Going out for dinner with my husband is a rare occasion these days. What a treat to head over to The Gate Restaurant in Islington last Thursday evening, even if our eight year old could not see the point of just the two of us going out. Fittingly October 1st was also World Vegetarian Day and The Gate has just made OpenTable’s Top 40 UK Restaurants for Vegetarians.
We arrived just before 7pm and, as is always a good sign, the place was already buzzing. Just a five minute walk from Angel tube station and a few hundred feet from Sadler’s Wells Theatre, The Gate has a modern continental feel. We stepped into a spacious restaurant with an open bar and kitchen area. Small square tables casually dot the space split between two levels.
The Gate Islington is the little brother of The Gate Hammersmith which was set up 25 years ago by Adrian and Michael Daniel. The cuisine reflects the multicultural Indo-Iraqi Jewish background of the two brothers.
We were greeted by a friendly waitress and an “À La Carte” menu (Starters £5-8 / Mains £12-15 / Desserts £5-8) stretching from the Mediterranean to Asia with French and Italian accents along with a sample seasonal menu (£25 for 3 courses) celebrating The Gate’s annual October “Wild Mushroom Festival.”
My husband, the fungi lover, chose straight away the Mushroom Sample Menu which included Mushroom Nigiri and Wild Mushroom Risotto Cake. I was spoiled for choice but finally settled for Courgette Flower, a lovely reminder of our third anniversary in Rome, and Aubergine Teriyaki.
Following cocktails, an unusual and delightful Lychee Martini for me and a G&T for my husband (after all, we were on a night out!), our appetisers arrived promptly. Beautifully presented and delicious, they certainly lived up to expectations while reminding us of our travels to Italy and Japan. My courgette flower was crispy with a soft sweet potato centre, contrasting nicely with the puy lentil salsa. The Mushroom Nigiri were a mix of marinated chicken of the woods, enoki and shimigi caviar blended with ginger and wasabi dressing. The mushrooms were exquisite but you don’t want to overpower them so best to go easy on the wasabi.
I was very impressed by the wine list which offers a choice of vegan, organic, biodynamic, natural and conventional wines. This has been a little bit of a sore point for me lately as I have developed a very inconvenient allergy to sulphites in wine that leaves me gasping for air. While I am no wine expert, I love a good wine (I am French after all) and quite frankly it has been very difficult to find good low sulphite alternatives. Our very helpful and knowledgeable waiter recommended a natural, organic & vegan Grenache / Syrah. I was a bit perplexed at first (hint of wine snobbery it sounds) but the wine was delicious pairing wonderfully with our food and did not require any added Piriton 🙂
We both loved our main courses, perfectly flavoured, presented and cooked. The crusted char-grilled Aubergine Teriyaki was served on a bed of noodles with vegetables and a pickled ginger & mango salsa while the wild mushroom risotto cake was superbly cooked and dressed.
Dessert took us to new frontiers with an unusual and scrumptious “Sponge Pudding, Licorice Parfait and Candied Trumpet Mushrooms” and an exotic “Lemongrass, Lime Leaf & Coconut Cheesecake” served with Chili and Pineapple Confit.
I often find multicultural menus a bit tricky but The Gate has it spot on. You can easily mix cuisines and courses and have a delicious meal. A good proportion of the dishes are vegan or have a vegan option. There are also very good children’s and brunch menus.
The only downside of the meal for me were the pictures of pulses decorating part of the room. These were slightly too earthy for my liking and I felt that the decor could be a bit more arty. Yet this certainly did not take anything away from the overall experience.
Friendly, unpretentious and serving delicious food, The Gate is a great restaurant, that just happens to be vegetarian. It is well worth a visit!
The Gate | 370 St John Street, London EC1V 4NN | Tel: 020 7278 5483