Restaurant Review: Vanilla Black London revisited. 


I still can remember the first time is saw Michaelangelo’s Ceiling in The Sistine Chapel in Rome, the wonder that something so beautiful had been created and that Art has now evolved over centuries, but still the perfection of a ceiling could rewrite my vision and seduce the poet in me to gasp and be silent. 

Then the other week in London I had the luxury of seeing Claude Monet’s lily pond paintings at The Royal Academy. The simplistic but oh so sure images of a scene that was so precious to him that he recreated it so many times in order to demonstrate its beauty. 

So what’s this got to do with food, or with London’s Vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black? 

Well it’s with the élan of the cooking and the presentation of the dishes. An artists eye for colour. Art you see can be precise, intricate, and flamboyant, Or it can be dark and light, shades of grime amongst the surface, with Vanilla Black the beauty on the plate of so much of the food presented to us was nuanced with compelling flavours and spoke to me of my morning gallery visit. The design to get it right, the light, the lush, the technicolor of shouting through the spectrum of brightness. 

That is to me Vanilla Black. To be the best, to be thoughtful with every bite the customer takes. The wow factor, the surprise (by meat eating punters) that vegetarian food can be so good. 

So I guess that sounds like a conclusion before I begin. Well in truth it is. Vanilla Black makes you want to mix up the rules, you won’t find burgers, risotto, curry or pasta bake here. Though I guess if you did it would be the best you’d had.

When I first visited Vanilla Black a couple of years ago I was enthralled by it’s heartbeat. Feeling that Nothing could prepare you for the pleasure of eating there. Set in an elegant townhouse in Tooks Court, the legal area of East London, the dining room is a mellow sophisticated hush of understatement. Muted colours, a calming air of relaxation. It feels right before you even begin the food. 

Ruth and I visited on a Saturday evening. Its popularity was visible and it was noticeable that their was a fair bit of smiling when people’s food arrived. That wow factor I mentioned. 

An amuse bouche, sorbet like. A cleansing begining. Followed by some stunning homemade bread, always a good sign of things to come.    Amuse Bouche. Fresh homemade bread.

So to the food. My starter Dried Yeast Pumpkin Terrine with Orange Purée -Seeded Cinder toffee, mulled pumpkin and oil. A beautifully constructed dish of subtle but cooling flavours. The terrine with hints of toffee running through against the bright fruity orange that dances upon the tongue. Layers of unorthodox flavous, sharper with every mouthful. Lovely. 



Ruth’s Yorkshire Blue Cheese Toastie, Crisp Rye, Grapes, Puffed Wheat: Light, cheesy, no bread, constructed and flavoured beautifully. She loved it. 


It’s when the creative imagination of the chef (Andrew Dargue) consumes a dish that you know that you are in elegant surroundings. Take my main course: Salted and Ash baked Celeriac & Kale-Whey poached celeriac, Broccoli, Yoghurt Curd: A dish with layers and layers of differing textures and flavours. 

The earthy, crisp, bright coloured  kale, the subtle but soft whey poached celeriac of oozy decadence. Then the ash baked celeriac, the charred crust of the charcoal baked with a riveting harmonious result that’s lifts the root vegetable to another level entirely. Clever enlightened cooking, every ingredient put together perfectly. A supreme dish. 

 Salted and Ash Baked celeriac and Kale-Whey poached celeriac, Broccoli, yoghurt curd.


 Ruth’s main course 


Desserts follow a similar creative line as the first two courses. Mine, Poached Rhubarb with Salted Orange Yoghurt and Rhubarb Toffee: Crispy Porridge and Moscatel Syrup: The shocking pink of rhubarb beautifully poached, a depth of tart flavour set off by the dash of explosively crispy porridge as a contrast. Plated like a painting of subtle brush strokes that is playfully mastered and cleverly executed. I loved the complete flavours of this dessert. 

Ruth’s Chocolate Brownie crumble with Marmalade parfait and crispy milk: Dark Chocolate, contreau, candied kumquat which she enjoyed especially the harmonious flavours of the chocolate and the orange. 

