Cafe Below, St Paul’s
3rd April 2012
Shockingly this blog has been sitting in my drafts since last year. This just goes to show not only how quickly a year flies, but I also seem to eat here seasonally.
I have worked in the City for over 10 years now, and seen a lot of change many new places popping up: POD, EAT, Itsu, Hummus Bros. The Place Below used to be a vegetarian restaurant located in a crypt of St Mary Le Bow Chruch (hence the ‘below’ in the name).
A collegue of mine used to be get the health bowl from there a lot, and I would sometimes join her, I remember being very fond of a lentil casserole which appeared on the menu from time to time.
Once my colleague left for Australia about 7 years ago, The Place Below dropped completely from my radar even though I must have walked past it at least once a week. When I rediscovered it last year I couldn not believe I had never thought of going there, especially since turning vegan.
Well now it’s called The Cafe Below, and unfortunately whilst it’s no longer vegetarian they do still do amazing vegan food. Yes the health bowl is still there – and actually a lot larger than I remember it being and no longer in pesky plastic packaging. I have it with the side of hummus and the ginormous olives. However I discovered you have to be really specific when ordering (sometimes even the staff seem confused!), I am guessing the ‘health bowl’ bit just consists of the rice, lentils and sweet potato (it might be squash am not sure!) in a yummy balsamic vinegar and soy dressing. And you have to make sure you ask clearly for the other bits if you want them. Myself and my work mate who loves it there too once ended up with just the lentils, no salad, a dollop of hummus and no olives (even though the hummus and olives are listed on the menu together for one price).
They used to have an amazing mung bean casserole which I believe is the very dish I used to scour the menu for daily all those years ago. Recently however I have not seen it and today I went for the Indonesian casserole (£6.20), a tomatoey sauce filled with carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli and sweet potato. It came with basmati rice and a peanut garnish which gave a welcome added texture. Due to the Lil Man’s peanut allergy I do not get to endulge myself very often. It needed salt, no where near as good as their other casserole (or how I remember it tasting) but filled my need for a warm cosy lunch adequately.
It is a bit steep, you can get a REALLY good lentil curry from a little shop in Moorgate station for £3.25 but I do have one of their recipe books (by the guy who opened the original Place Below in 1989) so there is no reason for me not to start whipping up their signature dishes myself.
There is a distinct lack of vegan dessert which I have of course pointed out to management, because if you don’t ask you don’t get, but it is a quirky little place to have lunch. sadly they are no longer open in the evenings and I have been planning to have dinner there for a long time, too long.