First Impressions – Vanilla Black

Shiima and I are not vegetarian or vegan. But then Shiima is really particular about what meat she eats (only chicken and beef burgers), and she very rarely eats fish (tempura shrimp and fried squid), so she’s not too far off lol. I, on the other hand, eat anything, long as it’s prepared with care. And vegan/vegetarian food seems always prepared with care. That’s where Vanilla Black comes in…

Vanilla Black is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant focused on creative dishes. The fact that the food is vegetarian/vegan is not the point for Vanilla Black; the point is great tasting food. Vanilla Black is roughly 5 minutes away from Chancery Lane. In a location you wont necessarily walk past. If you see Vanilla Black, you’re probably looking for Vanilla Black.

Soon as you step into Vanilla Black, a cordial hostess greets you, checks you in, and leads you to your table. Our table was in the corner of one section of the restaurant. The layout is a tad odd, with another somewhat secluded section on a higher level. That’s not intentional, I think, that’s just the space. The restaurant is sparsely lit and with fairly simple furnishing, which has an earthy tone to it.

The menu is simple with starters, mains, a vegetarian 5-course menu, and a vegan 5-course menu. We went a la carte, but even here it’s best to choose one starter and one main, because the pricing is based on the amount of courses. All the starters and mains cost the same.

What we ordered

First, Shiima and I ordered virgin cocktails – raspberry special and wild nettle mojito. For starters, Shiima ordered baby fennel, with creamed lemon and toast; I ordered smokey aubergine, with flatbread and green harissa. For mains, she ordered cauliflower dumplings, with parsley and walnut Crumbs; I ordered smoked egg, with black sesame and fried gram flour.

 

Review of the food

Virgin cocktails

The raspberry special was a tad too intense. Shiima ordered it and couldn’t drink much of it. I really enjoyed the wild nettle mojito. It was refreshing and not too sweet.

Before our starters arrived, Vanilla Black gave us complimentary celery and apple mousses, which were served in a shot glass, and Bread and dried yeast butter. The mousse was really nice. Mix of a frothy drink and very light tangy snack. The bread and dried yeast butter was amazing. The bread was warm and the butter was delicious and very creamy.

Starters

Shiima’s baby fennel, with creamed lemon and toast was very Fennel-y lol. If you like fennel, you’d love this. Shiima doesn’t love fennel, and neither do I. The dish is fennel served in multiple creative ways – especially the iced fennel puree.

My smokey aubergine, with flatbread and green harissa was essentially baba ghanoush, which is an aubergine dip. It’s served with labneh cheese and spiced avocado crunch. It was tasty, although nothing special. I especially liked the crispy flatbread.

Mains

Shiima’s cauliflower dumplings were served with parsley and walnut Crumbs, pickled raisins and roasted cauliflower. She didn’t enjoy it. Not at all, especially the parsley and walnut crumbs. I didn’t like those either, but I didn’t mind the cauliflower dumplings, although they didn’t have much of a distinctive taste.

My smoked egg was good. A bit sparse, but the runny smoked egg itself, which resembled a poached egg, was the star of the dish. The fried gram flour resembled and tasted like hash browns. But Shiima didn’t like it, even though she loves hash browns. It was served with radish and black sesame “mayo”, and both were okay, which isn’t a word one wants their food described as.

Dessert!

The dessert menu was very alluring, but there were two clear choices. The Gianduja chocolate brownie with roasted hazelnut ice cream, and the peanut butter cheesecake with cracked cocoa bean.

The brownie was served and then our waitress poured over tiger nut milk. Shiima didn’t like the tiger nut milk, and really didn’t like the brownie either, but she enjoyed the hazelnut ice cream. As much as I wanted to enjoy this dessert, I didn’t either. We didn’t finish it.

The peanut butter cheesecake, on the other hand, was not cheesecake. Maybe a deconstructed cheesecake. But there wasn’t much of anything on the plate. Three tiny fingers of the peanut butter and cheese mixture, and a sparse amount of the cracked cocoa bean. The banana puree it was served with was good though.

Verdict

Shiima and I didn’t enjoy Vanilla Black. And we really wanted to. But maybe you can’t fake being a vegan/vegetarian, even for one meal. The staff was friendly though, and the food was very well presented. I recommend for vegans/vegetarians, the setting is very ideal for a date, and those looking to explore different cuisine. Excluding drinks, it’s £31 per person for two courses and £41.50 for three courses, so it’s also moderately expensive.

Dress Code: Casual
Cuisine: Vegan/Vegetarian
Star Dish: Bread and Dried Yeast Butter
Price: £35+ (excluding alcohol)
Rating: 2.3 out of 5


Vanilla Black
http://www.vanillablack.co.uk
17-18 Took’s Court, London, EC4A 1LB
Call 0207 242 2622 to reserve a table, or via OpenTable

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