our last evening in London.
Dressed to the nines in a little black dress, and waistcoat and bowtie, we made the short journey from Trafalgar Square via the tube. A few puddle dodging and alley turning minutes later and there hidden away amongst the fray of buildings stood vanilla black.
A soft warmth poured from the windows as we neared, melting away the stress of London from my system before I even entered. Greeted by kindly smiling and soft spoken staff, our coats were taken and we were directed to our seats. Classically artistic, the restaurant had an air of simplicity while remaining fashionable and chic with it’s presentation and minimalistic decor.
Not wanting to miss out on any of the goodness the menu promised, we embarked on the three course meal. In keeping with it’s high standard of food, the presentation was out of this world, with portions that of what you would expect at a michelin star restaurant. At first I was a little nervous, since my stomach is usually insatiable, but by the end of the three courses,As if they chefs had designed the courses to specifically fit my stomach,I found myself pleasantly full.
‘The dishes we create here are forward thinking, our food is challenging. It’s different. Smashing stereotypes.’
Not long after selecting our poison for the evening, the food began to flow. The first of many delicious dishes to be placed before us was a delicious raspberry gel and mint foam amuse-bouche. Smooth on the way down with a tart taste, the raspberry gel was a beautiful accompaniment to the light and airy mint foam. We both forgot ourselves in the food for a moment. Breads too were brought to our table, with a delicious butter presented on (what I really hope to be welsh) slate.
Looking at a menu and realising I could eat anything printed on it was liberating. For once, instead of dealing with the nerve striking realisation that everything is inedible I was struggling to choose from the many delicious options available. While Chad went for the Dried Yeast and Pumpkin Terrine with Orange Purée, I decided to try my luck with the Yellow Pea Soup and Marmite Dumplings; a decision I have never been more pleased with making. The yellow pea soup was a delightful contrast to the slightly bitter yet more-ish flavour of the marmite dumplings; of which I wish there had been more. During my time as a vegetarian I have tried my fair share of soups, from home made broccoli to red lentil, but this, by far, was the cherry on the top: The creme de la creme of soups.
Yellow Pea Soup and Marmite Dumplings
Sweet Onion Purée
Dried Yeast and Pumpkin Terrine with Orange Purée
Seeded Cinder Toffee, Mulled Pumpkin and Oil
The champaign flowed as we filled the space between our meals with meaningful conversation. There is something freeing about sitting at a table for two at a luxurious restaurant. We smiled more, touched more and for once, lived in the moment free of our mobile phones and social media. We were not the only ones who felt this either. Couples all around us had also given in to the comfortable warmth that Vanilla Black emanates, showing their happiness in each-others company without restraint or hesitation.
‘We would create menus of unusual combinations and flavours which challenge the norms.’
Our main courses were equally as delicious as our starters. With various delicious options to choose from, this was by far my hardest choice. True to my love of eggs, however, I had no choice but to go with the option that gave me the delicious poached egg you see in the image below. Not usually a lover of pineapple (or so I thought) the pineapple pickle had me a little hesitant. But I needn’t have worried, for just as everything else I had tasted so far that evening the pineapple pickle far surpassed by expectations with it’s light sweetness and smooth texture, which, for me, tied the dish together in a wonderful marriage of flavour. Contrary to our usual ordering pattern, I went for the tangy, sweeter option, while Chad opted for the more savory dish of a Cornmeal, Beetroot and horseradish fusion.
Double Baked Ribblesdale Pudding and Smoked Croquette
Pineapple Pickle and Poached Hen Egg
Cornmeal, Beetroot and Horseradish with Aged Garlic Oil
Artichokes in Hay, Parsley Root and Hazelnut Milk
Zero’ing in on the word ‘chocolate’ printed upon the menu, I realised dessert would be a much easier decision to make. With the champaign running dry and with time ticking on, I decided to accompany my sweet with a delicious and refreshing pot of green tea. Cleaning my pallet with it’s clean taste, the tea was the perfect partner for a perfect ending to such a toothsome and lavish meal. It’s a little embarrassing to admit this is the first time I had ever indulged in such a beautiful and established restaurant. But I must say, I could not be happier to have my fine dinging proverbial cherry popped by the innovative, flavoursome and downright delicious food at Vanilla Black.
Chocolate Brownie Crumble with Marmalade Parfait and Crispy Milk
Dark Chocolate, Cointreau and Candied Kumquat
Pineapple, Tabasco Biscuit and Roasted Cocoa
Muscovado and Pineapple and Lime Sorbet
It’s always hard to leave home, but it’s even harder to leave after such amazing food. Despite the various delectably different cuisine Japan has to offer, they (sadly) lack in variety when it comes to vegetarian options, often not even understanding the concept. Let’s hope that Vanilla Black can tide me over until my next visit in the (hopefully) near future.
Not only does Vanilla black offer a unique and imaginative vegetarian experience, but an unforgettable atmosphere that will have you falling in love; be it with the person beside you or the food before you.