“ Address: 51 Queen Caroline Street / Hammersmith / London / W6 9QL / Tel: 020 8748 6932 „
Wonderful vegetarian restaurant. Whilst there are plenty of places to eat vegetarian in London these days, its can be difficult to find the kind of place that a) is a wee bit special b) the kinda place where you can take meat eaters or pseudo-snobs and blow their socks off!
Great seasonal vegetarian and vegan choices with a regularly changing menu.
The venue is lovely and light, whilst still having the intimacy of a little gem in the centre of Hammersmith.
Look if you wanna eat for cheap in London this ain't the place.... its not over-priced its just there are loads of great vege bistros, curry houses or other 'community/cultural' vege specific places to eat - the Gate is a treat.
It is also an inspiring place for long-term or newly converted vegetarians to get their taste buds going and creativity flowing - you're bound to leave thinking 'gracious I had no idea you could do that with an aubergine!'
The Gate in Hammersmith is a longstanding vegetarian restaurant run by two brothers, and has a certification by the Vegetarian Society. I had wanted to visit for a while, and finally we got a free Saturday to make a reservation. The restaurant is based only a few minutes walk from Hammersmith tube station and is entered through a gate (surprise!). You do need to keep your eyes peeled for the entrance, especially if it is dark as it doesn't have a frontage on the street like most restaurants. You do get the feeling that you have discovered a secret treasure though. Once you go through the gate you follow the path into a small courtyard (there are outside tables for when the weather is right) and then enter what seems to be a side door of the building. The restaurant is up two flights of stairs. The lavatories are on the ground floor. I didn't see a lift, but possible there is one through the kitchen area. Also, I think it is worth noting that there is only one Ladies' lavatory, so expect a wait when the restaurant is full.
Upstairs in the restaurant itself it is only a small area with tables and chairs in rows in simple light wood that reminded me of my staff canteen. There is very little to the décor in the room and I have to say it was disappointing for a restaurant at the top end of the scale (judging by its menu and prices). However, at the end of the day it is the food we are here for so sat down and perused the menu. Curious as we were to try the courgette flower, we decided to share the mezze platter to start which was £15.50 for the two of us. This included mini halloumi skewers, two little stuffed peppers, felafal, butternut squash samosas and a potato salad, chickpea salad and a green salad. I loved the skewers, the samosas and the chickpea salad the best. The green salad (which I think was called a Thai salad) was disappointing and tasted very dry and bland. You only got one piece of each item per person on the plate and a small portion of a vegetable tart and salad to split so you could get a taste for their dishes and we are really glad we tried it. I would struggle to decide what to have if ever we got the opportunity to return. Starters were around the £5-6 mark, with the exception of the platter. I do recommend trying that on your first visit, it wasn't as large as I feared but more generous than a smaller starter obviously.
For my main dish I chose a trio of carciofini or stuffed artichokes if you prefer. Each artichoke was stuffed something different: mushrooms; sun dried tomato with goat's cheese and spinach and ricotta. I enjoyed trying to decide which one I preferred, but usually it was whichever one I had in my mouth at the time! I think the goat's cheese with sun dried tomato had the edge, even though I was concerned that those flavours wouldn't go with the artichoke (I had them all on a pizza once, and it was all kinds of wrongness). This was served with a small portion of polenta. As this is very much nouveau cuisine, don't expect massive portions, but they will be beautifully presented. I do find that if a dish has a good mix of flavours that it fills me up more, perhaps it is psychological! My other half had aubergine teriyaki: aubergine and other vegetables were put together in a breadcrumb coated 'fillet' and char-grilled, and then served on a bed of stir-fried noodles with onions etc. There was also a divine mango and pickled ginger salsa. There was one problem with the dish and that was it was a bit burnt. There is a difference between char-grill and burning, and that burnt taste is not pleasant. The corner I tasted was a bit crunchy and burnt as it was on the end but the onions that came with the noodle 'sauce' were also a bit burnt. However he did manage to eat it, so it can't have been too bad! We did mention this to the staff member and we were offered complimentary coffees at the end. Main Courses were around the £10.50-£13.50 mark.
The dessert menu also included a dessert platter to share for £14 (usually £5.50 each). We had a divine lavender creme brulee (I know it sounds wrong, but it was so good, with the unusual and subtle hint of lavender), apple and cinnamon crumble, treacle tart with vegan ice cream (surprisingly nice) and vanilla cheesecake. We were completely full at this point but had thoroughly enjoyed so many of the dishes that we had tried that we weren't too bothered about ones we hadn't been to fond of - although the aubergine teriyaki had been a disappointment.
We shared a bottle of Chilean sauvignon blanc that was £17.75. Wines started at £16.50 going up to upwards of £30, with the top priced champagne being £61.00. Beers, juices, carbonated drinks and spirits were also available.
Generally, the service was very good; the staff were polite but friendly and when we made our minor complaint, a manager also came over to speak to us to ensure the best feedback could be given to the kitchen. As the restaurant was full, there was a wait between courses, but you would never struggle to catch the attention of the waiting staff as they were very attentive and often walking around topping up glasses and seeing that everything was satisfactory.
As a vegetarian restaurant there were vegan options available, and they are sensitive to dietary needs such as nut allergies or gluten intolerance. Overall we spent just over £80 between us including the discretionary 12.5% service charge. Food quality wise, even for vegetarian fine dining then I think this is slightly on the expensive side, but we did have two platters. The restaurant is open for lunch mid-week and dinner Mon-Sat evenings. I would advise booking.