I offered to take my friend Toby out for dinner.
At first he took up the invitation with enthusiasm but this excitement soon waned after he Googled the restaurant to discover it was vegetarian. No meat on the premises. ‘Guess I’d better get my bacon fix beforehand,’ he jibed before our outing.
Knowing Toby was a big fan of all things meat – turkey, bacon, steak and I even recall him talking about eating chicken feet on one occasion – I had purposely left out the minor fact that we were venturing to a herbivore’s paradise.
The Gate restaurant – which started in Hammersmith, London, and now has a sister location in Angel – was founded in 1989 by brothers Adrian and Michael Daniel. The cooking style apparently ‘reflects the diverse cultural background’ in which the two men grew up. They fondly refer to it as ‘Indo-Iraqi Jewish’ with an injection of French-Italian.
After hearing some great things about the place over the years I was keen to check it out, especially with a recent menu revamp. Toby also seemed a little more enthused about our vegetarian adventure after a couple of his meat-eating friends gave the eatery a big thumbs up.
Located a stone’s throw from Angel tube station, we arrived at The Gate’s second outpost and found a spot in the high-ceiling dining area. We opted for a table close to the open plan kitchen so we could catch the chefs in action.
To start we went for a meze platter which included a colourful wheel of leek tart, feta salad, grilled halloumi, cured mushrooms and lentil pate.
The friendly waitress also suggested we try her favourite dish, the miso glazed aubergine. While we waited for the platters to arrive we tucked into some deliciously moist focaccia with lashings of creamy olive oil. Our kitchen positioning meant we luckily got to refill our swiftly depleted dipping pot.
The meze portions were super generous and great to share. Toby appeared to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavour despite there being no animal flesh in site. To wash it all down we opted for cocktails instead of wine. The Gate has a fun cocktail menu, with Gin and Tonics being one of the specialties. Not being a massive G&T fan, I opted for a Gypsy Martini which included raisin – infused rum, while Toby went for a pretty punchy chili margarita.
After the starters we felt sufficiently full but the main courses looked too good to resist.
Opting for something a little lighter I went for the Dragon Salad topped with avocado and tofu while Toby plumped for the slightly heavier sweetcorn fritters.
We were also advised to try the house favourite, polenta chips, which we both agreed were devilishly moreish. All of the flavours were beautifully balanced and fresh on the palette. The colourful arrangements which landed before us almost looked too good to eat!
The place started to fill up around 8:30pm and there appeared to be quite a lot of regulars dining together in groups.
While we felt like we were venturing into lead balloon territory after licking our plates clean, we couldn’t leave without trying a sweet.
With a dessert menu delivered, we agreed that there were four definites tickling our tastebuds. Like Britain’s Got Talent we had to whittle down four contestants to one.
Banoffee pie, chocolate cake, toffee sponge and butterscotch cheesecake were all vying for our love.
In the end – after much debating and another cocktail – we went with the butterscotch cheesecake. Unlike heavy American-style cheesecake, The Gate’s was light and almost fluffy. Although it wasn’t quite what we were expecting, we agreed that it was the perfect topper to the feast we’d just devoured.
Vegetarian converts? The Gate had indeed worked its magic. ‘I’d definitely come back,’ Toby said. Was I hearing that right?
To book a table at The Gate please visit thegaterestaurants.com or call 020 7278 5483