Vanilla Black

Our diet has been vegetarian-based since the new year (although it must be said that more applies to Debbie than to me, as can be seen in my blog from the Burns Dinner I attended, which you can read here) so it made perfect sense that we would go to a vegetarian restaurant for Valentine’s Day.  Debbie researched vegetarian restaurants in London and as the Michelin-recommended Vanilla Black had very good reviews she decided to book a table without any prior reference to me, although in the end we were both excited to be going.

We got the train down to Farringdon and walked from there, going up to Hatton Court and across to Holborn to Furnival Street.  Unfortunately we went way too far down Furnival Street and had to turn right into Bream’s Buildings before turning right onto Chancery Lane, then right into Cursitor Street and finally left into Took’s Court.  The restaurant is tucked away but we definitely took the long route to get to it.

Vanilla Black

Vanilla Black

It looks very elegant and sophisticated from the outside and this feel is continued once you get inside, into the somewhat art-deco interior.  The staff were very welcoming and the tables are well spaced out, allowing dining to be intimate without being taken away from the overall good atmosphere and pleasant ambience of the place.  We would be eating from the special Valentine’s Day menu, which meant we were each brought a glass of champagne to start with.  This was brilliant for Debbie because I do not drink, and meant we only ordered a bottle of still water to go with our meal.  We were left in peace for a reasonable period of time to consider the menu, which was not an easy task because everything sounded both delicious and different, in fact, so different that it was difficult to know precisely what we might expect to find on our plate, which was an exciting bonus.  We placed our orders for starters and main courses, and enjoyed a wonderfully light grapefruit amuse bouche and some delicious wholemeal and seeded bread while we waited to be served.

I had loved quinoa since my trek in Peru in 2011 (which you can read about here) so when I saw a starter of brie ice cream and poached raspberries, quinoa and pickled spring onions, I really had no need to consider anything else.

brie ice cream and poached raspberries, quinoa and pickled spring onions

brie ice cream and poached raspberries, quinoa and pickled spring onions

As it turned out, I made an inspired and delicious choice, with the brie having a wonderful consistency somewhere between cheese and ice cream, the poached raspberries succulent and not too sharp, and the pickled taste to the dish was so good that if I had been allowed to I would have licked the plate clean ! 

Debbie chose the grilled carrot cake with sheeps yoghurt, ginger carrots and orange oil.

grilled carrot cake with sheeps yoghurt, ginger carrots and orange oil

grilled carrot cake with sheeps yoghurt, ginger carrots and orange oil

It was a light starter, very palette-cleansing, although the sheeps yoghurt was perhaps too much of a contrast with the rest of the dish.

For my main course I decided on the double baked Ribblesdale pudding and smoked croquette, pineapple pickle and poached hen egg, mainly because it included egg.

double baked Ribblesdale pudding and smoked croquette, pineapple pickle and poached hen egg

double baked Ribblesdale pudding and smoked croquette, pineapple pickle and poached hen egg

It looked like a work of art, and maybe it is just me, but I thought it looked like a chicken.  Yes, that is probably just me.  It tasted as good as it looked.  The cheese souffle was light and fluffy, the egg was soft inside so I could mix the yummy yolk with everything, and I could live on the pineapple pickle, which was a wonderful combination of sweet and sharp.

For her main course Debbie chose the fried mushroom mousse and rosemary scone, mushy peas and horseradish, fennel and whipped lemon.

fried mushroom mousse and rosemary scone, mushy peas and horseradish, fennel and whipped lemon

fried mushroom mousse and rosemary scone, mushy peas and horseradish, fennel and whipped lemon

It turned out to be her favourite dish of the evening, and she loved the saltiness of the scones contrasting against the very smooth mushroom mousse. 

All of the desserts sounded fascinating and I chose the roasted white chocolate and cep mushroom with tarragon cream cheese, toasted meringue and caramelised rice.

roasted white chocolate and cep mushroom with tarragon cream cheese, toasted meringue and caramelised rice

roasted white chocolate and cep mushroom with tarragon cream cheese, toasted meringue and caramelised rice

What can I say ?  I could have sat eating this dessert all night !  I do have something of a sweet tooth and this was heaven for me.  I loved the different flavours and textures, and they all worked so well together.

Debbie very quickly decided that she wanted the roasted apple sorbet and Somerset brandy cream, cinnamon hundreds ‘n’ thousands, toasted oat custard and crumbs

roasted apple sorbet and Somerset brandy cream, cinnamon hundreds 'n' thousands, toasted oat custard and crumbs

roasted apple sorbet and Somerset brandy cream, cinnamon hundreds ‘n’ thousands, toasted oat custard and crumbs

As with me, she enjoyed the different textures, the contract between the crumbs and the cream, and she thought it was nice to finish with a dessert that was neither too heavy nor too rich.

We did enjoy what we ate although we would have to go again to try a more extensive menu.  The options we selected did all seem to be quite creamy and contained a lot of dairy, and a careful selection does need to be made to avoid effectively having three desserts in one meal.  I think I made the right selections, but Debbie was not so convinced by hers.  We were also a little surprised that in a vegetarian restaurant the wine list did not specify if any of the wines on offer were vegan.  Those are all small niggles because we had a very enjoyable time eating some excellent food, and left feeling well fed but not overfed.

You can see more of my photographs from the evening here.

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