Before visiting the Noel Coward theatre recently (to catch Gillian Anderson and Lily James in All About Eve) we grabbed dinner at the new Neal’s Yard branch of no-booze, plant-based restaurant Redemption.
Launched by entrepreneurs Catherine Salway (the business head) and Andrea Waters (restaurateur, vegan and raw chef), the mini-chain already has popular dining rooms in Shoreditch and Notting Hill.
Its formula is simple but effective (and now incredibly on trend): vying for the tagline “London’s healthiest restaurant”, it serves up vegan, sugar-free, and wheat-free scran with an alcohol-free bar. Yikes. Their motto is “spoil yourself without spoiling yourself” – and yet the experience here is, thankfully, way more fun than that suggests.
As a location for all things healthy (and alternative) Neal’s Yard as a location is picture-perfect; it still feels like a secret even in 2019, despite the fact that I used to feel the same when I’d visit Rough Trade Records way back as a teen.
Its rep for being an artisan epicentre dates back over forty years, in fact, to 1976, when alternative activist Nicholas Saunders started the bulk Whole Food Warehouse, with other enterprises such as Neal’s Yard Bakery quickly following.
It still contains several health-food cafes, including the original, rather characterful branch of Wild Food Cafe, which now has a very glossy new branch on Upper Street in Islington (read our review here).
And while the interior at this new Redemption is not quite as stylish as that – though it’s still slick and contemporary – every table was impressively booked on a midweek night (we just squeezed in early-doors and bagged the last free spot).The menu is simple, almost slightly old-fashioned with the current wave of all things vegan: starters comprise soup, nibbles or corn chips, and mains items like pulled jackfruit burgers and maki rolls.
A wild mushroom black rice risotto with salsa verde proved a huge and filling affair just lifted by a zingy salsa verde, while a hearty brown rice penne with tomato marinara was rather pedestrian, the addition of roasted pecan parmesan lending it much-needed texture and crunch.
Most memorable were the alcohol-free cocktails (£5-7) – and I think these are what I’d return to Redemption for: an apple ‘mockjito’ of muddled apple pressé, fresh mint and lime with soda water was a convincing imitation of the real thing but, best of all, a jet-black martini (£6.50) was made with apparently toxin-grabbing activated charcoal shaken with fresh lemon and maple syrup, and topped with aquafaba (otherwise known as chickpea brine). Potent and yet restorative.
In short? It’s the perfect location – but just a tad more finesse with the food (and perhaps a visit to the new Wild Food) wouldn’t hurt.