St Luke's Table Attempts Fine Dining Veganism With Scattershot Results
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Five years ago, a high end Covent Garden basement like the one we're currently sat in, would've laughed you out the building if you'd asked for a vegan menu. They might have had a vegetarian one, but even then most the dishes would have some form of eggs or dairy involved. Now spots like St Luke's Table can't proclaim loudly enough that there's a plant-based — because some people really want that term to replace 'vegan' — menu on offer.
Not that we're cynical about the changing attitudes. In fact, we're delighted by it. More options for London's vegans deserves celebration. But are they good options?
The starters definitely lead us to that (premature) conclusion. The grilled asparagus, decorated with pea shoots and purple potatoes is a delight in both design and taste. There's a musical dictionary on our table — the restaurant is inside the literature-themed club Library — and the term 'perfect harmony' immediately springs to mind to describe the individual flavours. The spicy tomato and pepper soup has just enough heat to dry off the remnants of the Wednesday night downpour (in June!) that we suffered through, on our way to dinner.
Everything that makes the starters shine sits in direct contrast to the mains. The beetroot risotto and linguine artichokes both suffer from exactly the same issue — they're not poor, just disappointing, thanks to a lack of leading flavours. The beetroot should be the protagonist in the risotto, but is relegated to the status of supporting cast. Similarly, the artichoke flavour is a backup singer in the linguine instead of a lead vocalist.
In both cases, if you search your tastebuds after each bite you can find the desired element, but it shouldn't take this much effort. Thinking about the linguine, we probably could have whipped something up of the same quality back home, which isn't a good sign for a fine dining restaurant.
Moving onto dessert, we try one dish at the impeccable level of the starters, while the other lies at the same lukewarm par as the mains. The pineapple carpaccio is the superior offering, hints of chilli and ginger teeming in the thinly sliced fruit. The chocolate and avocado mousse doesn't reach those heights. It strikes the right balance on the texture front, an impressive feat without egg yolks, but sacrifices flavour in the process. The walnut and pomegranate garnishes do however, make up for this somewhat.
Three excellent dishes and three alright ones, leaves us with a 50/50 hit rate. There's some excellent food on offer that we thoroughly recommend, but ultimately it's the job of the main to outperform the starter. When the opposite happens, we're left with thoughts of what might have been.
St Luke's Table, Library, 112 St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4BD
Last Updated 17 June 2019