If you’ve got any kind of special dietary requirements, you get used to peering at menus with the cautious diligence of an archaeologist examining a potentially cursed ancient scroll. Does (‘vg’) mean vegan or vegetarian? Does the chef know that parmesan is made with stuff from a calf’s stomach? It’s up to you to find out!
So it’s refreshing to visit chef Rishim Sachdeva’s brilliant (mostly) vegan small-plates restaurant Tendril, which makes meat-free dining both easy and unquestionably delicious. This menu came decked with an initialisation I’ve never seen before: (nv), or not vegan. Only one dish got this badge, and it was a beauty: a hunk of baked brie on toast smothered in mascarpone, then topped with a snowstorm of grated pecorino and truffle. Somehow it was lavish without being cloying, the kind of thing that an off-duty angel would feast on between halo-polishing and hymn-warbling duties.
But you could still easily swerve the brie and have a divine meal at Tendril, because basically every dish here is a winner. Sachdeva is an alumnus of restaurants including The Fat Duck and Chiltern Firehouse, and that shines through in his imaginative technique-driven approach. You can go à la carte, but why bother when £39 gets you a set menu of seven memorable dishes? The ‘Chinatown’ purple potatoes arrived looking like the nest of some strange alien bird: a giant round sesame cracker housed little speckled spheres that were stickily crisp on the outside and bright violet within. A dish of muhammara was a rich, silky red-pepper dip that came topped with piquant pickled walnut, in a perfect contrast in both flavour and texture. And I was thinking about the tiramisu for days afterwards, a wistful tear welling in the corner of my eyes at the memory of the love and skill that had gone into creating a creamy but totally vegan dish of melting chocolate sponge and whisper-soft mousse.
The setting is as simple as the food is complex: white walls, flickering candles and aubergine-coloured leather banquettes create the kind of chilled, softly romantic environment that makes it impossible to believe you’re a two-minute walk from Oxford Circus. Sadly, it’s not gonna last: it’s a pop-up, only in town until the end of January 2023. But Sachdeva is on the hunt for permanent premises, and let’s hope the London property market comes up with the goods. Whether you’re a diligent menu-scrutiniser or a devil-may-care omnivore, Tendril more than delivers.
The vibe A haute (mostly) vegan joint in a surprisingly cosy spot off Oxford Circus.
The food Lovingly created small plates drawing inspiration from the Middle East, China and beyond.
The drink A well-chosen wine list, plus leftfield cocktails like a walnut-rum Manhattan.
Time Out tip Come before 6pm and you can get the set menu for a bargainous £29.