Take the gate restaurants for instance. Running for more than 25 years, the brainchild of Adrian and Michael Danie, they serve vegetarian cuisine with a Indo-Iraqi Jewish bent modulated by French and Italian influences. Yep.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of The Gate, but my (very many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily revisit - in this case, it's somewhere my carnivorous husband really loved and would go back!
Their focus is complementing fresh, delicious ingredients with a gourmet flare, and my focus of the evening was how my other half would cope, deprived of his favorite protein hit. We pootled along to their Hammersmith branch after work one evening, a carefully hidden away building behind the infamous Hammersmith Apollo Theatre. Entrance is through a humble communal courtyard, leading to a airy loft and enormous smiles of the welcoming restaurant staff.
We began as all good meals do with his 'n hers beverages and perused our well sized menus. As a gluten intolerant diner, I could have around half of the menu which made my heart rather happy (age old suspicions of a restaurant only serving cheese sandwiches as the vegetarian option still live from my teenage memory) but the problem was deciding what to try. We ended up with a good amount of bartering ('if you have this, then I can have that' style) over our drinks - #bloglife.
Our waiter unequivocally recommended the Courgette Flower (served in a crispy batter, filled with sweet potato, goats cheese, pine nuts and basil served with puy lentil salsa and a garlic and lemon aioli) whilst my better half tried the Mediterranean Peppers (filled with artichoke, hazelnuts, roasted garlic served with black olive tapenade and basil pesto).
Both were divine - the courgette flower a subtly, cheekily flavoured tastebud tease and the olive tapenade had both of us subtly scraping the plates. Round 1 of the restaurant battle was a draw.
I had chosen my main the moment we sat down - the Friday Foraging special - wild mushroom risotto cake (featuring sauteed foraged girolles, king oysters and paris brown finished with a creamy cep sauce, rocket and cheese shavings in lemon and truffle dressing) but anxiously awaiting Mr Kiwi's choice. It's a little sad, but I did a little fist pump when he picked the Aubergine Teriyaki (layered with coriander pesto, roasted red peppers, shiitake mushrooms and horseradish, coated with crispy breadcrumbs and served on fried-noodles with a pickled ginger and mango salsa).
Of the two dishes, I loved the fresh mushrooms but struggled a little with the rich risotto cake texture - the reason I wouldn't normally order a risotto - but the aubergine teriyaki was glorious. Just the ingredient list alone should tell you everything that was right with this dish! Round 2 to Mr Kiwi.
*insert accidental selfie whilst trying to capture twilight falling through the beautiful conservatory skylight*
Then, dessert. Mr Kiwi puts it best about vegetarian cuisine missing the traditional heft of a slice or two of meat, and the feeling that you're missing out on something, but with the combinations of surprising flavours we really didn't feel like that (and would tell if you we visited the golden arches on the way home as a result. We didn't).
It did mean that we weren't uncomfortably full, and able to sample their desserts. Sadly they aren't quite as able to accommodate us gluten-free brigade here, only really having the option of panna cotta (with mango puree and pistachios) but the boy took one for the team and ordered the pressed chocolate and stem ginger torte. It was glorious I'm told. Round 3 to Mr Kiwi.
We really enjoyed our meal at the gate restaurant, and thought it was lovely how they could also accommodate vegan diners - something not often able to be done with ease. The interior has a stylish rustic loft feel with hanging baskets and suspended bulbs, but special mention has to be made of the serving team - they looked after all the tables swiftly - many were off to see the comedian performing at the Apollo, smiled and joked with everyone without seeming to intrude and I loved watching their banter as the evening began to quieten.
They almost, almost converted us to the vegetarian side. We will definitely be exploring vegetarian options a little more often now...