Recently we went on our second Thames cruise for lunch and a tour – always a bit of fun and a chance to see some of the best bits of London from the water. We opted for a full table of vegetarian meals, which was a bit of a rub from the beginning as they served us last after the entire rest of the boat had been served.
Today we’re talking about a restaurant that we discovered for the first time in 2018, and which absolutely blew us away. Situated just around the corner of the Shepherd’s Bush underground station, Tai Buffet is an all-vegan Asian food buffet venue which caters to an all-you-can-eat crowd until late daily.
It’s served in a really nice bun, a glazed brioche which adds a bit of a luxury touch. So far, so good!
There is so much filling that it’s actually too big to eat in one mouthful, as the burger and other elements simply squidge out the back when you try. I don’t like being defeated by a burger, but sometimes you just have to knife and fork it – and I would suggest that this is one of those times.
There’s lots of fresh salad in the bun which always adds that extra feeling of satisfaction, though of course it’s the burger itself we’re most interested in. This has a solid texture, and is very fibrous. There are lentils visible in the burger mixture, which overall is quite sweet. This might be a little strange except that it’s less noticeable when paired with the bun.
Inside the bun are a few smaller sliced gherkins as well as a big slice of tomato (you know how we feel about those here at VegBurge – we like to throw them straight out!). The burger was a tiny bit dry and could perhaps do with some added spice or diced onion. Overall, however, it was really tasty.
The ice cream sundae, I should note, is not vegan, however tasty it might be!
On the Vegburge scale, I give this…
Taste – 8/10
Price – 5/10
Rest of experience – 7/10
This place has a lot of great stuff on the menu, but before we even get to that, the atmosphere was fantastic. It has this kind of arty, shabby chic vibe that was right up our street, complete with chalkboard wall and exposed brick. It looks pretty much exactly like you would expect a vegan cafe in Hackney to look like, honestly.
Next up, the menu: starting with the drinks. I ordered – of course – a hot chocolate. Mind you, this was before the heat wave properly struck! The vanilla white chocolate, at £4.50, contains vanilla, maca, cacao butter, coconut oil, maple, and heated milk (oat or coconut). I went with coconut and it was so… pretty! Just look at all the flowers on top!
It tasted good, too, but a tiny bit strange because it’s a white hot chocolate that has no chocolate in it. Just think about that. Also, a white hot chocolate always tastes a little odd because it’s not what you’re expecting. But still, it was nice.
And I actually liked it so much that it now features directly next to my face in all my new social media profile images, so that’s great.
Anyway, onto the food. We took a glance over the menu and decided to order the share platter for £10. If we weren’t wanting to rush on, and also not spend all our money in Hackney, we probably would have chosen other things as individual plates, but something to share worked for us.
The fresh veggies included to dip were SO fresh and tasty. It was just a flavour explosion, as everything was obviously freshly prepped and cut. The tomatoes were even pretty tasty, and as regular readers know, I can’t stand a raw tomato. But these, I ate.
The dips were pretty interesting. Much like when we make vegan dips ourselves, they are pretty solid – not as creamy and smooth as your normal houmous. You kind of end up getting lumps of dip, but they still eat just the same and the flavour was great here as well. The kimchi was really strong, and I loved the traditional flavours of the houmous. The cheese was very much like the houmous in texture and almost in flavour – certainly not the best “cheese” we’ve had, but on the other hand, a great dip.
The bread was absolutely delicious, and also obviously fresh. It was quite oily and even though it was the least healthy thing on the plate, we soon snapped up the offer of getting a couple more slices added to the platter at no extra charge, which was pretty decent.
Would we go again? Absolutely, yes. I don’t often find myself in Hackney, but now, when I do, I know where to go.
They have quite a lot of vegetarian options, so it was honestly quite hard to choose. The burger is described on the menu thusly:
Marinated halloumi & portobello mushroom, Rio Beans, matchstick crisps, tomato, lettuce and chimichurri – £9.95
And just because we all obviously love having to backtrack across the menu to figure out what one of the ingredients is, Rio Beans are:
Black beans slow-cooked with cumin, onions and garlic.
This week we’re bringing you a review of another venue in Canterbury. Since we’re around there so much, we figured we’d try another veggie burger option and let you know what we think – enter Friendly Phils and their American-style dining.
This is the burger that we went for:
FALAFEL & SPINACH
Now, we both wanted to add halloumi, and we both went for onion rings and fries. However, I added sweet potato fries with cheese, which are an upgrade on the regular sides you’re supposed to choose from.
Now, here’s where it gets shady. My waitress did tell me that it would be £2 extra for the sweet potato fries with cheese. That seemed fine, since they are priced at £4.95 as a side while normal fries are £2.95.
However, when I looked at the receipt after leaving and actually figured it out, I had been charged more than that. I was charged £8.90 for my burger with halloumi and onion rings, plus £4.95 for the fries. It should have been £10.90 for the burger and sides deal, plus £2 for the extra upgrade.
So, in summary, I was charged £13.85 instead of £12.90. Bit cheeky and if I had spotted it at the time I would have complained. The prices are high to start with, without them pulling tricks.
Anyway, let’s talk about the burger. It was very greasy and contained visible chunks of chickpeas, spinach, herbs, and spices. You can see that it was very dark compared to what you would expect from the name ‘falafel’, and I think part of that was the amount of oil it was cooked in.
It came in a soft bun with shredded lettuce and mayonnaise, which you know I always approve of. It also had an unnecessary giant tomato – seriously, does anyone enjoy eating slices this big? What a monstrosity. It came out of the bun as soon as I was done taking pictures. There was also a gherkin which I allowed to remain.
