If Omni was an animal, it would be the kind of puppy that jumps up and licks your face, every inch of its trembling body screaming ‘Love me!’. The owners of this chic new Peckham vegan restaurant work very, very hard to shower their guests with culinary treats, serving up a keenly priced, 11-dish tasting menu with a slightly chaotic enthusiasm. The result is delightful and exhausting by turns.
Take Omni’s introductory olives, for example. Often, restaurant olives are a polite formality, designed to stop diners gnawing the tablecloth as they wait for something more substantial. But here, gigantic Cerignola olives came artfully smoked, offering the allure of breathing rich bonfire smoke into your lungs. They were followed by a deliciously silky butterbean purée, scented with saffron and topped with a lemony tangle of roasted fennel. The braised peach blue tacos were another highlight, offering a sweetly summery mouthful with an intriguing earthiness supplied by fermented almond sauce. And I was knocked out by the shitake mushroom skewers, which came charred and accompanied by a black-garlic, apple and elderflower sauce: not a flavour combo I ever thought I’d try, let alone chase around the plate with a rampaging fork.
Still, this far-ranging menu also had some surprising misses. You’d have needed gnashers bigger than Bugs Bunny to make your way through a woody plate of carrots, which were too hefty for the barely-steamed treatment they got. And the Jersey Royals were murdered with Robespierre-esque thoroughness: arriving drenched in a napalm-hot, sugary Szechuan sauce, and overcooked to a pulp inside.
It feels mean to pick holes in Omni. Where else in London would you get 11 elaborately conceived vegan dishes for £35 a head? It’s the first restaurant of founders Jess McGill and George Matheou, who cut their teeth doing pop-ups in local bars and cafés. But it undeniably feels like a work in progress. There were long gaps between courses (although the service was warm and friendly, it took 40 minutes just to get a drink), the portions were sometimes defeatingly large, and this light, glass-fronted space turned into a sweatbox on a hot day (two potential punters walked in and straight out again when confronted by the roasting temperatures inside).
On Omni’s website, McGill and Matheou offer an endearing explanation for their restaurant’s slightly confusing name. It doesn’t mean that they cater to omnivores. Instead, it means that they’ll feed everyone, vegan or not. And it’s hard to think of someone who wouldn’t emerge charmed, surprised and thoroughly well fed after a night at their table.
The vibe An imaginative vegan tasting menu served up in a Peckham shopfront.
The food Plant-based small plates with global influences.
The drink A well-chosen list of natural wines, plus some creative vegan cocktails.
Time Out tip Don’t try and finish every course: this menu saves the best till last.