Elaborate vegetarian dishes in an art-deco inspired restaurant
Editor's note: restaurant permanently closed in Aug 2020 owing to the impact of COVID-19
Finally I get to this restaurant in order to increase the vegetarian database and after navigating through the walkways of the Lincoln Inn Old Buildings, I was delighted at the charming interior of this rather tucked away restaurant. Overall this was a finely done meal, sitting comfortably within fine cuisine for craftsmanship and an extremely good advert for vegetarian food but with unfortunate setbacks making the grade lower than it could be.
I was entertained with some quinoa and soy bean white bread, cherry and carrot sour dough and caramelised lemon butter. The breads were fine and the butter perfectly soft but I struggled to enjoy the sweetness of the butter which didn’t come across well – caramelised onion or smoked savoury notes for the butter may have been better here.
I was in a relative rush and so opted for the set lunch menu. Firstly, the pea soup starter was absolutely lovely. The pea sponge and crushed pea salsa added texture well and the mint was beautifully balanced with a brilliant peanut marshmallow – this was a very well done dish. For the main, the melted high cross cheese in breadcrumbs and charred spring onions with smoked onion puree was also delicious; this really was lovely as well but was just dissapointing to have such a small portion size for a main course and I felt a little shortchanged here.
Finally, the whipped dougnut was cleverly done and the crispy custard was another creative and pleasing addition. A pleasing flavour on this dish but with quite a sticky texture for the most part and the crispness of the custard (which was presumably designed mainly for adding another texture to the softness of the other components) literally disintegrated in the mouth and so the actual point of the crispness was lost and had more effect visually than in substance. Several wine options by the glass were available and the most expensive (glass of Sancerre) that I had with the meal was agreeable.
Unrelated to flavours, the negatives of this experience for me, were that although the service was polished and professional, I detected high levels of self-assurance in the staff at the same time, reflected in equally self-confident price tags of the dishes / menu. I simply believe this to be far too expensive for what was delivered when the ingredients were clearly not as expensive as many meats that Michelin starred restaurants I have been to, have used on their set menus which will be more expensive. If the portion sizes were more generous at Vanilla Black I believe that would be a simple way to even the balance more – as it is, it is overpriced compared to other options.
However, if cost was not an issue, I would happily eat this kind of cooking for a year without meat and not blink an eye when it is this well done but with dissapointing surprises on the opening nibbles and dessert and overall portion size, the latter being an issue of design. In the main, this is a high end vegetarian option to have in London. Vegans are advised to inform the restaurant in advance.
Food Grade: 66%
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