I really enjoyed the lovely, salty halloumi, and I’m glad I opted for it even if it did cost more. It provided a nice counterpart to the burger and went very well with the lettuce and mayo. I’m confident in saying it was the best part of the burger as a whole.
Onto the sides: the sweet potato fries with cheese were freaking delicious. It was cheddar and it had melted beautifully, and the combination of the two flavours was beautiful. Not to mention the fact that it’s always fun to pull apart food which is coated in layers of melted cheese. The onion rings were good but fairly standard foodservice offerings. They came in varied sizes, some offering more value than others.
It’s hard to come to terms with this place. The service was awful; the setting was lovely. The burger was far too greasy; the sides were excellent. The tomato was huge; the halloumi was perfect. The bill was overcharged and overpriced; actually, I don’t have a positive to balance against that one. I don’t know if we’ll ever be tempted back.
ON THE VEGBURGE SCALE, I GIVE THIS…
TASTE – 6/10
PRICE – 4/10
REST OF EXPERIENCE – 3/10
Lettices Vegan Ribs
These ribs are one of our favourite finds from Viva’s vegan festivals, and Lettices are a fantastic brand that always produces high quality. Having said that, the ribs are pretty expensive. The block that you see here costs £5 and is only enough for both of us to share in one meal. So, at £2.50 a head for the ribs alone, they are quite pricey.
Despite that, we still grab them when we go to festivals or occasionally through an online order because they are very tasty. They are so juicy and succulent – you can see how much grease comes out of them! I mean that in a good way: these are sticky ribs after all, and you wouldn’t want them to be dry or bland.
They have a lot of flavour and make a great accompaniment to sweet potato chunks (as here), chips, or just about anything that you would normally put with ribs. They also go very well with mayonnaise, and I’m convinced that garlic mayo would make them even better – with vegan varieties a priority, of course.
Lady Luck Vegan Ribs
The Lady Luck vegan BBQ ribs are really fantastic. They are made with juicy jackfruit and seitan, and come with chips, salad, and slaw. This is served up at £9.95. This makes them about the same price or perhaps a little pricier than the Lettices option, when you take into account the rest of the food served with them.
They are also very juicy and succulent, and quite messy! I love the texture of the jackfruit and the sauce that they are generously slathered in. There’s a lot of love in these ribs and you can tell. They’re nice and moist, but it can feel a little like there isn’t much going on on the plate (at least for someone like me who considers a salad of that kind to be a sin against the palate).
So, who wins? This is a pretty hard one, as you can no doubt tell. I think I might have to choose the Lettices ribs in a pinch because they are just that little bit firmer and have a more cohesive texture. It’s clear that both options are very expensive – I do find it more than a little upsetting that price is often a barrier to choosing vegan food. Hopefully as production methods improve and scale up, prices will start to come down.
We took a seat where we could enjoy some fleeting gorgeous sunshine and settled in for our food to come. We went for a starter, which consisted of some cheesy bites with a tomato dip to smother them in, described thus:
There weren’t many on the platter, but they were very rich and melty (and hot), so that’s probably a good thing. The crunch of the outside and the soft, dripping insides were a great match, and the tomato dip was the perfect accompaniment. The fact that it was mac and cheese inside was just fabulous, really. The one thing that did worry me was the rather tired wooden platter, bearing many a knife mark from previous diners.
Here’s the burger details:
Our vege patty made with shiitake mushrooms, wild rice, white beans, gram flour & umami flavours is topped with onion, beef tomato and a miso mayonnaise. It’s messy baby! £8.95
It turned out to be reasonably hard to find from a walking perspective, because it’s tucked round the back of the station in the middle of nowhere. Literally – the view out of the large floor-to-ceiling windows is simply a lot of concrete and a few miserable trees, which is a bit of a shame. It’s not yet clear why they would choose to have such feature windows facing such a dismal view, but perhaps there is redevelopment planned for the area soon.
I had a Mexican bowl, which you will know is one of my particular weaknesses. This is how they described it on the menu:
Mexican spiced black beans topped with feta served with quinoa, raw corn salsa, corn chips, grilled pineapple and smashed avocado £12
V had some mock chicken, described thusly:
southern deep-fried buttermilk and polenta mock chicken with red cabbage, maple coleslaw, sweet potato fries and smoked chipotle dip £12
Given that it had the same name as one of our favourite venues of all time, there was much excitement to try this cheery little cafe/restaurant. And it certainly is cheery, with a bright yellow facade and eclectic decor which includes lots of happy photos of customers.
The food comes in a wide range of options, all breakfast-centric but with all kinds of influences. I just had to go for the All-American, which is described on the menu like this:
VEGGIE ALL AMERICAN (V) Pancakes, eggs, veggie sausage,
mushrooms, home-style potatoes & maple syrup £10.50
The plate was crammed full of food, almost too much to start the day with – but I’m always up for a challenge. Just to make it even more interesting, I also opted for a hot chocolate, which was thick as you like and very sweet.
The eggs were just right, and different for both of us. I visited with V, who always likes her eggs as solid as possible, and they were served as requested. The mushrooms were juicy and hot, and had a lovely earthy flavour. The potatoes were crispy and salty on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside.
The pancakes were absolutely delightful, and especially even more so with the sweet and thick maple syrup. I especially enjoyed the veggie sausage, which we spent a lot of time speculating about and trying to work out the recipe. All I can say for sure is that I would happily eat five of them, and they were amazing with the maple syrup too.
The food was great and I loved the experience as a whole. I enjoyed the little touches, such as the mismatched mugs, the polite but cheerful staff who were as friendly as they were attentive, and the wide range of veggie options on the menu.
This is one place that gets a thumbs up from me when it comes to breakfast. I recommend it, and you might just spot me going back there someday soon as well.