17 Irving Street, Leicester Square, (Covent Garden & Theatreland), WC2. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 2090. Open: Mon-Sat 12pm-3.30pm & 5pm-11pm
(Closed all day Sunday). Closes 19th August 2000 permanently!! „
It may come as a surprise to know that nestled in Leicester Square between Pizza Hut, Burger King, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Pizza Hut (really, count them and see how many there are) and the other chain restaurants there is a unique dining experience. As a vegan eating out usually means trying Asian cusines because European dishes tend to be centered around a main meat or fish dish. Luckily though I prefer the more varied meals offered by having a collection of different dishes as is common of Indian, Chinese and, my favourite, Thai cooking. The choice to try Tibetan food was therefore unmissable. The appropriately named "The Tibetan Restaurant", the only one in the UK, is located in the heart of London's west End in Leicester Square. To be more precise on Irving street which is to the side of the Capital's Radio Cafe. There is a sign on the building, which is on the right side of the street if you are heading from Leicester Square, and you need to look for this as the restaurant is actually located upstairs above a pizzeria. For this reason it isn't suitable for those in wheelchairs or who would be unable to climb a staircase. The menu is rather small compared to what you would expect from a Chinese, or similar, restaurant although this isn't really a problem as the the dishes are rather filling and you don't need too many. There are meat dishes although like Indian it is very friendly for vegetarians. Eggs and dairy do feature although it is obvious from the menu which dishes contain these the staff do seem knowlegable about the menu. Spring Rolls are an option for the starter but this is different from the more familiar Thai or Chinese versions and rather than being fried is instead served cold in a vinegary sauce For the main course we had four of the vegetarian dishes of which most expensive was priced at only £1.50. This is deceptive though as the portions are as large as in any other Asian restau
rant. Dumplings are a tibetan speciality and are available in both vegetarian and meat versions. You are given a complementary cup of Tibetan tea when you arrive, but this includes milk. Also the deserts all featured either yoghurt, cream or ice cream so I was unable to try these. The menu is cheap, especially considering the location. Dumplings cost around £5 but the other dishes are all between £1 and £1.50. There are also a collection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian set menus available. It is a rather small restaurant which only seats about 30. Together with the price it does make you wonder how they can afford the rent in what must be one of the most expensive areas of the country, the place did fill up though and it does have its uniqueness as an attraction. Novelty value aside I would definitely reccommend a visit not only because it is so cheap but also because the food was actually very nice. It isn't spicy but you do get a small bowl of, a very hot, chilli sauce so you can pepper things up to your own preferences. I never tried any of the salads and would like to go back for those. Although I don't know enough about Tibetan food to test the authenticity of the restaurant it did pass the chop sticks test, I think it reflects badly on a Thai or Chinese restaurant if they instead lay out knives and forks. The staff was small but friendly and helpful and together it all made for a pleasant evening.