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Food review: Veganism at Foxlow, St John Street

PUBLISHED: 15:41 14 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:15 14 November 2017

Aubergine steak, a main on Foxlow's vegan menu. Picture: Piotr Kowalczyk

Aubergine steak, a main on Foxlow's vegan menu. Picture: Piotr Kowalczyk

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Foxlow’s Clerkenwell branch in St John Street is offering a vegan menu during November. The Gazette is impressed.

The interior of Foxlow's Clerkenwell branch in St John Street. Picture: Kitchen CommunicationsThe interior of Foxlow's Clerkenwell branch in St John Street. Picture: Kitchen Communications

Hello, my name is James Morris and I’m a walking, talking parody. After two years of living in Islington, I’ve gone from committed meat eater to (almost) full-time vegan.

It’s why I’m so excited about visiting the Clerkenwell branch of classy restaurant mini chain Foxlow. In November, world vegan month, it’s offering a special vegan menu. The test is simple: would any of these dishes persuade diners to deviate from the standard menu?

First impressions of the restaurant itself are excellent. It’s plush, atmospheric and full of diners. Ours is pretty much the only table left when we arrive. That’s not bad for a restaurant in St John Street, which despite its central location is not exactly teeming with people at 7.30pm on a Wednesday night.

The good vibes continue when we ask for a mere carafe of house red, but our friendly, affable waiters totally ignore the order and give us a full bottle (£25) instead.

There are two starters available on the menu, which we share. The carrot hummus with fresh toasted bread (£5) is incredible. The texture is creamy, and a strong lemony presence makes it a refreshing start to the meal. I’m less excited by the kale and avocado salad (£6) but then I’ve never been excited about kale or avocado. My friend, who knows more about kale and avocado, reports it’s excellent.

Carrot hummus, a starter on Foxlow's vegan menu. Picture: Piotr KowalczykCarrot hummus, a starter on Foxlow's vegan menu. Picture: Piotr Kowalczyk

Like vegan restaurants which unimaginatively but the letter “V” in their name, I’m not a fan of vegan food presented in a meaty style. But I’m a hypocrite, so I choose the charred aubergine steak (£9.50) for my main. Quite sadly, this cut is not as delicious as dead cow, but with the wild mushrooms and “béarnaise” sauce, the dish manages to satisfy.

More exciting is my friend’s roasted acorn squash pie (£9). With squash skin as the pie “cup”, topped by a layer of crispy pastry, it comes with chestnut mushrooms, spinach and gravy. The skin has a tasty, jacket potato-like quality. It goes down like comfort food, but with immense class.

While I get a couple of sickly sweet sorbets (£2 each) for my dessert, my mercenary companion can’t resist transferring to the standard menu to order her favourite: sticky toffee pudding (£6.50). It’s the sort of thing you just don’t get in the vegan world, with a luxuriously sweet and buttery sauce making it an exceptional pudding.

Foxlow has no intention of being vegan – it admits so on its website. But with veganism increasingly popular, it makes business sense to take this into account by at least offering it to those who do. The menu is carefully selected, and most importantly the food is delicious. It wins because it would please committed vegans, while also being attractive enough to make meat eaters stop in their tracks.

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