Plant-based and pretty special; the small plates of Slaw…

Eat the rainbow. Words we’ve tried so hard and so virtuously and so strenuously to live by in recent years that sometimes, the joy seems to have seeped out of mealtimes because let’s be clear, there is no place in this world for undressed leaves. Frankly we have enough to deal with right now without naked cabbage rearing its unadorned head.

Now it’s more like eat the frickin’ kaleidoscope and what an unbridled, uncomplicated, unabashed joy that is to do when places like Slaw make it so easy. Plant-based bowls, flushed with colour and alive with texture, are characteristic of the small, stylish restaurant that opened earlier this year, mere feet from similarly vegan sibling Wild Food Café.

Starting life as a series of supper clubs and opening on Islington’s Upper Street in February, Slaw’s ambition is to make plant-based food both realistic and accessible through the clever handling of fresh, simple ingredients and it’s fantastic to see it sailing past its original predicted residency of five months.

Understated in design, bold in delivery, warm in service, Slaw possesses a quietly assured menu that subtly transforms itself with the changing of the seasons outside; strapping spears of tender early summer asparagus gave way only recently to defiantly blousy legs of broccoli nestled with peas, quinoa and pickled radish.

Small plates are designed to be shared so after starting with pillowy slabs of salt speckled, golden crusted, house made focaccia that’s exactly what we did, picking all the dishes on offer and hesitating only at the mushrooms. Sorry guys but unless they’re squishy, rolled in coconut and found in the local multi-screen pick’n’mix, I can’t get on board with the fungi.

Carrots arrive roasted, pickled and laying across dollops of carrot hummus like the tastiest pile of edible pick-up sticks imaginable. Showcasing the restaurants root-to-stem ethos means the pesto dashed across the top is made from feathery carrot tops and a tangy crumb made from hazelnuts and rye delivers a crunch that lingers nicely making this a must-order.

Beetroot dahl is thick, silky and as pink as Barbie’s dream sports car with a sweet, earthy bite to the lentils that stops it from descending into mush. Topped with a glossy puddle of cucumber raita, this is the dish that chewy, puffy flatbreads were made for scooping up…

…as is the star of the evening – dukkah sprinkled, roasted cherry tomatoes and aubergine with nutty black rice lazily paddling around in a pool of spiced plum tomato sauce. Dreamily creamy with layers of deep, sweet, almost smoky flavour, this is a new take on summers’ bounty of tomatoes that will have you scraping the dish for every last smudge of vivid terracotta.

Florets of cauliflower are tinted golden yellow, fragrant with spices, softly spiked with flaked almonds and draped with a bright, grassy coriander dressing that stops this from being just another Middle Eastern ode to the humble cauli.

The loveliest thing about Slaw is that whilst some of their dishes are aspirational and unlikely to be replicated in your own kitchen, others, like the cauliflower, are easy to imagine throwing together with confidence for a mid-week supper and that’s brilliant because that’s what the best places should do. Deliver food that tastes great and gives you a break from your own dining table but also encourage you to think about how you can take inspiration from their menu for another night.

The current vegan landscape of London is vast and at times it’s unforgiving to those dipping a toe into the waters of plant-based cooking but the honest and passionate exploration of vegetables apparent at Slaw is something to be sought out and celebrated.

Pophams; Islington’s best new bakery and a slice of homebaked heaven…

There’s something unbeatable about the combination of a sheet metal grey day so cold it freezes the tears that tiptoe down your face and a bakery where handthrown ceramic mugs of foamy bitter chocolate and feather light pastries become the very definition of cosy.

If I ever find myself in a world where I have to renounce a food group, all things kneaded, rested, proved & baked can rest easy because I’d sooner give up breathing than I would bread and all its siblings.

Seriously, a life without warm loaves that spill puffy clouds of steam into the air upon tearing into, without tangy sourdough and its soft gaping craters that beg for salted butter to drip through them, without viennoiserie whose almost transparent layers of gossamer fine pastry are the perfect place for plump jammy berries or darkly beguiling chocolate or sharp citrus curd to lay their heads…well, this is not a life worth living.

Dramatic? Moi?

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The recently opened Pophams in Islington is a peachy example of why I truly love this sort of food. It tastes wonderful, it’s satisfying and breathes life back into your body on the sort of February day that hibernation or emigration were made for and it’s pretty.

Oh. So. Pretty.

Puh-lease don’t come at me with your food bore chat of butter calories and back well off with your carbohydrate concerns…there’s a time and a place for leafy green loveliness but this, my friends, is not it. Read More

Upping the cool factor at the hot, loud & down right delicious Black Axe Mangal…

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to eat somewhere that’s part restaurant-part rock concert-part tattoo parlour, you’ve obviously never dined at Black Axe Mangal.

Small, loud – yes even at the yuppiest of meals, Sunday morning brunch – and sat on the Highbury & Islington roundabout next to Maison d’Etre, a prime piece of caffeinated yummy mummy real estate, this place is dangerously close to straying into the ‘if you have to ask, you’re not cool enough to know’ territory. Devoid of all obvious signage and possessing just one small menu in the window, don’t be fooled into thinking no-one knows about BAM; opening at 11am and, by midday, full of people after cold beers and hot meats served in flaky flatbreads served fresh from the Gene Simmons face painted grill, this place is as popular now as when it first opened. Read More