Vegan Dining in Leicester Square at W London:
The Perception, the restaurant, bar and lounge of W London Hotel is hosting an entirely vegan menu, created by British Chef, Ravinder Bhogal.
Ravinder rose to fame when she was named by Gordon Ramsay as his new Fanny Craddock, on The F Word. In 2016 she opened her first restaurant, JIKONI, to a rapturous reception in the heart of London’s bustling Marylebone and was named one of London’s 100 Tastemakers in Food & Drink, as part of the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list of London’s most influential people. So for her to be launching a full vegan menu in the centre of London is a dining experience not to be missed.
So on a snowy Saturday night, I took my Vegan Date to see what Ravinder Bhogal had cooked up. Passing through the main entrance of W London and up the stairs, we come into The Perception bar and lounge.
W London – Spherical Image of W London
If you pan down in the video above you will see the famous ‘penny table’ where you can sit at and dine with friends.
We were welcomed with vegan cocktails; amazing takes on regular cocktails with all the colour and flavours you would expect. The cocktails and drinks menu is extensive at The Perception Bar in W London and caters for all tastes.
The Perception Restaurant and Bar is a situated the full length of the side of the building, and with double height ceilings has the feel of a large feasting hallway. The lights are cleverly located in rings which don’t detract from the subtle and more intimate lighting of the tables. We chose a table overlooking the Wardour Street so we could people watch and see the London taxis collecting and dropping off the night’s revellers.
Ravinder Bhogal’s goal with her vegan menu is to use the most natural produce to create delicious plates that will excite self-identifying vegans and omnivores alike with dishes such as Besan Fritters, Coconut Yoghurt and Curry Leaf or Asian Mushroom Ragout with Sweet Potato Gnocchi. And there is even more with the dessert menu, where sweet tooths can expect to be sated with many dishes, including the almost famous Rose, Coconut and Cardamom Doughnuts.
Given such a choice and more, we had difficulty deciding on which dishes to have.
For starters, my date went for the Cauliflower Popcorn, Thai Basil Tempura, Black Vinegar and Chilli Dip. The florets of cauliflower were crisp and crunchy, wrapped in warm tempura that soaked up the chilli sauce when dipped. And the sauce had enough chilli to taste, but not enough to be too hot. This dish was so moorish, that both of us shared, and we could have eaten it all night.
I chose the Beetroot and Walnut Kibbeh, Tahini and Pickled Chillies. I was tempted by the Besan Fritters but thought I would stay with the walnut theme as I had had one in my cocktail. Again here, the chilli was mild and pleasant, adding spice without any burn. The beetroot was chunky and fresh, and although I was reminded by my date how healthy it was for me, I just enjoyed the taste.
Vegan wines are also on the menu, with the house wines from Veramonte in the Casablanca Valley in Chile. I went for the white as I felt it would go better with non-meat dishes. It was actually a good choice, the Chardonnay had a nice zest to it that complimented the spicy starter and the vinegar from the dip.
For the main, my date chose the Caramel Braised Tofu, Confit Garlic Rice and Smacked Chilli Cucumbers, which is Ravinder’s niece’s favourite. We were told that the tofu had been pressed before being coated in order to make it slightly thicker and drier. This made the ‘bricks’ of tofu well structured and evenly coated, the braised caramel adding a very sweet burnt flavour. The garlic rice added to the flavours and volume in the dish, of which her only criticism was that the tofu itself had not absorbed much flavour and could do with a bit of marinade.
Having seen how good the Thai Basil Tempura in the starters was, I went for the Tempura Inari, Moong Dhal, Sweet and Sour Tomatoes with Turmeric Carrot Kraut. I hope the pictures can show how lightly these were put together, the dhal and tomatoes still well formed and wrapped in Tempura. There was plenty on the plate so I was a happy muncher.
For dessert, those craving sugar usually go for the Rose, Coconut and Cardamon Doughnuts which the waiter proudly said were the best in the world and people often asked for more to take home. However, we went for something different and slightly less sweet.
My date chose the Charred Pineapple, Lime, Lime Leaf and Lemongrass Sorbet with Cashew and Black Pepper Praline. Now Lemongrass can be a difficult ingredient to use right, but Ravinder Bhogal has got if balanced perfectly her, allowing you to taste the citrus and its aroma without losing it into the lime or overpowering. A simple dish that so easily could not have worked was in fact perfect.
Call me dull, but I chose the Saffron, Mango and Passion Fruit Cheesecake. I wanted to see if a vegan take on this dish changed anything from a regular cheesecake, and with Ravinder Bhogal’s creation, it certainly does. The flavours are more defined, cleaner in a way, with the vegan cheesecake not being so sweet if blurs the composite ingredients. As a regular omnivore, this is certainly a dish of choice.
With dessert finished and after a nice coffee, we were ready to leave. We both agreed that the food was way better than you currently expect for a vegan meal, and the portion sizes were enough to satisfy even the no vegan diners. Had we wanted to party we could have gone on to the bar at the far end of The Perception restaurant. It seemed lively all evening but sufficiently separated that the sounds never intruded on us. I wanted to stay longer, but that’s for another night.
Ravinder’s vegan menu is available from Monday 5th March until the end of June 2018.
Monday – Sunday, from 6 pm to 11 pm.
T: 0207 758 1060