When this much-loved vegetarian institution closed its doors for refurbishment and didn’t reopen for more than a year, many loyal diners went into mourning – but then perked up when its younger sibling opened in Islington in June 2012. Now the veteran original has revealed its protracted facelift, just in time for its 25th anniversary in 2014. But has it been worth the wait?
Mostly, yes. The first floor venue is still housed in a converted artist’s studio, but there’s now a more prominent entrance. The pale-hued room is still airy with large windows overlooking a pretty courtyard, but one wall is now trendily decorated with wooden panels.
The colourful, nourishing, eclectic dishes are beautifully presented and generously portioned, but can be over-ambitious. We loved the flavour bomb that was pumpkin and potato cake stuffed with stilton and chestnuts, accompanied by a lively green peppercorn and herb vinaigrette.
Slightly less successful was pan-fried rocket ravioli filled with girolle duxelle, the paltry quantities of both the bitter leaves and mushrooms giving it indiscernible taste. However, the silky-smooth pasta was exquisitely made, rustic yet delicate.
Not so the beetroot cannelloni featuring dry, tired-looking pasta that curled around the edges. However, the other elements of the dish – the classic combination of jerusalem artichokes, hazelnuts, goat’s cheese, pesto and salsa verde – worked well together and tasted fine.
Aubergine ‘teriyaki’ comprised chargrilled slices coated in wonderfully crisp breadcrumbs, layered with roasted red peppers, shiitake mushrooms, coriander pesto and horseradish. It was served on a vibrant stir-fry of noodles with pickled ginger and finely diced mango. Although both were brightly flavoured, they contained far too many different ingredients and would have worked better as stand-alone dishes.
The meal was lifted by one of the best desserts we’ve tasted this year: subtly rich, very light and moreish croissant bread and butter pudding with whisky and orange marmalade.
The Gate restaurants are owned by brothers Adrian and Michael Daniel, and their Indo-Iraqi Jewish heritage is reflected in some dishes, along with French and Italian influences. There’s no doubting the thought that has gone into the planning of the dishes, or the quality of the carefully sourced ingredients – but the execution of our meal was still a bit hit-or-miss.
With its buzzy yet relaxed vibe, friendly, informed service, and occasional flashes of brilliance, this meat-free icon is back with (mostly) a bang.