Would you believe us if we told you that the ‘umble cauli, once served only as a sulphurous side to your grandma’s Sunday roast, is now a trendy vegetable in London restaurants? We promise you it’s true. Six or so years ago, farmers in the UK were concerned that they might have to stop producing caulis, as a result of competition from veg grown abroad. Supermarkets were demanding lower prices, meaning many producers considered giving cauli the boot. The revival of this cruciferous gem was perhaps thanks to chefs with a Middle Eastern focus to their recipes, such as Ottolenghi, who celebrated it for its ability to 'take centre stage' (it's still a vegetable, right? