Having been to the Gate a number of times, I selected the restaurant again for a vegan-themed date! Although purely vegetarian restaurants are often a disappointing tour around typical dishes from around the world (a la Mildred’s), the Gate is far more innovative, serving an unusual combination of Indian, Arab and Jewish cuisines, mixed with closer-to-home influences from our French and Italian European neighbours.
With three branches, the Gate is accessible for many – the original one being round the corner from Hammersmith Broadway, and the second being just a stone’s throw from Sadler’s Wells. They also now serve on Seymour Place. The beautiful, menagerie-type room of the Hammersmith branch is stunning. For me, the high ceilings and large windows make all of the difference, as well as the fact that this restaurants brings me back to Hammersmith, just a stone’s throw away from my school.
Long before Yotam Ottolenghi became a household name with his Guardian column, Adrian and Michael Daniel were dazzling vegetarian diners with aromatic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients. They set up the original Gate in Hammersmith nearly 25 years ago, cooking dishes based on childhood memories. Much of the food has an Asian/Middle Eastern flavour, probably because the original owners, brothers Michael and Adrian Daniel, are Indo-Iraqi-Jewish. This means lots of spicing, pickled lemons and plenty of experimentation with the aubergine. The seasoning is also judicious, using exciting ingredients such as tahini and pomegranate molasses.
The food here is carefully sourced to ensure that the most natural and fresh ingredients are used in every dish. On a previous visit, I loved their Broad bean and chickpea falafel (£6). Here, common compilations become sophisticated: a broad bean purée, deep-fried into crisp quenelles, is served with a blob of baba ganoush to lend a silky, smoky lubricant, a pool of pepper purée for the heat, and the crunch of raw pickled vegetables in the Middle Eastern style. I’d also tried their Carciofini (£8), which is a baby artichoke filled with wild mushroom duxelle and deolcelatte, served with a puy lentil salsa and garlic aioli. This had been wonderfully piquant – as even M&S preserved artichokes are – and moreish.
I was also delighted to see an Indian Potato chat (£6) on their menu, served with spiced sweet potato, beetroot and coconut, and garnished with crispy spinach, spiced yoghurt, and a mint and tamarind chutney. Having (I thought) invented this dish at home the previous week – particularly with my beetroot addition – I chose not to order this. Nevertheless, I’m sure the chef and I could share a few tips on its preparation and presentation, especially as I also thought I’d invented the beetroot and coconut combination, having tried out a baked samosa using this filling!
For my supper today, however, I continued my quest (yet again) for excellent quinoa, choosing the Grilled chipotle mushrooms (£6/£9) made up of shiitake, oyster, and paris brown mushrooms with red quinoa, avocado, tomatillo and a green chilli salsa served with lime and kale crisps. Whilst not at delicious as Pachamama’s Peruvian quinoa, the mushrooms were exotic, unusual and tasty.
My companion, meanwhile, chose the Aubergine teriyaki (£14) which was a beautiful dish of char-grilled aubergine coated with crispy breadcrumbs and layered with coriander pesto, roasted red peppers, shitake mushrooms and horseradish. This all lay above stir fried noodles with a pickled ginger and mango salsa. FYI, their Chunky herb polenta chips served with a garlic aioli (£4) are also delicious so we couldn’t resist sharing a portion.
Happily for me, The Gate manages to avoid all the clichés of vegetarian eating: soggy, passive-aggressive Quorn; nut roasts; faux bangers of woe. Service is also informed, welcoming and sweet-natured. In fact, in honour of national Vegetarian Week, the Gate host a range of events, including free Veg Talks , during which their chefs will give a talk celebrating vegetables and also give a cooking demonstration.
The Gate in Islington: 370 St. John Street, London, EC1V 4NN
The Gate in Hammersmith: 51 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, W6 9QL