The Gate Restaurant (Hammersmith)
I'm in my 15th year of living in the South East corner of England – vegetarian the entire time – and have only recently found my way to The Gate Restaurant. Long known as a reliable spot for unique vegetarian dishes in London, The Gate wasn't high on my priority list because I'd heard the vegan options weren't always up to scratch. When the restaurant invited me for a meal, however, I realised the unfairness of my judgement since it was one based on zero experience, and so accepted their offer. Will I return? Most definitely yes.
First impressions are important in a restaurant, especially when it is marketed as an upscale establishment. Attention to detail is key, and The Gate has got it spot on. The dining room is a light and airy space on the second floor, an open and inviting room that feels way too cool for me. Layered wood accents line the long inside wall, while the opposite wall is made of pretty much just huge windows. Windows that allow Britain's nine seconds of winter daylight to pour in. It's a genuinely lovely place to be, and refreshing to know there is a restaurant that isn't hell-bent on ensuring I can't see my food.
To begin we ordered a couple of starters – plantain fritters and the sprouting lentil salad. The plantain fritters had a filling that included sultanas, which is close to poison from where I stand, but the chipotle and blueberry sauce had me sold (these days I'm sold on any mention of blueberry that doesn't also include the word 'superfood,' because what even is one of those?). Smoky and tangy, with a sweet pop from the pomegranate seeds, not only was the flavour good but I really enjoyed the variety of textures. Even the fruit.
Incidentally, I would like for it to be possible to describe food without sounding like a tool, but there you go.
The sprouting lentil salad included a bunch of raw stuff I'd probably never put together at home, but ordered it since I love a good salad (and they are hard to come by in the UK, where a watery tomato alongside the most vile of foods, cucumber, is considered salad). The balance of flavour and, again, texture, was spot on, with the cranberries a perfect complement to the umami rich wasabi dressing.
Portions were generous for starters, so go starving or split one between two people.
The dumplings contained a mushroom filling that actually tasted of mushrooms (I'm often disappointed by overcooked flavourless mushrooms at restaurants). The tempura wasn't crispy, which was disappointing. Aubergine jam is an interesting idea, and I liked the hint of curry spice, but the dish was still missing a savoury element – a high quality soy dressing on the side wouldn't go amiss.
I judge pretty harshly on gravy, which I also love because it's effectively permission to eat salt soup, so naturally I ordered the Christmas rotolo. The gravy was zippier than expected, a little sweet and a little tangy, and it worked incredibly well. A little bit went a long way, so there wasn't a need for more, but I wish I could have ordered an extra side to swim in. Central to the dish was the rotolo, but the real star was the courgette wrapped mash (sweet potato?), which was smoky and peppery and ought to be made into a main. I wish the brussels had been roasted, not steamed (and perhaps cut with lemon to mask the bitterness). The stuffing ball was a nut encrusted bean mash, which felt wrong but convinced me in the end because it tasted great. All in all, a great dish.
By the time we polished off our starters, mains, and a rocket salad (sweet and sharp with toasted hazelnuts – delicious), we were too full for dessert. Which is fine because I want an excuse to return to The Gate anyway. The space is gorgeous, the staff are attentive, kind, and polite, and the food is good. We enjoyed our time so much, in fact, that we lost track of time and accidentally had a two hour lunch.
If you're looking for a nice spot for a high quality vegetarian and vegan friendly meal around Hammersmith, then consider The Gate. I love Christmas about as much as I love going to the dentist (less, in fact. My dentist is ace), but The Gate is currently running a festive menu, available throughout December, with a few interesting specials not available outside of this season. It's worth checking out.
Disclosure: The Gate invited me to dine at their restaurant as a guest. All opinions are my own.