I should preface this by saying I’m not a vegan. Although I don’t eat meat, the idea of giving up cheese is basically, unthinkable. So I had mixed expectations about what vegan fine dining would be like, and was potentially a little skeptical, however I’m surprised but pleased to report I was blown way by the service and standard of the food in Plates.
First up, we were thrilled to be greeted by one of the staff members at an unassuming door that looked nothing like the front of a restaurant, and walking up the stairs we felt like we might be on route to eat in someone’s apartment. Sounds weird, but it made the experience feel unique, more authentic, perhaps even slightly organic. and opening the door to the beautiful, elegant restaurant confirmed that this was a serious and well thought through set up.
Not only did the food look amazing, the presentation was impeccable, and only bettered by the commissioned “plates” the food was served on. Designed to follow the restaurant ethos, the plates are locally made at Kana Studios and use minimum colourings. My favourite was the “half plate” total genius and fun detailing.
My favourite thing about the food was the fact that the menu is put together to celebrate vegetable and plant based ingredients rather than try to substitute meat, fish and diary. And I think that’s where the success of this place lies – in the passion for the ingredients.
We started with a take on a tequila (an alcohol free one) which involved a shot of apple and hibiscus sour alongside a pineapple chunk covered in basil salt. It sounded so wrong, but it tasted so right! The palate cleanser was quickly followed by several small plates, notably the house bread with liquorice was especially delightful when paired with the carrot dip. Of course with sans yeast you lose the traditional bread texture, but the warm moist bread held it’s own on the menu.
But it was the pot roast Hispi cabbage with baby turnips and crispy potato (a nod to a much healthier dauphinoise style potato) that was what we’d been building too. We saw the dish pass our table a few times to other diners, and couldn’t help but be visually seduced by it’s purple potato crisp, but my goodness it tasted as good as it looked. I think the black bean and parsley was the winner of this plate.
Desert was inspired by the chefs own desire to cut out refined sugars, and it worked. The cherries were presented fresh, as well as dehydrated, and along with the crunch of the almond and crunch of biscuit, it delivered a sweet treat without the guilt.
What impressed me most was how attentive the service was, how personal. And it was clear that the chef Kirk, (who did bring a course of two to our table himself) and co owner Keeley who run Plates, really do care about what they serve, and are proud to do so. We asked lots of annoying questions being vegan rookies and we met with nothing but enthusiasm and passion for the food.
The presentation of the dishes was only bettered by the flavour and texture combinations that were presented to us in each course. The wine, vegan of course, was easy to drink and really made the pairings more special. Brought in especially from Italy, the restaurant has direct access to the farmers to ensure that the wine is entirely and unarguably vegan.
Everything about this place felt authentic but luxurious, local and friendly but high end. Go to Plates, vegan or not. It’s a treat for the eyes and the stomach.
Address: Plates, 93 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AG
Written by Polly Robin.