Vanilla Black is a Michelin-recommended vegetarian restaurant in East London. Often it is described as serving “grown-up” vegetarian food, as their Twitter bio states, no veg curry or pasta bake will be served. Rather what diners get is a menu of unusual, fun combinations of food and flavours, minus the meat. Or as I like to call it tiny, pretty, lovely food.
The restaurant is tucked away in Took’s Court, a quiet lane, so blink and you would miss it. Once inside the dining area is bright, clean with cosy greys and dark would furnishings. I quite enjoyed looking around at some of the interesting features such as the random letters on the woodwork by our table and the fun, old style art.
The service in the restaurant was great. The servers were attentive, friendly and they kept an eye on how you were getting on without being too over-bearing or intrusive. The cucumber flavoured water was kept topped up all evening and any requests were taken and delivered promptly.
Before the starers each diner is served a Strawberry mousse amuse-bouche. It was great being in a vegetarian restaurant as I could eat it straight away without enquiring further about the preparation. It was really lovely, light and flavoursome, perfect for the start of the meal.
After you have finished the amuse-bouche and before the starter each table receives a small bread basket. Inside are some slices of warm, fresh bread, one sweet and one brown. This is served with butter and sea-salt. It was absolutely delicious, you really can’t beat good quality bread and butter.
Chilled Tomato Soup and Lovage Ice, Chilli Marmalade and Little Herbs.
This dish comes with a bit of ceremony. The soup bowl is placed down with the lovage ice in the centre surrounded by some light, rose coloured foam and herbs. The server then pours the chilled soup from a jug around the centrepiece, making sure it all stays in place. It was a horribly humid evening and the soup and ice were at a perfect chilled temperature to cool but not to freeze the taste buds. The taste of the tomato matched the sharp taste of the lovage and herbs perfectly. The chilli marmalade was not too spicy so did not over-power the dish but added a satisfying after-taste to the soup.
Grilled Carrot Cake with Sheep’s Yoghurt, Ginger Carrots and Orange Oil.
This dish was cheerfully decorated like the Irish flag with bright green, orange and white. This starter was really interesting, the carrot cake was dense, a perfect comfort food. The carrot flavour was strong and matched perfectly with the carrots and orange oil. The dryness of the cake was dampened by the inclusion of the sheep’s yogurt, which added a much needed creamy, moist texture. There was also edible flowers which I love, pretty garnish and lovely perfume flavours.
Braised Leeks, Jerusalem Artichokes and Iced Verbana with Lemon Dumplings and Crispy Buckwheat Crumbs.
This was one of my favourite dishes of the night and really fit into the category of tiny delicious food. I adore leek and artichokes but rarely cook them so this was a real treat. The softness of the vegetables were counteracted my the crunchiness of the buckwheat crumbs. Alongside, the lemon dumplings added a citrusy zest which lifted the earthy flavours of the leeks and artichokes. There were more edible flowers which made me very happy.
Goats Cheese and Toasted Cauliflower Mille Feuille with Golden Raisin and Cashew Nut Potato and Tamarind Paste.
In start contrast to the colourful starters this main course was quite brown and beige but was still very flavoursome. The stack of protein which looks like tofu strips was actually the goats cheese. So this dish is not for dieters. It was perfect however for fans of deliciously rich, creamy food. The cheese was fantastic and I loved the cashew nut potato. It was a really lovely, naughty treat.
Milk Chocolate and Walnut Oil Pate with Avocado Ice-Cream, Lime Meringue, Dark Chocolate and Bee Pollen.
Continuing the richness we chose this dessert which promised heavy flavours. All I can say is this was a chocoholics dream. The chocolate was wonderfully strong and when matched with the creamy avocado it was perfection. The lime meringue added a fresh, zesty crunch to match the richness of the rest of the dish. The highlight of this dish for me was the avocado ice-cream. I never would have thought of the combination but it was really lovely and I would definitely order it again.
Smoked Paprika Fudge, Malt Loaf and Builder’s Tea Ice-Cream with Crispy Pear and Smoked Pear.
It was fairly certain that we were going to enjoy the previous dessert so for the second one we decided to go with something more adventurous. When I read the menu the paprika fudge jumped off the page and I had to try it. Smoked paprika dishes are a mixed bag for me, sometimes they remind me of smoked fish which has the tendency to freak me out. But I thought I would give it a go.
The fudge was for me a bit strange. It did have a kedgeree taste and I could not work out if I liked it or not. Then I decided to combine it with the builder’s tea ice-cream and it all came together. Combined they were delicious. The malt loaf bulked up the flavours and the pear added a sweet cut to support the main flavours. Again the ice-cream was my favourite part of this dish. It tasted unmistakingly of breakfast brew tea. The coldness of the ice-cream was actually pleasant and it did not taste simply of tea left to lose heat by accident.
Overall it was a great meal and a really lovely treat. I don’t think my waistline would want me to eat here every week but for occasions it is perfect.
Dinner: Two Courses: £28.00 Three Courses: £38.00
Bottles of wine start from £19 a bottle and there are choices of sprits and port also.