For many years, my favourite vegetarian restaurant in London has been The Gate in Hammersmith because of its wonderfully creative and inventive food. Far too many vegetarian restaurants are of the lentils and wheatgrass shots variety and so it's fantastic when one isn't. I've never had a bad meal at The Gate, the only two bad things that I have to say about it are: it's in Hammersmith (which isn't very convenient for me); and it's not got the best atmosphere, the tables are all crammed in and it looks a bit like a cafeteria. One time that my lovely husband and I went, we were so close to another couple that it was deeply uncomfortable - they sat in silence glaring at one another for the whole meal except, at one point, one of them said to the other "I didn't think this was how we'd be spending our anniversary." Ow. Offputting. Hard to carry on a cheery conversation about three inches from them.
Anyway. I was, therefore, thrilled when I heard that they were opening a new restaurant in Islington - Islington is much more convenient for me and, also, I figured that they might fix the problem of the tables being too crammed in together. While, obviously, Islington is indeed more convenient for me, unfortunately seemingly they couldn't resist the temptation of cramming a few more tables in so you are still quite close to other diners when you eat, much more so than in most restaurants. The atmosphere is a bit nicer though, less opressively white and cafeteria like.
We went during their first week of being open so perhaps this is just teething problems but the service was somewhat erratic - the first waiter we had showed us to our table and then left us without menus for about ten minutes before I caught the eye of a different waiter who seemed rather confused that we had no menus. After that, the service was lightning fast, to be honest, a bit too fast. I realise I'm sounding a bit like Goldilocks here but I promise you, I'm not really particularly picky about service. I just quite like there to be a break of some sort between courses - our mains arrived literally just as I was finishing the last mouthful of the starter which was fine this time as we were both quite hungry anyway but I do, in general, prefer my meals out to last longer than an hour. I think, next time, I might be inclined to wait until we've eaten starters before ordering mains.
Still, the main reason why I went was the food, which was - as per the Hammersmith restaurant - lovely. As well as the usual things, they have mezze so we went for 3 mezze for £10 as a shared starter - I loved the artichoke tempura and the couscous fritters (particularly the sauce they came with), but the mushroom pate wasn't that exciting. The portion sizes were a little on the small size - worked fine as a shared starter for two people who wanted to leave room for their mains but I'd avoid ordering some as a meal in themselves, unless you have a very small appetite. The main courses were terrific - I had the corn cake which was beautifully put together, lots of different flavours, just the way I like my flavours, my lovely husband had the couscous encrusted aubergine which was also very nice. Next time, I want to try the risotto cake with lots of mushrooms. We were too full for pudding, another one for next time.