We’ve all watched enough shock documentaries – Fed Up/Cowspiracy/Carnage (delete as applicable) – to have either turned veggie, vegan or at the very least have taken a long hard look at our dining habits and have vowed to cut down on the amount of meat we’re eating.
So it’s for this reason we’re getting a bit bored of writing about veggie/vegan restaurants as ‘other’ or feeling the need to put a label on them at all.
Turns out the guys behind Essence Cuisine feel the same way. Yes everything on the menu is vegan, yes it’s all raw (meaning ingredients don’t reach above 42 degrees), yep, it’s all gluten, dairy and refined sugar free, but first and foremost it’s just bloody delicious.
So let me set the scene, Bart Roman started life in the music festival biz. You can imagine the kind of toll that takes on the body, so after waking up feeling like shit one too many times, he decided enough was enough and there just had to be a better way. So to cut a long story short he got Matthew Kenney on board, (a pioneer for high-end vegan and plant-based food in the US), Essence was created, was a huge success in Europe and has now landed on Leonard Street in Shoreditch.
Keen to reflect that this is a space for all of us and escape the outdated view of vegan food for hemp wearing hippies, Essence is more space station than eco retreat. Designed by renowned Swedish architect Andreas Bozarth Fornell, famous for his work with Acne Studios and Sandro, there’s an aluminium ceiling and a concrete bar with minimalist box tables where you can grab a coffee and charge your phone, as well as a larger table which will be set for dinner come evening.
To begin the day we liked the sound of the ‘Garbanzo Scramble’ a take on scrambled eggs but made from chickpeas with added kale, green harissa and asparagus but we were here to check out the lunch and dinner offering.
We dived straight in with paprika spiked kale chips – chewy and crisp – and red smoked hummus. Thick and creamy it was topped with fresh fennel and served with a selection of ‘sprouted’ – read: more nutritious – dehydrated crackers.
For our mains we got the pretty-as-a-picture heirloom tomato lasagne. Layers of courgettes are precariously layered with sundried tomato marinara, pistachio pesto and macadamia ‘ricotta’, finished with herb oil. A smidge on the small side, we happily devoured it and were left pleasantly full, if not stuffed. Our guest demolished the more substantial green curry with marinated kelp noodles, cabbage and curried cashews. Spiked with plenty of lime, there was so much flavour going on without the faintest background note of ‘health food’.
Feeling indecisive we got a combo of the Lime Cheese Cake and the Chocolate Caramel Brownie for dessert. So decadent, it does make you question why all desserts aren’t made without cream and sugar when this is the result.
Oh and all the mains come in at sub-10 quid, so it’s mega good value.
And yes, there is wine on the menu. All be it vegan, organic and biodynamic obvs. Which we like to pretend means you can drink as much as you like and wake up hangover free.
Oh AND they’re on UberEats, Deliveroo and the like. Hurrah!
So whilst Cuisine will be a godsend to those that follow a plant-based diet (particularly for those living East, why are all the healthy restaurants West??), it’s not exclusively for them, it’s for all of us.