Restaurants miss a trick when they don’t do a vegan option. They’re not just missing out on the vegans, they’re missing out on any group of nice considerate people that includes a vegan as vegans’ friends tend to be far more reluctant to go somewhere that doesn’t have anything for the vegans themselves. Let’s face it, as vegans, we’ve all enjoyed a green salad and a bowl of chips while the rest of the group gets to choose from a Noah’s Ark of dead animals, so we’re used to it. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a liquid lunch.
Luckily, in these civilized times and in the most civilized city of London, the nothing-for-vegans days are almost over. And while once upon a time, if you wanted full access to a full vegetarian/vegan menu, you might as well douse yourself in patchouli and become a hippy, there are now places that are every bit as swish and plush and smart and grown-up as the best restaurants but where the veggie/vegan thing is front and centre. Which brings us to The Gate.
Walking into the Marylebone location – there are others in Islington, St. John’s Wood and Hammersmith – in a street that is cute and Chrismassy and just a hop and a skip from Selfridges (because who is not skipping if they’re going to Selfridges?), you wouldn’t know you weren’t in a regular restaurant. A nice one. White-washed bricks, chic low banquettes in chartreuse velvet, a little terrace outside on that photogenic street, a steel staircase going down to a lower ground space, bare plaster, just the right amount of greenery. Comfortable, smart, clever.
And you know the feeling when the menu comes and you want all the starters even before you look at the mains? That. Jackfruit tostada, miso glazed aubergine, truffle and mushroom arancini, plantain fritter, avocado and beetroot tartare, while for vegetarians there’s three-onion tart and burrata and tomato with toasted hazelnuts. You see what we mean? We even had to have rosemary salted fries with our starter – arancini and Korean fried cauliflower – because it wouldn’t have gone with our main, which was the irresistible red Thai curry that comes wrapped in a banana leaf, because you can be vegan and fancy.
We added a bottle of red in the early 20 pounds range – and it was good – but we could have tucked into the extensive cocktail menu with classics like Negroni, Bloody Mary and Mojito. Oh and we could have come for brunch, where the menu is around 50/50 vegan and veggie with pancakes and avocado on toast and shakshuka and omelettes.
And where even regular restaurants with decent vegan options fall down – desserts – The Gate triumphs. No one ever ordered a sorbet if there was a choice: fact. And now that there are vegan milks and creams and custards, there really is no reason not to sort out at least one proper vegan dessert that isn’t a sad fruit plate. At The Gate vegans have three out of a choice of five: Tiramisu, chocolate and orange mousse and cinnamon apple mille-feuille with a caramel sauce and hazelnut praline. Can we try all of them?
Oh and there’s a special Christmas menu at the moment – at only £28/head if there’s six of you – with a choice of three dishes per course including a vegan Wellington stuffed with butternut, chestnuts and sage. It’s what the baby Jesus would’ve wanted.
So maybe if you are knocking about with a vegan in your group and you always do the nice thing and check there’s something for them whenever you go out (mind you, bear in mind we’ve all had cauliflower steaks for the price of a rib-eye up to here), perhaps you should suggest a brunch/lunch/dinner at The Gate. Something delicious for everyone and for the vegan that most delicious of all things: choice!