Vegan is cool right now. What with Mark Bittman’s VB6 diet and the raw food revolution we seem to be keen to reclaim the plant as our friend and reject a heavier diet of meat and complex processed food. Maybe after years of the Atkins and more recently Caveman diets, we have found our dieting solution in the humble veg?
I’ve come to Vantra Vitao, a new vegan and raw food restaurant and café by Tottenham Court Road tube station whose menu pairs feel good with taste good. I rock up on a busy weekday, my head brimming with the madness of work, shoppers and bumbling tourists bustling past the little shop front and having brought along the best test subject for this kind of food: my mother. She’s early 60s, super traditional and thinks vegans are all hippies.
Vantra Vitao’s food is both organic and ‘living’. My menu helpfully informs me that living food is the practice of serving food in as natural a state as possible by serving it completely raw or not heated above 48˚. This is meant to keep the most vitamins and nutritional value in the foods and therefore be a healthier way of eating. I’ve been fascinated by raw eating for a couple of months now and follow a few twigs of girls on Instagram who live in somewhere beautifully sunny and daily eat fresh fruit for breakfast and beautiful salads for lunch. But as I arrive at Vantra Vitao, the typical English weather in the form of a gale turning umbrellas inside out dampens my mood for cold, raw vegetables.
However my lunch utterly blows me away. A huge buffet is lined up with Ottolenghi-style aubergine salads, slow cooked vegetable curries and dhals and rich, vibrantly coloured dishes to suit an array of tastes. The little place is packed and to start I ask for a drink that will wake me up and keep me going for the rest of the afternoon.
I’m brought an amazing mocktail made up of jasmine tea, fresh juices including mango and beetroot and coconut nectar. By the time I’m at the bottom of my glass the stress of London has completely left me and I’m feeling transformed. I move on to the buffet and pile my plate with a mixture of brightly coloured, deliciously healthy treats. My favourite dishes are the aubergine, which has been slowly cooked in a marinade of tomatoes and peppers, a beautiful chickpea moussaka that is irresistible and perfectly spiced and the dhal cooked with cumin, turmeric and coriander. The restaurant weighs plates to determine price but don’t let this put you off – they also have an option to fill a generous sized Tupperware pot for just £6.
For dessert we move on to the raw guilt-free cakes. I order a mango cheesecake – made using macadamia nuts and my mother opts for the chocolate cake. If you’re hoping I’ll tell you it was as creamy as a slab of New York cheesecake then I’m afraid I can’t. While the deserts were perfectly nice, the consistency lacked the creaminess I am used to and was quite dry and almost mealy in texture. The chocolate cake was too dark and bitter and needed something to lighten and soften it.
Dessert aside, Vantra Vitao is a triumph – the dinner prices are a bit steep and it’s more quirky café than elegant dining so I’d recommend you try their amazing lunchtime buffet and life-transforming super juices. You’ll enjoy great, delicious mains and leave feeling healthy, happy and ready to take on anything.
25 – 27 Oxford Street