Load up credit on your five-a-day at one of the capital’s most esteemed vegetarian restaurants.
Nestled behind the Hammersmith Apollo, this quiet and appropriately named eatery sits in a pretty gated courtyard next to a modern day church (i.e. one with a shop front). Despite the vague appeal of a small, inner London community centre (it shares its WCs with the church hall), the upstairs dining room is bright, airy and dominated by a large atrium-style window. With vast pale walls, one painted with a large, almost demonic tree, and simple but contemporary trappings, its design is very much in the refectory-style made popular in the Nineties.
Renowned amongst the vegetarian community, The Gate has been knocking out great meat-free food to Londoners since 1989. Even on this quiet Tuesday evening, every table is full although the atmosphere is more a low hum of smugness rather than buzzing and fun. The service is mildly efficient if not the friendliest in town.
While the menu at The Gate is not extensive, it is however imaginative and seemingly includes every vegetable known to man. Try the starter mezze platter (£15.50/£29 for 2/4 people) for an impressive showcase of the chef’s expertise. It includes a delicious warm beetroot and Jerusalem artichoke salad which contrasts well with crunchy green beans and palm hearts. Next up is a creamy and rich three onion tart filled with leeks, shallots and caramelised red onion. The home-made tortellini is filled with ricotta and mushroom and served on a velvety celeriac cream. And there’s more; the aubergine pakora is good, and nicely spiced, and the halloumi kibi, a tasty tikka-flavoured grilled cheese kebab served with a zesty buckwheat salad.
As for the mains, a trio of carciofini (£15.50) comes as a dauntingly large dish of braised and roasted globe artichokes filled with feta and mint, a mushroom duxelle (minced mushrooms) and a lively caponata and served with slightly unnecessary polenta chips. The aubergine teriyaki (£13.75) is again, one beast of a dish. Two huge slabs of aubergine are layered with fresh coriander pesto, ripe red peppers, shitake mushrooms and a zingy horseradish, then crumbed and fried and accompanied by a nest of noodles and some sweet mango salsa. Although tasty it does feel a little heavy for an Asian-inspired dish.
For dessert, if you can fit it in, try the very reasonable crème caramel with sweet, caramelised oranges (£5.50) or the delicious (and again very generous) pear and frangipane tart (£6).
There’s a nice selection of wines, most of which are organic, biodynamic or vegan. The house wine is a surprisingly pricey (£17.66) but very drinkable French vin de pays. At the top end of the list, the organic and vegan Pouilly-Fuisse comes in at a smidgeon under £50. Beer-lovers can try a bottle of the organic Freedom beer (£3.55), but if you haven’t quite had enough vitamins (unlikely here) try one of the interesting freshly-squeezed juices, such as pear and raspberry (from £3.25).
The Last Word
The Gate offers hearty plates of good, imaginative vegetarian food at mid-range prices and is worth a visit. As long as you're not put off by the odd worthy diner.