Wednesday, 20 November 2013

TIBITS Vegetarian Restaurant in London - a Review

After much anticipation, we ate lunch as a family of 4 adults and 2 children at Tibits vegetarian restaurant on a recent Saturday. Here's what I thought - and the review is totally independent without any input from the restaurant.

First Impressions
The restaurant looked small, until we saw there is seating downstairs as well. Centre of attention is their 'food boat', and we were immediately greeted by a chap asking if we'd been before and explaining the system. Starting to get busy at 12.30 but we sorted a table for six; by about 1pm there were very few available tables.

The System
You can buy drinks at the counter initially, but most people prefer to choose their food first and pay for it together with drinks. First, find a table, then take a plate and cruise (food boat ...) around the buffet taking what you fancy - hot food on upper shelf, cold below. Then take the filled plate to the counter where it is weighed and charged acccordingly. Same system for desserts - serve then weigh and pay. We set up a tab at the start, gave some ID, and just settled at the end.

Ah, the Food!
A large range of cold dishes had something for everyone. Lots of interesting and sometimes unusual salads and other cold dishes variously containing lentils, beans, aubergines, squash and other vegetables for example. Plenty of sauces, dressings, and fresh nuts to sprinkle. Hot food included deep fried breaded cheese-stuffed jalapenos, breaded onion rings, quiche, potato wedges, a squash stew and plenty more. We all agreed about the range being so tempting it was difficult to stop. (See prices below!) All very good whether you fancy a light lunch or a more substantial meal. Oh, and the delightful bread rolls are complimentary - you lift them off your plate while it's being weighed!

I felt that the limited range of desserts was less exciting though I didn't try the cheesecake. Sticky toffee pudding (vegan) was OK but not special, while the fruit crumble was nice.

Prices - Food
The publicity shows a sample decent plate of food for (if I recall) £7.50. Our six main courses varied from (fairly modest but enough) at £5.40 up to £15 for a large plateful which included heavies such as quiche and potatoes (hugely enjoyed). Four of us had desserts,  which cost from £1.60 to £3.70. Given that we could each see and choose everything we ate, the cost was reasonable for a central London venue and a  very pleasant experience.

One of our young ones chose water, the other an interesting ginger lemonade (£2.40 for a glass). Tap water is freely available to self serve, while mineral water is £1.90 for a half litre. Wine seemed expensive; cheapest was Merlot (very drinkable) or Sauvignon Blanc at £16.20. Lager £4.20 a pint, 330ml bottled beers around £3.90.

Minimal Downsides
I have a thing about hot food at buffets - that thing is, you rarely get them. Here the hot food was not much more than lukewarm and the quiche had run out when I reached the plate. What was offered was still very tasty, however. We went to the counter to settle the tab at a busy time, and there was a free-for-all during which several people managed to reach in front of us to put their food on the scales for weighing and were immediately served. The wait to pay was therefore quite long. Some kind of queueing system would prevent this irritation.

Overall ...
There are three Tibits restaurants in Switzerland, and it would be surprising if more did not soon open here. This one was already a favourite with the London-based part of the family. The staff are friendly and helpful, the food is interesting, unusual and very enjoyable and self-service of course makes it quick providing it's not a busy time. The location is accessible, too - Heddon Street, off Regent Street. We used often to meet to eat at Italian chain restaurants, but we can do that at home while for similar money and in central London too, Tibits is safely vegetarian and (at present) unique. We'll be back!

12-14 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4DA

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Mushroom, Pea & Blue Cheese Risotto in the Slow Cooker

There once was a large slow cooker in our kitchen, but I broke the lid and didn't replace the cooker. Recently, though, I thought it would be good to go back to the slow method, and bought a very fine (though small - 1.5 litres) slow cooker by Lloydtron. Here it is:
It's only 120watts, and the inner ceramic liner lifts out and is more or less wipe-clean. I am in love with it.

But to business. I believe this recipe to be my best risotto yet. It's not quite 'throw everything in and leave it', as I prefer to add the vegetables and cheese once the rice is on its way to being cooked. For anyone who uses this and has a differently powered/sized slow cooker, timings may be a bit different. 

The recipe would work perfectly well cooked on the hob, and would be faster, but would need a lot more attention - although I have never held with the 'keep the stock hot and add one ladle at a time' plan. The quantity makes 2 generous portions, and using my cooker it took about 1h45m from start to serving. I couldn't offer a picture of the finished dish - had to be served up in a hurry in time for The Archers, and forgot about photo.
Mushroom, Pea and Blue Cheese Risotto

Knob of butter (size of a walnut shell)
1 medium onion, peeled and fairly finely chopped
120g risotto rice 
330ml hot vegetarian stock
80 frozen peas, left to defrost
75g mushrooms, thinly sliced
40g blue cheese (e.g. Danish, Stilton), crumbled
Ground black pepper - about a level tsp

1  Switch the slow cooker to High, and put in the butter.
2  Once the butter is melting, add the onion and rice, and stir to coat it all with butter.
         Leave for 5 mins.
3  Add the stock, stir, and leave for 45 mins, stirring once or twice meanwhile.
4  Add the defrosted peas, the mushrooms, cheese and pepper and mix well.
5  Leave for about 40m, stirring very occasionally, until the stock is absorbed.

And that's it. Plenty of time while it's cooking to play LinkLines, prep a side salad, and have an aperitif.

Other Options
Sweetcorn or broad beans could replace the peas; snipped herbs such as basil, thyme or parsley added towards the end would go well - though perhaps not rosemary unless it's added at the start and so would have plenty of time to soften. Mixed dried mushrooms could be used instead of fresh, in which case they should be covered in boiling water in a bowl, left for 10 minutes, and drained well before adding. Grated vegan hard cheese could replace the blue. Vegetarian white wine could be substituted for part of the stock, although I prefer it as nature intended.