Vanilla Black, Clerkenwell

25th July 2011

A special occasion calls for a special place. Sadly the days are gone when I could walk down the road and pop in on the two girls I grew up with. As the years have passed we have all moved away from our home town, before you know it life gets in the way and you end up having to tackle the Krypton Factor that is coordinating everyone’s dairies before you can see each other. So, when we three all manage to get together it is always special.

Amuse bouche

I decided I had to take my girls to Vanilla Black. After some delicious seeded bread and olive oil we were served an amuse bouche of a tomato and strawberry shot with a Turkish delight wrapped in rice paper. Sounds like a weird combination but it was just a hint of strawberry in the tomato juice and I really liked it. The rose water in the Turkish delight was paired with peppercorns.

We had a little chortle as it was noted that the starters and mains sounded like desserts, how uncouth of us I know. Did I mention my girls are lovely? Therefore they allowed me to have a nibble of their starters too.

Chilled cucumber soup and potato salad with yogurt and dill sorbet

The soup was refreshing, but I am still not a cold soup convert. The potato salad turned out to be little cubes of potato in the soup, I can confirm the sorbet was indeed very dilly.

Shaved vegetables and salt n vinegar gel with sweet lemon oil

The most interesting sounding thing on the menu was the salad with the salt and vinegar gel. I am already a fan of flowers (they used sweet pea, I know from their Twitter feed :) ) in my food so it was a really delicate and the gel was impressive. Definitely Heston territory.

Yukon gold potato cakes and home made tomato sauce with capers, melba toast and black raddish

Nibbling done my actual starter was the potato cakes. Not quite as pretty as the other two dishes, but it was fully of flavour and texture. There were crispy thin discs of seasoned melba toast and soft fluffy potato cakes.

Tomato and majoram tart and pan fried polenta with braised celery, sea aster and heritage potatoes

The polenta in my main is the best I have ever had, it had a crispy outside and was creamy on the inside, no soggy mush here! The majoram was formed into some kind of tapenade and hidden underneath the cherry tomatoes. Alone it had a very strong flavour but paired with the tomato and pastry was delicious. What I thought was some odd but tasty breed of sage actually turned out to be sea aster (I had to google it!) a sea vegetable. This was accompanied by heritge potatoes including a purple variety which are very much in vogue at the moment.

Fried mushroom mousse and wilted spinach with wine reduction, fennel, broccoli and grape

I sampled the mushroom mousse which had a very pate like texture and actually reminded me of chicken of the forest with a smokey flavour.

Blood orange granita and bitter chocolate sorbet with toasted almonds

Dessert sadly was disappointing, the unimaginative poor vegans dessert (aka sorbet) was on offer in two versions. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with sorbet but if I go to a nice restaurant I want cake!  Still I decided to give the benefit of the doubt, as a general rule I go without pudding if that is all there is, but it was chocolate sorbet which I have not had before.  The granita sloshed round the plate as it was put in front of me and I’m not quite sure what the almonds were meant to add to it all. Sorbet on sorbet? Sigh.

The staff were amazingly attentive and my girls suitably impressed. We actually sat there chatting till closing time and not once was any attempt made to send us on our way. Well you can imagine, we had  a lot to talk about. ;)

(Ps I hear a menu update is on the way, fingers crossed vegan cakeage makes it on there).

Vanilla Black on Urbanspoon

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3 Responses to “Vanilla Black, Clerkenwell”

  1. PMS Warrior Says:

    Good to see this update to what Vanilla Black are up to. – Shame there aren’t many other options for ‘posh vegan’, even in London…

    Isn’t it a lovely dining room? Very clean and classic (though can have a slightly chilly atmosphere when empty). Was it doing good business when you went?

    In any event, thanks for this comprehensive snap shot. I’ve been a couple of times and found it a bit hit and miss.

    I agree desserts are their forte. They used to do a ‘pineapple carpaccio’ that was underwhelming to say the least! Let’s see what the menu revamp holds.

  2. PMS Warrior Says:

    obviously I meant to say, desserts are NOT their forte!

  3. mitsu Says:

    Yeah, there were other diners there, I think they get most of their business at lunch time.

    That’s a shame, if you’re paying that sort of money you’d like to think it would be consistently good.

    They obviously need a hand with their dessert selection, I think I would have been even more disappointed with slices of pineapple. Sorbet all is forgiven!!

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