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The Gate Review

Oddly, Katy Harrington finds “dirt infused with mocha” a little less appetizing than usual

Written by . Published on August 26th 2011.


The Gate Review

A FELLOW countryman of mine once said, “Animals are my friends... and I don't eat my friends.” Like G.B Shaw, I too refrain from eating my friends, four-legged or otherwise, but I do occasionally like to dine with my two-legged friends. When I do eat out, I also appreciate having a choice of more than one vegetarian dish (and not just the token penne or risotto option). Choice was certainly not the problem at The Gate, ‘London's most successful vegetarian restaurant since 1989’, which is a stone’s throw from the well-known Hammersmith Apollo.

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The entrance (through the courtyard shared with the adjacent guest house) feels very un-restauranty, and The Gate’s large upstairs dining room definitely has a café feel, but the room is very lovely and bright in the early evening, but becomes quite cosy and romantic when the light fades.

Now before I even mention the food, let me get my first gripe out of the way. Once seated (by our immaculate and stylish waiter), we were left with no offer of drinks and no menus for a good ten minutes. This is a folly on their part, as surely it is in any restaurant’s interest to offer thirsty diners a drink straight off the bat, but it was only after much frantic eyebrow raising that we managed to get someone’s attention and order two glasses of perfectly chilled Prosecco (£5) before the waiter disappeared again.

It’s a shame about our absent waiter as there were lots of things on the menu that needed explanation – unless I am the only philistine who doesn’t know what labne, chermoule or red schoog are? (I still don’t.) My ignorance aside, the menu at The Gate reads like an exotic adventure into new worlds of texture and taste and many of the options are vegan, or gluten free, while even more can be made vegan or gluten free upon request, so kudos for that.

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The list of nine starters each sounded so delicious that choosing the mezze platter (a little bit of everything for two or four people) was a no brainer. At £18 for two (£36 for four) the platter is at the more expensive end of the scale (individual starters were from £5 – £6.50) but it is worth every last penny. Our selection included cous cous cake, pan-fried with grilled aubergine in harrisa dressing and topped with broad bean and pomegranate salsa, beetroot salad with hazelnut, watercress and goats cheese in hazelnut vinaigrette, three onion tart with leeks and shallots baked in parmesan pastry with caramelised onions and basil oil (a real winner), a wasabi potato cake (with just the right amount of kick) and a refreshing and zingy soba noodle salad with mange tout, baby corn, bean spouts and red peppers. It was a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds, with unexpected combinations and oodles of weird and wonderful flavours. Who said vegetarians are people who take pleasure in not eating things?

RotoloRotolo

Rotolo (which I believe is Italian for roly-uppy thing), £14.50, was a very smart looking assembly of ricotta, grilled courgettes, asparagus and roasted red pepper rolled in potato (and not just any ol’ spud, this one was ‘thyme–infused’), served with sauce vierge and the obligatory balsamic swirls. It was tasty but lacked oomph. I’m afraid to say it was just the kind of dish that meat eaters would have complained needed a pork chop, or 8oz rib eye to go with – more of an accompaniment that a stand alone dish.

My main of two hot tamales, £13.75, was also impressive to look at, but unfortunately not to eat. To be honest, when I ordered it I wasn’t really sure what tamales were, and when two husks of corn arrived filled with corn massa, halloumi, chipotle chili and steamed vegetables, I was still confused. Adventurous as the ingredients sound, it was all rather bland, sloppy and warm – a bit like baby food. The two hot tamales were a hot mess. The sides of refried beans, guacamole and sour cream did little to improve the texture or taste and the chili and chocolate ‘coulis’ (also a squishy lump) was singularly revolting. I would happily dry shave my grandmother to avoid eating it again. It tasted like dirt ‘infused’ with mocha. After the first mouthful I carefully avoided touching it again like a six year old circuitously eating around their greens.

I called shotgun on dessert. “I’m having the crumble,” I declared immediately having spotted it – pear, rhubarb and ginger crumble served with crème anglaise. “So am I,” announced my date. “No you’re not, have something else,” I protested (wanting to eat not only my own pudding but also have a spoonful of his). As it turned out neither of us had it, it was all gone. The rest of the desserts were a little too virtuous for my liking, (marinated figs or sorbet) so we picked the two most decadent sounding remnants. Summer pudding served with berry compote and crème fraiche and the pressed chocolate & cherry torte (both £5.50).

Chochlate-Torte2Chocolate torte

The chocolate torte (tart to me and you) looked good but was seriously dense, a bit like the cast of Made in Chelsea. Chocolate desserts are supposed to be a moreish treat, but one spoonful of this was quite enough. It was lacking in moisture and tough to get through. The summer pudding was blah too, just a big blob made with what tasted like defrosted frozen fruit and not enough bread for soakage. In short, it was not delicious.

And so the evening’s repast began on an extremely high note – colourful, fun and exciting, before getting a bit confusing in the middle and ending up a little dry and boring. Thankfully neither the conversation nor the company followed suit.


The Gate

51 Queen Caroline Street
London, W6 9QL

Rating:        12/20

Breakdown:  5/10 food
                     3/5 service
                     4/5 ambience

 
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Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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