A visit to The Gate Islington
The Gate is somewhat of an institution in London, dating back to 1989 when their original location in Hammersmith opened. The Islington branch opened its doors more recently in 2012 and benefits from a prominent corner position on St John Street at the end of Rosebery Avenue.
Upon entering, the Islington restaurant impresses with its casually elegant interior although the lack of soft furnishings and combination of wooden floor and tiled walls meant that the noise levels were quite high. My friends and I were having a pre-theatre dinner so we wasted no time in ordering our starters, mains (and wine of course!) soon after sitting down. The service was polite, friendly and swift… off to a good start.
I ordered the Vietnamese Rolls starter (“filled with smoked tofu, cucumber, mango mint and alfalfa sprouts and served with soya dip”) and was totally underwhelmed with the dish. First of all the amount of food on the plate was minuscule compared with the other starters. Secondly the rolls themselves were bland and boring, totally lacking any decent flavours or textures. For £6 I could buy something tastier and more filling in a motorway services. I didn’t taste the pakoras that my friends had ordered but they got a thumbs up.
For the main, I had the Corn Cake for £14 which was served with “grilled baby artichoke, fennel, courgette, tomato and pepper with a chipotle black bean salsa, coriander dressing and schoog.” Well schoog or no schoog, the dish didn’t really do it for me. The grilled vegetables were lovely but miserly in their existence. My friends and I couldn’t detect a hint of chipotle in the dish and the corn cake was stodgy and bland. I didn’t hate it at the time but as I was still starving after my microscopic starter it probably had more appeal.
My friend ordered the polenta chips as a side and they were delicious. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to The Gate but if I do, I’ll order them.
Fortunately for our wallets, we didn’t have time for dessert, but perhaps that would have redeemed the meal? Otherwise, I have to say that the high cost, small servings and bland tastes will not have me rushing back to The Gate when I can get cheaper, superior vegan food elsewhere in London.
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What a shame, the main looks fresh and much thought has been applied to the presentations. Chef could spend more time on abundance of ingredients and flavour intensity… and still make a good margin (often more margin than meat dishes, even if listed as lower cost). Maybe it was his first go at a plant-based menu, but nothing is worse than feeling ripped off, when we know the cost of veggies are going down….
My boyfriend and I went there last night and had a similar response. He had the pakoras and I had the peppers as starters. Both were lacking in flavor and only saved by the sauce/tapenade that accompanied them. He felt the same as you about the corn cakes. My main was better – the Aubergine Teriyaki had a subtle but nice flavor. The desserts (summer trifle and pear and rhubarb crumble) were ok. The service was good, but we waited long periods for our food. Turns out it was exceptionally crowded for a Tuesday night. The wait staff could keep up but it seems like the kitchen could not. We agree that the noise levels were high.
I love the idea of The Gate – we also found the staff friendly and it had a lovely ambiance!
The menu sounds good… but like you I was a bit underwhelmed!
And when things were good I simply wanted more of it. I was still hungry after 🙁
A shame – I hope they can pick up the portion size and I’d give it another go! (Agree on the polenta chips – they were yum!)
I am really surprised by these comments. We have been there several times and it’s always excellent . We have never had bland food and the service is always great. It is on the pricey side but I think it’s worth it . We will definitely be going back.
I have only been to the Hammersmith location and it has been hit-and-miss, but I know many people who adore it. The first time I went I was underwhelmed by availability of vegan options (“without cheese/cream/ice cream” doesn’t count, I’m afraid), portion sizes and cost, though my omnivorous friends – who were paying for my birthday meal – were wowed. The second time, we all had wonderful meals, but the experience was somewhat dampened by the waiter taking our payment, whom we were gushing to about how good our mains had been, informing us that it was very hard to make meatless food taste good. Not the worst restaurant in London by any means but I’m not in a rush to go back.