The restaurant was relocated from York to London in 2008, by owners Andrew Dargue and Donna Conroy, who aimed to redefine contemporary vegetarian cuisine. Their food is both expertly prepared, using quality ingredients, and unique. You won’t find typical veggie fare, nor will you find meat substitutes.
Head chef Andrew’s combination of ingredients is often quite unexpected – a melon amuse-bouche with seaweed, or roasted white chocolate with mushroom custard and cream cheese – but it works surprisingly well. And the presentation of each dish is as creative as its pairing of flavours.
The menu is a la carte, with dishes priced individually or available as part of a two- or three-course meal. For starters, you might find a sweet potato and puy lentil dhal, or iced avocado served with olive crumbs. Mains include dishes like fried shiitake, pine nut purée and couscous; or smoked poached egg, black sesame and fried gram flour. The desserts are rich and sweet, with gems such as honeycomb panna cotta and chocolate hazelnut brownie.
The restaurant offers an extensive wine list – nearly 50 different bottles, categorised by colour, body and flavour – as well as champagne, cocktails, mocktails, spirits, liqueurs, beer, and the usual hot and soft drinks.
As you would expect of a fine-dining restaurant, the interior is chic and the service excellent. The spacious dining rooms are loosely divided by partitions and corridors, with wooden tables positioned a good distance from each other, allowing you some privacy as you dine. Old drawings, photographs, paintings and other antique reproductions adorn the walls, adding warmth and character. The atmosphere is formal, yet not too serious.
The staff at Vanilla Black are attentive, knowledgeable and happy to give recommendations. Menus are available with vegan or gluten-free options, and special dietary needs can be catered for if you request this in advance.
With its imaginative, quality fare, Vanilla Black is the perfect choice for a special occasion – or when you feel like trying something different. There’s a number of restaurants in London dedicated to creating gourmet vegetarian cuisine, but Vanilla Black could be the most experimental of them all.