Words by Nancy Duckels
I love food. Food is quite important to me. Meat, vegetables, fish, crisps – I love it all. So when I was invited to try the offerings at famous vegetarian restaurant Food For Friends, I was delighted. Despite my aforementioned love for meat, if the food is good then I am going to enjoy it and I had heard that their food was very good indeed. Food For Friends has been serving award-winning vegetarian food since 1981. Featured in The Good Food Guide and The Sunday Times Top Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants, it prides itself on serving innovative and exciting food, all produced ethically and with a conscientious heart. I eagerly surveyed the menu, keen to dive in. It would have felt slightly blasphemous to come to a vegetarian establishment and not order cauliflower – this magnificent vegetable is so often put to very good use in the absence of meat. I happily ordered the “thai cauliflower” starter – florets of cauliflower in a delicious golden crispy batter, accompanied by a peanut satay sauce and salad. The satay sauce was sprinkled with sesame seeds and was a sweet, fresh partner to the hints of curry in the earthy battered cauliflower. I couldn’t resist trying the bao buns starter as well – filled with “Omni-Pork”, shiitake mushrooms, hoisin mayo, pink and spring onions. The buns were soft, bouncy and the perfect receptacle for the sweet hoisin mayo. The veggie pork was really good – a great texture and it worked a treat with the delicate onions and mushrooms. The bao buns were like a very fancy vegetarian version of the best burger with onions that you’ve ever had. Next up, main courses – first on my agenda was the Sicilian linguine. This was a generous mound of beautiful pasta, coated in a rich tomato and aubergine sauce, topped with circles of goat’s cheese (a vegan alternative is available.) The sauce was slightly spicy, but full of rich yet sweet tomato, too – the salty goat’s cheese was the perfect accompaniment. The roasted roots salad was recommended by my lovely server so naturally, I obliged – this was roasted slices of beetroot and carrot, with quinoa, pomegranate, toasted pecans and “massaged kale,” topped with vegan feta and a maple and pecan dressing. This was a beautiful rainbow bowl of delicious stuff – I happily massaged that kale into my mouth. The toasted pecans gave a great crunch of texture. The vegan feta was superb – it melted into the quinoa splendidly and had that lovely salty kick that you’d hope for from a vegan alternative to the most famous Greek cheese. Obviously, I simply had to sample a dessert. I went for the “spring meringue” – gorgeous little orbs of sweet meringue, lovingly placed atop vanilla-cashew cream, dashs of lemon curd and surrounded by various types of berries. This was the perfect sweet ending to my meal – it was light, dainty and a taste of a summer’s evening. My conclusion is this: the food at Food For Friends is food for everybody. Everybody should eat it because it is really very good.