10 August 2015

Plentiful Plant-based Eating at Ethos, Soho

Weekend's are my not so healthy down time. Occasionally I'll do a role reversal and eat healthily at the weekend and like a pig during the week. Like when I meet up with my friend Steff (vegan, pole dancing extraordinaire and fellow Scientist). The last time we met up in London we headed to The Coach & Horses, London's first and, currently, only vegetarian/vegan pub. On the way to our destination, Steff and I walked past Ethos, a buffet style restaurant serving exclusively vegetarian/vegan dishes just behind Oxford Street where you pay by weight. Having heard such good things previously we were going to abandon our quest for The Coach & Horses and eat at Ethos instead. Unfortunately or fortunately, because The Coach & Horses turned out to be absolutely delicious, we didn't realise Ethos had set times for serving lunch and we were too late.

I don't want you guys to make the same mistake we did so FYI lunch is served from 11.30-3pm and dinner is available from 5.30pm onwards. They also do a breakfast menu with some unusual scrambled egg toppings, it would be nice to see more vegan options on there as at the moment it's porridge or avocado on toast, both good options but I like a little variety with a vegan diet. As Ethos looked so good when Steff and I walked past last time, we decided to set a date to visit again and this time at an appropriate lunch hour.      

My friend Emily, seen here looking gorgeous at Columbia Road Flower Market, and I met up early for a bit of browsing round Oxford Street before heading to Ethos to meet Steff. After our mini shopping marathon, Emily and I were starving. Unfortunately (I really do mean it this time), Steff had overslept and was running late. After coffees, taking photos and having a good old gossip for a while, with no word from Steff, we decided to inspect the buffet. Right on queue, Steff appeared, it was as if she knew we were about to cave and eat without her. Luckily our friendship didn't need to be tested, it would have been a close call because the food smelt so enticing!

The interior of Ethos is almost as cool as the concept. It's very Scandinavian inspired, delivering the whole cold colours but warm atmosphere that we have all tried and failed to implement into our own homes. White tiled walls with navy and gold touches, and dark wooden focal points (birch trees included), it's a blogger's dream or at least mine. I pretty much knew we were going to have a great time at Ethos as soon as I saw the gold spray painted fruit (golden pineapple anyone?) and navy sketches artfully placed on the walls. Go for the excellent vegan and vegetarian dishes, but stay to enjoy a coffee or two afterwards pretending this is your home. Do not, walk up to people dining and tell them this is private property and they should leave, put your feet up on the table or start making a nest amongst the birch trees, that's taking things too far.

The food isn't split into veggie and vegan options but rather into hot, cold and desserts. I was concerned there wasn't going to be enough vegan options for Steff but this worry turned out to be unfounded as the vast majority of the dishes were vegan. My friend Emily isn't a metasaurus but in the run up to her meeting Steff (her first ever encounter with a vegan; they're endangered) she was thoroughly concerned we'd be eating nuts and lettuce alone, this bought on a vast number of questions such as can vegans eat flour, chocolate, peanut butter (answer: depends on the vegan) etc etc etc. Thankfully Emily was swayed the moment she set eyes on the sweet potato fries.

Although I'm not vegan/vegetarian (sorry folks!) I do eat a vegetarian diet during the week, as such I think I'm a bit of a know it all when it comes to eating veggie. I left Ethos feeling super inspired after eating loads of dishes I'd never thought of putting together before. Steff was pretty much in heaven, she walked round at least twice picking up every possible vegan offering. When Steff and I go out, I always try to pick somewhere that is vegetarian/vegan, not because she's against other people eating meat (she's not and I haven't met anyone that's vegan/vegetarian that is, so let's break down that stereotype) but because we get to share stuff and try things out together, which is one of my favourite things about eating (sharing is caring). You'd think living in London this is easy, but actually it's really not, a couple of the vegetarian restaurants I'd found had one or two vegan dish on the menu (most of the time it's tabbouleh and hummus or the classic, albeit delicious, veggie burger). So finding somewhere where most of the dishes were vegan was awesome.

