Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Gate in Islington, our old London stomping grounds

We're taking our blog oversees - London to be precise - the place that started our foodie fascination. Sheila recently had a business trip and I decided to tag along. Why not eh? London is a food haven, with a vibrant ethnic and cultural scene that serves up extremes - hole in the wall up stalwarts to much heralded Michelin star establishments.

This review is of The Gate, an Islington vegetarian joint just south of Angel tube station on St John's St. The Gate is new to the N1, we'd never been nor had our old friends who we came to visit. It's an inviting dining hall with a large center drinking counter which has the bones of a converted pub only much more airy and bright. We were seated within a side mezzanine area, a bit more intimate but with a great perspective on all the action.

The menu is a dizzying array of inventive seasonal vegetarian dishes, I joked earlier that we should have ordered one of everything. In the end, we settled on a shared mezze sampler for the table and individual mains. The meal was great, but for us catching up with old friends made it amazing.

First was the mezze platter of falafels, corn fritters, Stilton cheese pate, roasted butternut squash, and herb feta croquettes. The falafels, corn fritters, and feta croquettes were seasoned well and lightly fried. Each had a nice crispy exterior, but retained their original chickpea, feta, and corn flavors, respectively. The squash was fresh with hints of smokiness and the drizzled aioli provided an unexpected kick of spice. The bed of cous-cous below was a great balance of savory and sweet. This was my favorite of the mezzes. Conversely, the pâté was my least favorite partially because I'm not a stinky cheese fan. Plus I couldn't get over the consistency. With that said, it's worth ordering as a shared starter for the table as the portion is plenty for four.

Second was my dish of aubergine schnitzels with horseradish sauce, roasted kale, mashed potatoes. The presentation was amazing - two lightly breaded and baked aubergine slices laying delicately over a bed of braised kale and horseradish sauce with herbed mashed potatoes formed into a cube. Each component on its own was okay, but together they were fantastic. The earthiness of the aubergines, the sourness of the horseradish, the saltiness from the kale, and starchiness of the potatoes all gave an unexpected flavor combination. The kale flavor was a bit lost in the horseradish sauce, but that was a very minor ding. I particularly enjoyed the aubergines which could have come off as a heavy oily eggplant parmesan, but turned out to be very light filling dish that actually healthy. What a concept, eh?

Lastly was Sheila's dish of root vegetable tagine with mint and pomegranate cous-cous. Upon arrival, the aroma of the tagine won her over. It was spiced just right, with a hint of heat and sweetness. It came piping hot which was perfect on e dreary day. With came with the same cous-cous we had earlier in the mezze. The cous-cous added some brightness too. The dish had a slight tartness with the pomegranates and fresh mint. It also came with a handful of greens which though unexpected, was a nice touch. Overall, the dish was filling yet light. A great introduction to the concept of a tagine and she'd recommend it as a great solid dish.

The Gate is a neighborhood restaurant with an inviting ambiance, cordial staff, and wonderful vegetarian dishes. It is far removed from the tourist hubs that dot London, The portion sizes are just right and the price pricing is comparable to other establishments in the area. Even though it might come off as a bit pricey, the quality of food makes it worth it. Cheers to our good friends for finding this great place, we will most certainly be back! I give The Gate an 8 out of 10.

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