There’s something slightly strange about walking past rails upon rails of designer clothing to get to your dinner – clothes that would probably turn your empty stomach if you saw the price tags. But hey, that’s Selfridges for you.
It’s just as well that Adesse, Selfridges’ new vegan restaurant, is worth navigating such a humbling maze. The restaurant itself is as sleek and sophisticated as you’d expect, with tall windows looking down onto the wet pavements of Oxford Street and dinky black cutlery transporting you into some sort of Sylvanian Families simulation.
Dreamt up by American plant-based chef Matthew Kenney, the food is all seasonal and locally sourced, while the wine is all organic and biodynamic (*chef’s kiss*). It also has a tasting menu and a caviar bar menu, if you’re feeling extra extra.
The kelp noodle cacio e pepe, with snap peas, pea shoots and dehydrated black olives, was a gorgeous plate of creamy, delicate threads.
I’ve eaten my fair share of vegan food in London (see also: Mallow and Tendril) and, as plant-based goes, the stuff here was pretty darn good. My Moscow Mule, chosen from a cocktail menu of nine trendy serves, was refreshing and zesty. The ‘crab cake’ starter with red pepper remoulade was moist and delicious. The filling, made with thick strands of onion and jackfruit, had a meaty texture but didn’t try too hard to mimic a seafood flavour (which can so often be a mistake in plant-based cooking).
The kelp noodle cacio e pepe, with snap peas, pea shoots and dehydrated black olives, was a gorgeous plate of creamy, delicate threads. Although it would probably have tasted better if it was served hot, the spontaneous hit of bitter olive and the pops of green added extra layers of complexity, transforming the deceptively basic three-ingredient dish into something much more exciting.
The spicy udon, buried in a bowl of milky, coconutty broth and topped with shiitake mushroom, roasted cashew and hoisin, were just as good – bar the seared tempeh, which could have been crispier. On recommendation from the waitstaff we also ordered a side of smashed fingerling potatoes with truffle aioli: they were sweet, filling and fluffy. The aioli sauce, although lacking any strong truffle flavour, was so mouth-wateringly garlicky I would have ordered a mug of it to drink if that sort of thing was socially acceptable.
Aioli goodness taken into account, there were also some letdowns. The potato and celeriac rosti with créme fraiche, fennel and apple was less rosti, more squashed, starchy noodles. It also had a strangely overpowering smoky taste. The hibiscus cheesecake with pistachio base and strawberry was picture-perfect, but boring. I would have liked a more tart or fruit flavour to balance the heavy creaminess of the filling.
But all in all, Adesse succeeded in delivering a decent dose of Selfridges-sized luxury. The staff were friendly, the food came fast, the place is pretty. If Adesse was clothing, it would definitely be couture.
What’s the food like? Properly tasty vegan posh nosh.
What’s the drink like? Organic and biodynamic wines. Ooooh.
What’s the vibe? A classy visit to Selfridges without spending £££ on a handbag.
Time Out tip? Order the potatoes and ask for extra sauce. You’ll be licking it off the plate.