Vegan Food made easy – by Chloe.
Originating in New York, by Chloe opened in London two years ago and such has been its success in the capital, it now has four branches – Covent Garden, Marylebone, Tower Bridge and the O2 Arena. It does what it says on the tin – it is vegan fast food – and judging by the numbers of diners on a Friday night, it is ticking the box for many.
by Chloe is a jolly place to eat. It has a well-styled, happy atmosphere – wicker chairs dangling from the ceiling in which one can people watch, long communal, zinc-topped tables with a soundtrack to match. Food is takeout or eat-in. Cutlery is compostable. The menu is compact – four salads, four burgers, two kinds of pasta, a handful of sides and an array of cupcakes and cookies. The London By Chloe dishes includes fish and chips, a Royal Roast (veg with Yorkshire pudding and rosemary gravy) and Sticky toffee pudding. A fridge is filled with drinks including a range of kombucha, Daily Dose cold-pressed juices and shooters – or one can order a very sweet, orange coloured Lemonade. There is a Brunch menu available on weekends until 4 pm.
Dinner at by Chloe. gave me plenty of food for thought about veganism and my veganism in particular. I am a novice vegan, a wannabe one might say. Unlike my teenagers who have given up meat for ideological reasons, I am of an age where my health is my prime preoccupation. Hence veganism appeals to me for its reportedly anti-inflammatory properties, cholesterol-lowering benefits and, just perhaps, some much-needed weight control. The fact that veganism might also be good for the planet is a bonus rather than my motivation. This is why fast food for vegans has me scratching my head.
I have never been a fan of fast food – well, at least not since my younger days – but I can certainly see the appeal for young people. I wonder though about the trend for tofu fish and chips and vegan bacon. Long term vegetarians and vegans in my circle have no desire to eat fish or meat and hence don’t aspire to replace these dishes on their plates in vegan form. They cook a wonderful array of plant-based dishes without a veggie sausage in sight. However, I have been having a think about what it might be like to be a younger person who has taken up veganism recently and misses the old favourites – burgers, fish and chips, mac and cheese and the like. Perhaps for this group, the vegan versions of popular dishes are hitting the spot. Certainly, press reports suggest so with one in four new food products in the UK in 2019 being vegan. Huge money is to be made as interest in veganism sweeps across the country – although only 1% of the UK are vegans, I think the number of part-time vegans (like myself) is far higher.
One of the joys of eating in London as a vegan is the range of choice these days and by Chloe certainly has a place amidst the plethora of eateries sprouting up around town. Many restaurants now have dedicated vegan menus from which I have enjoyed noodle soups, fabulous mushroom Wellington, all manner of black bean dishes and a quite delicious mushroom burger. Mushrooms are clearly the best friend of vegans along with tofu. I have many had memorable tofu dishes, especially in Chinatown, so when it is served battered with chips in place of a fillet of fish I just feel a little sad. Not because I am missing the fish, but rather due to how bland a dish battered tofu is. Yet, I realise that many vegans feel differently about this and are delighted to eat tofu fish and chips. My son reported being able to buy this very dish at a football match in North London so clearly there is a receptive market.
We gave the menu a good going over, beginning with salads which are a meal in themselves. Kale Caesar was filled with fresh and crunchy chopped romaine lettuce and shredded kale and packed with cubes of avocado and maple-wheat croutons. It was topped with almond parm and a Caesar dressing as well as shiitake bacon.
The Quinoa Taco included a pile of quinoa mixed with corn and black beans, avocado cubes, cherry tomatoes and rather moreish toasted strips of tortilla, tofu crema and an agave-lime vinaigrette. Spicy seitan chorizo certainly satisfies a new vegan’s taste for that wonderful creation that is the chorizo sausage.
Mac and cheese was topped with shiitake bacon and revealed a rather satisfyingly cheesy sweet potato-cashew cheese sauce, topped with almond parm. I can certainly imagine doing some carb-loading on this dish on the way back from clubbing on a weekend night.
The Guac burger delivered a black bean, quinoa and sweet potato patty with corn salsa, guacamole, tortilla strips and chipotle aioli in a whole grain bun.
Fish and chips was accompanied by a portion of fresh and tasty mushy peas. The chips were thick-cut and particularly good dipped into a very good beet ketchup. I would certainly like to take home a bottle of this condiment.
Pesto meatballs were made from portobello mushrooms and veggies and served in a potato sub roll. It was bursting with roasted peppers, basil pesto, cashew mozz, almond parm and marinara sauce.
For dessert, we tried the raspberry tiramisu cupcake and a hot chocolate which was topped with vegan cream, mini marshmallows and cocoa.
The dishes at by Chloe are creative and everything looks appetising. While clearly designed with Instagram in mind, my preference would be for a lot less salt and sugar in the food but perhaps this is an unfair expectation for a fast food outlet. by Chloe is central, friendly, quick and entirely vegan. Its success is a sign of our eating times. I suspect there will be many more such eateries as veganism continues to attract more followers.
34-43 Russell Street