I’m an omnivore. I will eat anything put in front of me. I’ll even give second chances to foods I’m not at first keen on (I make an exception for andouillete de Cambrai which was so vile it gets no second chance). We cook a wide range of foods at home, including some vegetarian and vegan dishes. But I would never want to be a vegan. In truth, I just don’t “get” veganism as an ism. So, why was I sat in a vegan restaurant, having ordered their ten course tasting menu? Well, the answer’s the same as why I was sat in any restaurant for the first time. Someone had told me the food was good. And, in this case, the someone was a member of staff at another, nearby, restaurant where we’d enjoyed dinner a few weeks back.
It’s a nice, relaxed restaurant, although the chairs did no good at all to our aging backs. Service is warm and efficient – they have the timings for serving the menu absolutely spot on. No rush, but no finger tapping delays. There’s also a very brief carte with three choices at each course. They’ve no alcohol licence but do allow you bring your own (charging a £5 corkage for table for two).
So, as to the ten courses, this is skilled and inventive cooking. One of those places where meat lovers might say they didn’t miss the meat (although we always do, don’t we?). I wasn’t keeping notes of what we ate, so am reliant on the online menu and my memory – which has failed to recall the amuse bouche. Next dish was my favourite of the evening – a pineapple carpaccio with an even thinner paper-thin slice of dried pineapple. There’s a crunch from puffed rice and an earthiness from pickled beetroot. Also on the plate, a wasabi cream, that needed more wasabi and coriander and chilli (which needed more of both).
Soup was chickpea. The sort of soup that you want on a cold winters night and a bit heavy for late spring. Tasted good though. But what made it was the little dish of houmous and the chunks of cornbread to dip in it. Next up was clever. Really clever. Shitake and enoki mushrooms were wrapped in a very, very thin strip of mooli – so that they were like a Vietnamese summer roll. The fairly chunky tamarind and peanut sauce worked so well.
There was then what the menu described as a “pear millefeuille”, but it wasn’t a millefeuille. But there was a lovely mix of poached pear, blue cheese and pickled walnut, top with a single cracker. Alongside, Jersey Royals and a scattering of gherkin slices and crisped capers. The final savoury dish is, apparently, something of a signature dish for the chef. The centrepiece is confit aubergine over which the chef has claimed “I can make aubergine taste better than steak”. Well, let’s be honest here – no he can’t. But it is a really accomplished dish. As well as the confit, there’s an aubergine puree and a little slice of baby aubergine. Pickled and fried shallots give a well piquancy.
On to the desserts. There’s a chocolate and coconut truffle as a pre-dessert, which was OK. Then a lemon and blueberry meringue – very simple, very lovely. Lemon curd was a perfect sweet/sour balance and came topped with a scattering of blueberries and pits of meringue. Next up, a whiskey flavoured cream was stuffed into a chocolate cannelloni. There’s a scattering of chocolate “soil” and a peach and whiskey sorbet, the latter adding absolutely nothing as it was devoid of the flavour of peach or whiskey.
And then to the final course. Three “cheeses” made from different nuts, served with crackers, grapes and chutney. We found both the texture and taste of these to be unpleasant. It’s perhaps significant that this was the only plate where the chef was trying to replicate mainstream food and it’s the only one that we found, to be honest, a bit nasty. Such a pity as the last dish is often the memory you take away of a place. Still, Allotment goes on our list of places to return to. After all, it is exciting that there are, at last, restaurants in the town centre. And restaurants both of quality.