There seems to be a huge craze in vegan junk food vendors popping up in and around London, and little else for us veggies. Of course, I’m as much of a sucker for carb-loaded burger buns and triple cooked fries as the next person, but sometimes it gets a little same-y and overly indulgent for a mid-week dinner. Stepping into Wild Food Café Islington however was a whole other story. With no deep-fried soy proteins in sight, I was eager to sit down for their bespoke five-course sharing menu to celebrate the longest day of the year.
Any veggie readers will have heard of the Wild Food Café from their Neal’s Yard abode. However, a few months back the restaurant embarked on a new journey, opening up a spacious and Insta’ worthy resto in the equally trendy part of the city, Islington. With dreamy pink hues, walls piled high with tropical plants and rose-gold finishes coming from every angle, those wanting to up their Insta’ ante with a splash of influencer charisma should eat the opportunity right up. As we headed on in, it felt like we had stepped into a chic tropical paradise, and all that was missing was the sunny weather.
Set up by longtime plant-based innovators Joel and Aiste Gazdar, Wild Food Café celebrates natural foods, ingredients, practices and methods that haven’t been fully explored. Combined they have over 30 years of personal experience in practicing wellbeing, including raw food, herbalism, astrology and yoga, so it’s only right they’ve pioneering for a plant-based future through their love of fresh food.
Being a life long veggie dweller myself, I’ve been itching to try Wild Food Café for a while now and immediately jumped at the opportunity to be engulfed with plant-based offerings and copious amounts of wine. Um, I mean, who wouldn’t take up the offer?! The exclusive five-course tasting menu celebrated the Solstice, revolving around the team’s ethos of using wild, foraged produce whilst also using small, organic farmers, to create stunningly innovative dishes. Every dish was then accompanied by a biodynamic wine pairing, yep, five glasses of wine on a school night, but it was worth the fuzzy head the following morning.
We were quickly taken over to our table and presented with our first wine pairing of the evening, a light Spanish tempranillo, that definitely went down far to easily! Paired alongside was the Solstice sunfood soup with freshly baked bread, which was a super fresh cherry plum tomato gazpacho with a dashing of basil oil laced on top, served up in a funky Martini glass. Side note, we waited to see if others were spooning or sipping from the glass – everyone was spooning to our disappointment – but it was delicious none the less! Anyone who’s a little hesitant about trying gazpacho, don’t be! Yes, it’s ultimately cold soup but when it’s done right, it’s rich with fresh, raw veggies, in this case local tomatoes, and perfect for a warm, humid day. Served up with buckwheat and mixed seed bread, with a wild herb lentil paté which we quickly topped onto the bread, poised for lapping up excess gazpacho.
Next up was certainly a light one, which was much needed because five courses can seem a little daunting. The joy of a midsummer meadow was filled with wild asparagus, ice lettuce, sea purslane, dandelion leaves, watercress, pomelo, pink olive crumble, wild leaves and alyssum flower scattered with a gooseberry dressing, all of which was wrapped in a shiso leaf. We were advised to wrap the dish up which felt like we were eating a little salad burrito. The salad was delicate, natural and made with love and care, accompanied by an equally delicate ugni blanc from the South West France.
Arriving shortly after was the first of the two mains, and the favourite of my partner and mine; flower into being. A rich homemade kale pesto was stuffed into a courgette flower, served alongside sprouted chickpea tempeh, cavolo Nero chips and an incredibly flavourful romesco sauce. This was coupled up with a slightly sparkling Chenin blanc. The kale pesto was fragrant and zesty, certainly a far cry from a jar of shop bought from your corner shop, which paired beautifully against the bite of the tempeh that I’d already guiltily slathered with romesco sauce. The sauce itself, if you hadn’t already guessed, was the real highlight, rich with an essence of smokiness thanks to the roasted red pepper.
Complementing a Marlborough riesling was the forest ravioli. Filled with walnut and celeriac, accompanied by butternut squash mousse, beetroot sauerkraut, truffle oil, tiger nut cream, parsley oil and microgreens. Although personally not the biggest fan of truffle oil, which I find slightly overpowering, the dish was as bright and bubbly as it sounds, illuminating up the plate with vibrant green, purple and orange tones. With both the butternut squash mousse and tigernut cream nicely accompanied the ravioli itself, although the dish itself felt as though it lacked a bit of bite, as everything was on the soft side.
Oh my, but what came next was the real showstopper of the night. The dream awake cheesecake; lemon and tonka flavour served with cherry, goji and basil sorbet, raspberry jelly, meringue and lemon curd. It was breathtaking, quite literally! And when a dessert is paired with my favourite wine too, picpoul, as soon as I took one bite, I knew it was going to be a win win situation. The whole dish cleansed the palette entirely, bringing soft citrusy flavours along the way, and even though there was no buttery biscuit base, its flavours overruled it. A surprise favourite amongst us both!
All in all, Wild Food Café has built itself a well-deserving name on the vegan ladder, and I’m super excited to see what comes next from this trendy pioneering vegan eatery. I’m definitely going to be rushing back to try their rainbow cheesecake which looks to die for!
Wild Food Café Islington can be found at 269 – 270 Upper Street, Islington, N1 2UQ, www.wildfoodcafe.com