Where: manna, Primrose Hill
When: March 2017
Price: £50 – mains and a carafe for 2
Rating: * * * *
In short: delicious, slightly fancy vegetarian food, well worth travelling north for.
I have been meaning to visit manna for ages. It has been lurking at the periphery of my radar, tempting me with the promise of gourmet vegan food in fancy Primrose Hill. When I finally made the trek up to North London to celebrate the Vegetarian’s birthday, we were not disappointed.
The food is delicious. I was tempted by everything, but tested the limits of this vegan restaurant by going for the dish that never satisfies: a salad. It was stunning. And not just ‘as stunning as any salad can be’, I mean unreservedly delicious. The kale was crunchy, not tough, and manna did not bulk up on the grains (quinoa and amaranth) to save money. Warm roasted vegetables, ginger pickled carrots and pumpkin seeds were all pulled together by the star attraction: large, crunchy, delicious, herby croutons.
The Vegetarian had vegan bangers and mash. The fennel and pumpkin seed sausages were full of flavour, sitting on a bed of kale, and carrot & potato mash. I can attest to the pleasingly large and crispy onion rings, which are also available as a side.
Our opting for main courses was a departure from the usual. I often prefer sharing food with tapas and mezze style meals, probably because I hate having to pick one dish. manna caters for your mix and match needs too, and on my next visit I will definitely try their offer of four sides plated as a main course for £14.
For drinks we had a decent choice of softs, beers and ciders, spirits, wines and bubbles. We enjoyed a carafe of Domaine de Pajot country white wine. I adore any restaurant that serves carafes – it is the perfect amount for two people who have to work tomorrow and have already had a few too many pints before dinner. All the wines are organic and vegan, which is incredibly rare and very pleasing.
As you would expect from a gourmet vegan restaurant in Primrose Hill, the service is friendly and adds to an overall pleasant experience. The waitress didn’t mind when I sent her away twice because I just could not make up my mind. The staff are attentive without rushing you, and even the two intimate tables in a separate front porch were not neglected.
Overall, manna is perfect for a special occasion. It is not cheap by veggie standards, but I was perfectly happy to spend £15 (a perfectly normal amount for a meat dish) on vegan food this good. And maybe it was those pleasant – but pricey – pre-dinner pints at The Lansdowne pub down the road, but I barely noticed that it was all vegan!