Let’s be honest; the life of a vegan has become very different in recent years. It’s not so long ago that they were treated as the bane of any restaurant or dinner party; their requests met with eye rolls and endless slabs of anaemic-looking tofu.
Fast forward to today’s world and restaurants have well and truly upped their game – to the point where plant-based options are not only welcomed and widely available, but often more popular than their meat peers.
But how do the carnivores feel about restaurants that are entirely vegan? The Handbook food writer Katie Renouf samples the all-new, all-vegan Plants of Roselyn and gives her verdict.
My journey to Plants of Roselyn starts almost three years ago, when a friend arrived at my house bearing the most incredibly majestic (and green!) cake I’d ever seen. “Happy Birthday!“ he chirped, reverently placing this gigantic, glistening dark chocolate and matcha delicacy in front of me. I was astounded and immediately vowed to take a trip to the cake’s birthplace.
My quest took me to Kin + Deum in Southwark, where I discovered not only cakes that dreams are made of, but some of the best Thai food you’ll find anywhere. Fiery, authentic, and true to its’ roots – it really is outstanding.
Over the years, I’ve remained in touch with the owner – the wonderfully effervescent Bank Inngern – and he’s been very excited to update me on his new vegan project.
We steadily work our way through the cocktail offerings, which include fruit, floral and aromatic notes – cleverly complementing the spicy, salty, sweet and sour staples of Thai cuisine.
Plants of Roselyn – affectionately known as simply “Roselyn” by the team – sits n Tooley Street; a stone’s throw from London Bridge and right around the corner from Kin + Deum.
The décor is clean, fresh and simple. A smart blue exterior leads inside to a natural palette with casual wooden tables and chairs. This is their ethos in a nutshell; allowing the food to be the star of the show. By eschewing grandeur they make everybody feel welcome – a smart decision, judging by the steady stream of passing commuters and cyclists that stop by.
The drinks menu contains creative twists on classics, as well as some which are entirely their own creations.
My first drink has been devised especially for me and it is curiously purple, thanks to butterfly flower essence. I am initially wary – having not consumed a purple drink since the epiphany of mixing red and blue Aftershock in my teens – so I am wholly relieved to find that this is zingy, floral and delicious.
We steadily work our way through other their other offerings, which include fruit, floral and aromatic notes – cleverly complementing the spicy, salty, sweet and sour staples of Thai cuisine.
We agonise over the starters for some time before selecting the sweetcorn cakes, the Banyan spring rolls and “A mushroom shakes the world”. With a name like that, how could we not? Everything arrives looking colourful and beautiful and we eagerly tuck in. It is clear that everything has been prepared to order; the spring rolls are perfectly hot and crisp, and the sweetcorn cakes have that burst and pop from the freshest of corn. But it is the humble mushroom that steals the show. With almost a calamari-esque appearance, the tender mushroom is encased in the crispiest coating and served with a vegan citrus mayonnaise. This stands up to any meat or dairy starter I have eaten in the past. Truly divine.
Luckily, Bank makes an appearance before we are troubled with the first-world problem of selecting our own main courses. We faithfully follow his recommendations, starting with the “hummingbird” tofu curry. The red curry sauce is thick and unctuous – the vegan-friendly recipe not needing to stray far from the classic, except for no fish sauce. The rich umami flavour still delights your tastebuds, complemented by a dash of chilli from their homemade condiments. The pillowy mattress of tofu sits proudly on top, fluffy in the middle with crispy corners.
Next, we sample the tom yum mushroom alfredo. This is possibly the only dish that I was faintly puzzled by when I saw it on the menu; Thai flavours, with pasta? But my word, it is incredible. Al dente pasta, coated in a softly spiced and glossy tom yum broth, dotted with cauliflower, cherry toms and spring onion. I kept going back to this dish again and again.
We also order the “Blossoming of the spinach” – buckwheat noodles in tamari (soy) and olive oil sauce with spinach fritters and courgette. This is more delicately flavoured but brings welcome changes in texture and adds some more savoury touches to the meal.
Our last savoury dish is the radicchio salad with sweet potato, coconut tahini and orange and lemongrass sauce. This also offers a zingy crunch and brings the whole spread together perfectly.
It is impossible to resist the allure of their glorious blue sticky coconut rice with mango – a Thai classic for many generations and it’s easy to see why. The rice has just enough firmness to hold together and the toasted coconut flecks on top give a caramel finish.
We end the night with Thai iced coffee – deliciously rich yet refreshing; perfect for the balmy summer evening which awaits us.
In summary, this restaurant is an absolute triumph. I may not be ready to ditch meat altogether, but Roselyn gives a dining experience guaranteed to satisfy even the hardiest of carnivores.
Plants of Roselyn
102 Tooley Street , London Bridge, London, SE1 2TH