Next on my healthy London eateries to-go-to list was Ethos, an entirely vegetarian self-service café. Although I say Ethos was on my restaurant list, my friend was deciding on where we’d meet. This really is a first for me – normally, my companions consider me to be the “restaurant guide” and allow me choose our eatery. But luckily for me, and given her awareness of my fussiness, she’d chosen the exact spot I’d been wanting to go for a while. I’ll definitely let her take charge whenever we have our much-needed catch-ups!
Ethos is entirely vegetarian, with plenty of vegan options. Jessica Kruger, the owner, longed for a place that was “deliciously different” after being disappointed by the vegetarian offerings on the high street. 2015 saw the shortage of places that put plants at the front and centre of food improving: Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store has extended to a newly launched Grain Store Unleashed, whilst Ottolenghi, whose delis and Nopi restaurant are hymns to vegetables, has a spin-off venture spearheaded in the form of Covent Garden’s Sesame. Even the likes of Pret and Leon are improving the landscape of healthy and vegetarian fast-food to go, with their quinoa hotpots and salads, as well as their dairy-free take on Coyo and range of (non-dairy) smoothies and juices. Vegetarian and vegan haunts are now a chic hangout in their own right and Ethos adds a whole new level to the playing field.
The décor of Ethos is spacious and rather “box-fresh”. The colours are predominantly Nordic white and blue, with a striking mini-forest of silver birch trees in the centre reaching skywards, sleek black and white marble-topped tables, glistening marble floors, large picture windows and long glass pendant lights. The stylish Scandi décor and the chilled out Ibiza soundtrack create a relaxed setting.
The menu, divided into cold and hot dishes, covers the gastronomic globe, allowing eating to become a mini-adventure in flavour, colour and texture. Although I’m a big fan of fusion cooking, I did query whether you can combine dishes with influences ranging from Japan, Southeast Asia and Korea, with Italy, India, Mexico and Lebanon? But faced with an abundant display of beautiful and carefully selected dishes from around the world, even I was tempted by the thought – especially as it was all so good-looking that you want to try a bit(e) of everything.
The ethos at Ethos is DIY: after serving yourself, you take your plate to the payment counter at the back to have it weighed. Dishes cost £2.50/100g at lunch and £2.70/100g at dinner (takeaway prices vary). Although buffets usually don’t do it for me, what’s on offer at Ethos is totally different. Filled with the most incredible array of healthy, wholesome and hearty dishes as well as vibrant salads and the biggest bowls of hummus, babaganoush and guacamole I’ve ever seen, I was eager to try a bit of it all. Given my indecision, the best thing about Ethos is that I didn’t have to choose between dishes on the menu, but could try a bit of everything.
Among the cold dishes on offer, I was tempted by the chilli-spiked Guacamole, the Californian chickpea salad with caramelised shallots and pumpkin seeds, and the Giant couscous with pesto and cherry tomatoes. The beauty of the Antioxidant dream salad, made with avocado, mixed berries, spinach leaves and a mango vinaigrette was also striking. Unfortunately, they’d run out of the Broccoli with candy striped beetroot and crispy lotus root – unsurprising given how difficult lotus root is to track down.
After much indecision and umming and aahing, from the Cold Selection, I finally opted for the Roast cauliflower dressed in tahini and scattered with cranberries and walnuts, which the chef prepared especially for me as their stocks were running low. Alongside this, I took a helping of the colourful Heritage tomato bean salad, a spoon of flavoursome olives and a good dollop of Hummus as their Baba Ganoush had run out. From the Hot Selection, I couldn’t resist the Japanese miso aubergine. For me, the aubergine, with its perfect seasoning and well-textured preparation, was the highlight of a very delicious plate. Although costly, amounting to around £15, I was so delighted to be finally sampling Ethos that I didn’t mind.
Whilst too full on veges by this point, the deserts did appeal: a tiny “peanut butter bomb” rolled in desiccated coconut (£2 each) was my ideal kind of healthy low-sugar snack and so I bought one to take-away.
Ethos opens early in the day with a short breakfast menu (think avocado on toast, fruit salad, granola, and (non-dairy available) porridge), then rolls on to everything in between, lunch and dinner. Occupying a key location, it’s perfect for shoppers seeking sustenance or local office workers looking for a refuel. Beware though, if you go too late, dishes may have been eaten…
Ethos, 48 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8HX