There are so many different food trends in London at the moment, many of those are trying the latest trend of becoming a vegan. After Veganuary became a thing in twenty eighteen, many of London’s residents have carried on this lifestyle change and adapted their diets for the foreseeable future. In true supportive spirit and the wonderful ever adapting city we live in, London’s restauranteurs and chefs have caught on to what the citizens need and want to be able to dine out in London.
Personally, becoming a vegan is something that has never really appealed to me. Firstly I love dairy way too much, I mean cheese is just god’s gift to the world is it not? Secondly, i’ve always thought having some kind of meat, chicken or fish is required to make a meal substantial. However, it wasn’t until I popped into the Perception Bar at the W Hotel to try their latest dining series collaboration with Ravinder Bhogal that I felt differently.
For those that don’t know much about Ravinder, she’s a young, beautiful and talented cook and restauranteur with not just Indian roots but a Kenyan background too. Ravinder is the brains and beauty behind the gorgeous Indian restaurant Jikoni. Ravinder being a culinary expert and a true experimenter when it comes to food, she was ever dreaming about creating a vegan Indian menu, something most people would think would never be seen in the same sentence.
Arriving at W London, we were greeted by a dressed floral W sign, which is representing Ravinder’s dining series over the next few months. Boasting a range of Indian flowers, mixed with a few traditional roses, W London was proudly promoting the collaboration in true spring style.
The flora theme continued up to the first floor, where guests will find the newly refurbished and absolutely stunning Perception bar.
The dining room within the Perception Bar is where the Ravinder’s dining series will be hosted every evening for dinner, complete with gorgeous teal booths and plenty of natural lighting through the windows that overlooks Piccadilly Circus below.
We kicked off our experience with a Hayfever cocktail, which very creatively curated to have a Indian touch with cumin and coriander flavours but with a striking name and colour that matched the floral and vegan theme. As you can tell by the number of ‘pills’ I had in my cocktail, my hayfever was very strong that day. 😉
We settled down to start our culinary journey through Ravinder’s cooking, beginning with an array of starters.
One of the first dishes was the charred sprouting broccoli with spelt and a lovely miso dressed. The addition of spring onions and fried onions added a lovely touch of flavour and texture to this dish. I didn’t know ingredients as simple as spelt and broccoli would work so well together but also combine to create a smashing dish that is full of nutrients and flavour.
The besan fritters served with coconut yoghurt and curry leaves was a starter that left people either loving it or hating it. I have to say it was my least favourite out of all the starters, mainly because I felt the coconut yoghurt was rather heavy and overpowering in flavour too, but others around the table loved it.
The beetroot and walnut kibbeh served with tahini and pickled chillies was a nice vegan substitute for the traditional kibbeh. Especially as the filling felt rather meaty when biting into it, which would normally be provided by the vast amount of mince meat usually but the beetroot was a fantastic alternative.
My two favourite dishes of the starters had to be the crispy beancurd and rice noodle summer rolls served with chilli and sesame sauce and the cauliflower popcorn with Thai basil tempura and a black vinegar and chilli dip. Both the dishes were unique and had so much flavour in each of them. They were also equally as light, making the perfect way to start a meal.
I was already so full after just the starters, I probably shouldn’t have over indulged but everything was so tasty – how could you not? Alas, I powered through and the main courses came out.
I was really excited to try the mains, especially as I was intrigued by many of them from the descriptions on the menu. The first dish I tried was the sweet potato gnocchi with Asian mushroom ragout, sweet potato crisps and crispy kale. I loved the take on this dish, as it wasn’t overly sweet like I expected it to be but rather subtle and savoury but delectable.
Next up was the coconut kari with potato, onion and pea bhajis. These bhajis took me way back to my childhood, standing on a stool in the kitchen next to my mum whilst she fried some home-made bhajis and I would be there ready to grab them whilst they were hot. I think for food found in a restaurant to be comparable to your mum’s home cooking, that’s something special. Thanks Ravinder for letting me experience that moment through your cooking.
The coconut kari was delicious, especially as the coconut wasn’t overpowering but instead formed a dipping sauce to the bhajis, but equally as delicious when scooped up with spoon like a soup.
The tempura inari filled with moong dhal on a bed of sweet and sour tomatoes and turmeric carrot kraut was delicious. I’ve only ever had moong dhal as your typical curry, but it was brilliant to see something so traditionally Indian modernised and twisted into a oriental dish.
The basen cheela stuffed with pumpkin and cashew curry with cabbage thoran and coconut chutney on the side was nice. I especially loved how Ravinder took a typical diary chutney and substituted it with coconut to make it vegan – very creative. I must admit that the cheela was one of the least favourites out of all the mains, but it was still delicious nonetheless.
The winning main was definitely the caramel braised tofu with confit garlic rice and smacked chilli cucumbers. What a dish!! As someone that has never been a fan of tofu, I was completely converted by this dish. I could eat it again and again. The sweet flavours from the caramel mixed with garlic in the rice was just divine. The tofu also had a meatier texture as it was compressed in order to remove a large amount of the water to give it that texture – a perfect executed dish!
I was really pushing it come the desserts but when they all sound right up your street, you can a little try of each, no?
I’m so glad I did try them too, because I would have missed out big time. All three desserts were equally as fantastic, filled with so much colour, vibrance and exotic flavours.
The charred pineapple with lime, lime leaf and lemongrass sorbet served with a cashew and black pepper praline was absolutely life changing. Scoop a bit of the sorbet, let it melt over the pineapple, roll it around in the praline crumb and eat – absolutely magnificent!
The rose, coconut and cardamom doughnuts reminded me of my mum’s nankhatai but just a bit more of a doughnut texture rather than a biscuit. They were incredibly moreish, but it’s a good job they are bitesize because you certainly don’t feel guilty for indulging in more than one.
The last dessert was the saffron, mango and passionfruit raw ‘cheesecake’. What I loved about this dessert is that you could taste every layer of this cheesecake in each mouthful, regardless of the fact there was no dairy in it. It was rich, exotic and ever so scrumptious. I was throughly impressed!
If I had to round up Ravinder’s vegan menu in one word, it would be incredible. I have never left any meal in a restaurant feeling so satisfied, especially as it was all vegan. It definitely changed my perception of vegan food, which was generally boring, lacking in flavour and non-nutrious but I take that all back because Ravinder’s menu was none of those things. A must try for anyone that wants to try something unique and utterly mouth watering in London – you have until the end of June.
Until next time…