Lunch in Soho

So, the Veg Revvers were out in central London for the day and on the hunt for some nosh to lift our spirits, and energy, after a disappointing time at a graduate careers fair. Such is life.

We ended up in Soho after finding nothing in Islington and, as you do, bumped into a Canadian music guy/manager looking for a decent place to eat. Soho is a familiar stomping ground for the Veg Revvers and as we took our new acquaitance round the backstreets, we stumbled into Vitao. It looked bright and attractive from outside, occupying a good position on the corner of one of Soho’s streets- now here’s some ESP for you: turns out, it’s a veggie cafe! We didn’t know that when we chose to enter so, Vitao, take notice- you already appeal to your target audience. Bravo!

They operate a buffet style system, arranging food in an ‘L’ shape around their small, but perfectly formed, cafè. Dishes are kept hot via hot plates and, although we turned up late afternoon, it still looked and tasted fresh. Prices were pretty reasonable and the choice is quite staggering both for food and drink. I didn’t have enough space on my plate to sample all of their offerings. Our companion, although not a stranger to vegetarian cuisine, needed some  guidance in choosing what to select so I would advise Vitao to softly prompt their clients on meal combinations and selection. It was also pretty difficult to make out exactly what was what; the person behind the counter informed you of the choices available but you were left on your own to figure out which dish was the one you liked the sound of. The problem revolves around the fact that it’s self-service. Whilst this isn’t necessarily bad it also isn’t good either; the plus side is that you can choose your own portion sizes, but, for a less than discerning vegetarian/vegan it’s quite daunting because they’re not as familiar with the differences between tofu and seitan. Our new friend, as expected, wasn’t either!

  I had a dish with seitan in (I think…) and, as this Veg Revver isn’t very accustomed to it either, I found myself sneaking glances at my co-Revver and trying to signal with my eyes the doubts I held. I was put out of my misery when she spoke outloud explaining that it was seitan and had come across it at a vegetarian restaurant in Germany. Phew. There I was panicking over whether or not it actually was a veggie place. I haven’t mentioned the quality or taste of the food and that’s because I had a minor panic attack about the very chewy seitan pieces. To be honest, it overshadowed the entire experience; in the big pan at self-service it looked like tofu, between my nashers it most definitely did not feel, or taste, like tofu. Please Vitao, as much as I like the uncluttered approach of not labelling your shiny copper food dishes and the attractive coloured chalk menu positioned miles away from the buffet, get rid of it.

Next time I would rather enjoy my meal than almost have a seizure about it. Vitao also doesn’t advertise itself as a vegetarian/vegan cafè. I can understand this in a cafè positioned elsewhere, but, considering the alternative crowd frequenting Soho, and the number of veggie places in the area, I think this could be doing Vitao a disservice. After all, I wouldn’t have been doubting the credibility of my seitan dish so strongly if the cafè was clearly marked as veggie, and the same with their dishes. Having said that, if you’re not clued up on your tofu vs. seitan you can opt to steer clear of either and taste many of their other offerings. The overall ambience and atmosphere of the cafe/restaurant is very warm, friendly and inviting. The decor is natural and cosy and it’s a good place to while away a few hours with friends and, in our case, new acquaintances alike. Despite my bug bears I would recommend trying it but on a word of warning: it might take a while to figure out exactly which dish you’re selecting!