Long gone are the days of vegans begrudgingly settling for a stuffed pepper as their sole option when eating out. Gone, too, are the days of gastro pubs being mind-blowing elevations of classic pub grub. They’re now just typical restaurants in their own right, and pompous offerings such as fish finger sandwiches served on slates with chips in tinsy, tiny shopping trolleys no longer capture the nation’s imagination.
The Orange Tree in Totteridge seems to understand this first statement, but not the second. A classic gastro pub – part of a huge group of other classic gastro pubs – The Orange Tree revels in this status, but with a sizeable and rather inventive vegan menu, I might just let it off the hook. Here’s my very honest review:
*note: I have not been paid or given any sort of discount to write this review, I just really like eating, and I just really like talking.
The menu itself is long enough to have forced me to loudly and painstakingly deliberate over what I’d order – an experience enjoyed almost singularly by 50 year old men, and myself.
Extra points for five different dessert options, minus points for offering up a vegan burger without chips (they’re marked only as vegetarian – vegans are offered a side salad instead. Yawn.)
The menu itself also took a very long time in making its way to our table (far closer to 15 minutes than to 5). I really try to be very kind to wait staff because this industry is intense and exhausting, but our waitress seemed to be near-comatose for our entire meal, which was a bit frustrating.
To start, I had the mushrooms – pan fried with spring onion and garlic, served with a soy, lime and ginger dip and a rice-paper cracker.
A big old plus point for presentation. We all know we eat with our eyes first, and the pea shoots and edible flowers definitely do it for me. The soy, lime and ginger dip was also a huge highlight of the entire meal.
As pretty as it was, I thought it looked a little on the small side, but my mum and I shared it and found it to be deceptively filling – it didn’t leave us mushroom for our mains. (That isn’t even true, I just wanted to make an awful joke).
Whether because I’ve been conditioned as a vegan to order off of the side menu by default, or because I found the Mezza Platter more interesting than any of the mains, I opted to share this with my mum as a main, plus a salad.
The mezze came with flatbread, lentil falafels, beet hummus, miso sesame aubergine, Lebanese dip, coconut tzatziki and a spiralised carrot salad.
The salad was a random assortment, as the wholefoods salad on the menu was sold out, making it essentially the same salad on the mezze but larger and with avocado. It was okay enough.
My highlights on the mezze were the coconut tzatziki and the falafels (surprising, since I was ready to take points away for the sacrilegious removal of chickpea from the falafel) Miso aubergine also added some intrigue to the dish, and flatbreads are, shockingly, breads and so I, shockingly, love them.
On the negative side, the beet hummus was a very nice beet dip but absolutely not a hummus, and I must say that none of the flavours on the dish electrified my taste buds and made my heart sing. My stomach was rather happy though.
If you follow this blog in any way shape or form, you may well have pieced together that I am an absolute sucker for dessert. Thus, when faced with a pretty impressive selection, and a diner to share with, I had to order two.
We got the treacle & pecan tart with soy vanilla custard, and the pineapple tart tatin with fresh mango and coconut milk sorbet.
It is really very awkward and rude of these two desserts to have both been so ridiculously delicious – it makes it very difficult to choose a stand-out dish for my meal.
In the end, though, the pineapple tart tatin balanced sticky sweetness with zingy, sharp flavours and made me do a little happy dance in my seat. Please forgive me, treacle & pecan tart, you are beautiful and moreish, sweet and heavenly, but not quite nutty enough for me.
And that’s that. I’d rate my meal overall as a 7.5/10 – there was plenty to choose from, lots of interesting options, and lots of sweet treats, and each course was yummy in a different way, so I didn’t get bored at all (of the food or of my company, they’ll be pleased to hear).
Now, if you’d like to find out who on Earth I think I am to fling my food-y opinions about like this, come and try my own cooking! I’m hosting a 4-course vegan supper club called “Vegano Italiano” in London next month. More info and tickets can be found here.