One of the best things that’s happened this summer was the release of Daft Punk – Get Lucky. Not only has it revived the 70′s Disco vibe and brought some life back into music, the main byproduct has been the resurrection of Nile Rodgers (of Chic fame). When I managed to get six tickets to his concert at the Kentish Town Forum, the next thing to think about was where to eat. Although Kentish Town has undergone massive gentrification in the past five years (it’s where the hipsters and yuppies in London now reside) and restaurants are sprawling up everywhere, we were conscious that Primrose Hill was right around the corner. My group of friends consisted of three meat eaters and three vegetarians, but we had one lone voice in the group who recommended a historic vegetarian restaurant in Primrose Hill called Manna (it’s 47 years old).
I’d never heard of it and as I eat meat, I wouldn’t have initially had this down as my first choice. I had a quick glance of the menu online and it looked fantastic. My decision was made and I booked a table for six which was easy and pain-free. There was none of this no-reservations malarkey that I’d put up with and was accustomed to in London.
For all the non-Londoners who read this blog, Primrose Hill is arguably one of the nicest, if not the nicest of areas in London. Just outside the main bustle of Central London, it has a slight countryside feel and, as the name suggests, has the wonderful Primrose Hill park area where you can see stunning views of London. Walking towards the restaurant from Chalk Farm station, we walked past a number of busy cafes and restaurants. There are no chains here. Turning into Erskine Road, the restaurant is in the middle of a residential area. The restaurant is light and airy and is bigger than it looks from the outside. To our surprise, we saw a famous Primrose Hill resident inside: Russell Brand, who looked like he was at the restaurant with his…grandmother How sweet…
After ordering our drinks – I had a most refreshing sparkling elderflower drink – it was time to order our starters. One of my favourite things about dining with a big group of people means you have the opportunity to mix and share dishes around.
This is exactly what we did and it paid dividends. There was a general consensus on all the items to mix and share so we ordered the Homemade Organic Bread, Organic Hummus, the Vegetable Tempura, the raw Spicy Almond and Date Falafel – and something that intrigued all of us, the Indian Pizza. When the food eventually came, plates of food were shifting left, right and across the table. This was the definition of organised chaos.
My friend and I were on the side of the table where the falafel and Indian pizza came so we both immediately cut our portions and started tucking in. The underrated combination of bread and olive oil/balsamic vinegar is one of my favourite and most simple pleasures when eating, so I was a bit disappointed that the bread wasn’t warm and crunchy, even though the quality of the bread was good. The Indian Pizza was quite an interesting mix – it had the strong Indian flavours you would expect, and the combination of chickpeas, tamarind sauce and yoghurt was good enough for all of these to mesh quite nicely together.
I loved the spicy almond and date falafel – I have a weak spot for falafels in general and this just added those palatable flavours into the overall dish. The sesame seeds on the outside gave the outside coating a nutty taste and the crunchiness of the shell combined with the softness of the inside was a nice contrast. I’ve had falafels before where the outside has been soft and quite soggy but this was just right. The addition of lemon tahini gave it a nice kick. The dish also came with an absolutely delicious salad which was a combination of rocket, parsnip tabouleh and a tasty vinaigrette.
The last dish to come to our end of the table was the vegetable tempura. The vegetable tempura was a combination of vegetables in a rice flour batter. They came with sweet chilli and a lovely tempura dipping sauce. The tempura was crispy and hot and so good that we ordered an extra plate. Between the six of us, both plates were polished off quick time.
Once the waiter came round to clear our plates, it was time to think about main course. I asked the waiter what the organic pasta of the day was – his reply immediately made my decision for me: sun-dried tomato pesto, aubergines, tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Sun-dried tomatoes are one my favourite vegetables and their flavours in food are delectable. The pasta was fresh and the aromas coming from the dish when I got served were so strong. The dish was very tasty and quite similar to the homemade pasta I once had in Brussels in a small family-run Italian restaurant. Pasta is one of those dishes that when a restaurant gets it right, not only do you finish it unbelievably quickly, but you finish the meal absolutely content and not too full. Suffice to say, I was the first one to finish my meal…
I absolutely loved Manna and all the dishes I had. Not only is the food fantastic, the service is great and the restaurant has a nice buzz inside. For all those people are hardcore carnivores, I would highly recommend Manna, even if to change your views on vegetarian restaurants and the quality of food on offer. It really is that good. I am definitely going to go back to Manna and am looking forward to trying other vegetarian restaurants in London so I can compare. After being disappointed eating at Mildred’s, Manna has completely omitted those memories and I can safely say is a new addition to one of my favourite restaurants in London.
Exploring the glorious eats of the city of London