All of this is done with effortless and charming service from front of house Donna and her team, who are passionate about their dishes and the experience you may discover. 


The dark cooking clouds have lifted. Visiting Vanilla Black will certainly banish those over cooked risottos and death by pasta bake. Food consumed with big brash bold flavours

Vanilla Black is an upmarket treat that offers thoughtful indulgences of veggie decadance. It’s a remarkable experience of creative, beautifully presented and exciting food that is art on the plate and a brushstroke on the palette. Even non veggies would love the sophistication, the cleverness, the fun and the delight of this bright canvas of  vegetables. Food executed perfectly, the fact that it’s all Vegetarian is a bonus. 

And then there’s Michaelangelo’s ceiling, well that’s one of the wonders of the world. An idea from a seed of inspiration, much like vegetables, and then it’s what you do with them that matters, that is what makes art. For the food you are unlikely to have tried anything like it before. 


Thanks for reading, 

Andy 😊

Disclaimer: Our food and drinks were complimentary. This doesn’t affect my honest opinion of our meal. 

With thanks to Andrew and Donna for their hospitality and conversation. 

Vanilla Black, 17-18 Tooks Court, CT London EC4A 1LB. 

Subway: Chancery Lane

020-7242 2622.


Vanilla Black cookbook: Fresh Flavours for your Vegetarian kitchen: Andrew Dargue. 


‘To us the fact our cooking is vegetarian is incidental. We just like to eat good food. We love to reinvent classic dishes, create new flavours combinations, source unusual ingredients and occasional we use is microwave because , well why not’

Fifteen months ago Ruth (a meat eater) requested to visit London vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black. This was around my birthday, and on a cold January night whilst staying in London we did. 

That in itself is the appeal of Vanilla Black, non vegetarians love eating there too. 

In fact we visited again last year, my blog was only a couple of months old. We went on this occasion for lunch, on a Friday and the restaurant was packed. 

I can safely say that Vanilla Black is one of the reasons I began my blog. 

It’s elegant and beautiful vegetarian dishes captured us on that Cold January  night, warming the cockles of our heart, and inspired me to pursue setting up my crazy veggie blog, and to begin the journey of trying to change and influence the veggie dining scene to be as interesting and thoughtful as this small experimental kitchen demonstrated it could be. 

My review from last year is here:


So when I received a complimentary advanced copy from Andrew Dargue (head chef) and publishers Saltyard books i was thrilled. Thank you. 

Vanilla Black has a mission ‘to reinvent expectations About what it means to eat vegetarian food. It’s all about the flavour, the first bite that intrigues, the surprising, the unusual’.

The recipes in the cookbook are intriguing and look delicious. 

They can be made by home cooks, and adapted for the home kitchen. They follow some of the advanced textures and flavours of the restaurant food, smashing stereotypes, the intriguing and delicious. Something simple, something technical, to cook their food is to have fun. 

So dishes such as Jerusalem Artichoke, white wine and thyme pie, Savoy cabbage pudding, to broad bean and lemon cheesecake and parsnip cake with Horlicks frosting and a reinvention of tomatoes on toast, make intriguing inspired recipes. 

The book is beautifully photographed and their should be something for everyone in the book. 

The point in many ways is that Vanilla Black is not just for vegetarians, and neither is its cookbook. 

Andrew is a talented chef that is keen to expand the horizons of vegetarian cooking and bring it to the modern palette. 

Unusual combinations which challenge the norm. 

When you’ve tried the cookbook, try the restaurant and savour The Ribblesdale cheese Pudding if it’s on offer. 


So finally apologies from Andrew and his partner Donna (who runs front of house) there will be no pasta bake or veg curry, only beautifully presented food and now a beautifully presented and enticing cookbook. 

Give it a try. 

Just for National Vegetarian Week. 

Vanilla Black is in London in Tooks Court.

Thanks for reading. 

Andy 😊

Disclosure: Though I received an advanced copy of the Vanilla Black cookbook I wasn’t asked to write a positive review or put any post on my blog. I’ve done so as its a good cook book and its National Vegetarian Week.