Now for the bit where I panicked; the weigh and pay. So as you can see I'd piled my plate high with food, we're talking salads, seitan curry, miso roasted aubergines, aloo scotch egg, baba ganoush, two types of fritters (courgette and pumpkin and cheddar) and all sorts of other things hidden under that mysterious pita bread. So many dishes caught my eye I just had to take a spoonful and then it was only when it was all on my plate that I realised I didn't know how much it was. 'What if it's a gazillion pounds?' My brain was freaking out, my stomach was hungry, we all know who would have won if it came down to a fight (prison rules or otherwise). I went up to the counter to brave the scales (something I have not had so much success with recently when weighing myself), and woe and behold I was pleasantly surprised. Actually I think the word is delighted. It was £13. As such I splashed out on a matcha latte and a sparkling water for one. 

Emily's plateful came to a well within reasonable £12 and Steff who went completely overboard paid £16. Overall not an unreasonable lunch for three starving gals. 

Before I tell you how amazing everything was and we lose ourselves in memories of delicious veggie food (it's going to happen!), I have to get out of the way that my matcha latte was positively disgusting. It was like drinking pure fat, Emily nailed it on the head when she said it tasted meaty. I don't know if it was the milk or the matcha (this was my first and possibly last ever one) but yeah skip it. Don't go there, grab the sparkling water, grab the glo passionfruit juice (it's delish), grab a coffee if you fancy but do not be tempted by the fatty matcha latte whatever guise it presents itself to you in.

Moving swiftly on, I need to find another adjective that isn't awesome for Ethos...stupendous. The food at Ethos was stupendous, I couldn't pick a fave but the highlights were definitely the asparagus and green bean salad with hazelnut dressing which was fresh but creamy from the nuts, the miso aubergines were earthy and I could have eaten a whole plateful of these alone, the aloo scotch egg with spiced potato and a crispy panko breadcrumb coating was spicy and the yolk ran everywhere in a good way, and finally the baba ganoush. I'm a baba ganoush snob. I make my own and it's excellent; one of the best things I make. As such I closely scrutinise baba ganoush when out, Ethos' dip stands up to the challenge. With their homemade pita it's heavenly. 

Mains down it was hard to resist taking on a piece of cake. The glorious vegan carrot cake drizzled with icing and decorated with raspberries, rose petals and nuts caught all our eyes. None of us were brave enough to try the black bean brownies although we did debate it, the carrot cake just looked too good. The chocolate peanut butter balls also looked tempting but they were dwarfed by (yep you guessed it) the carrot cake. You wouldn't know the carrot cake was vegan, it was really moist (in a good way). We also picked up another friend and some additional cake enroute to Reagents Park for a cat nap, and though tasty (orange and lemon slices) it didn't compare to the goods we got from Ethos.

We took our cake and ate it in St John's Lodge Gardens. I love this place, not many people know it's there, with the cars parked outside most think it's someone's house, and I guess it kind of is or once was. But down an arched alleyway you enter into the secret gardens of Reagents Park. With fountains, plenty of hidden corners and scented rose bushes you can picture young nobles courting one another between the hedges. It's always really quiet in those gardens and it was nice to lie down, sunbathe and fall into a cheeky food coma nap post Ethos. 

I'll definitely be back for another vegetarian lunch at Ethos, as they're constantly changing up their menu I want to sample some more of their creations. Plus where else am I going to get my week night meal inspiration from?

If anyone has any recommendations for restaurants that serve more than one vegan option that's not hummus, tabbouleh or a token veggie burger, please drop me a comment below. My favourite vegetarian place in London is Sagar, unlike Ethos it's nothing special to look at. In fact the inside looks like your local neighbourhood cafe, but their food is some of the best Indian food I've eaten. I'm making myself hungry, so I'm going to stop talking about Sagar now. But go, eat lots and send me photos of you and your giant dosa. If anyone has any good vegan cake recipes I'd love to read them, it's my friend Steff's birthday soon so I want to make something special. Black bean brownies welcome!

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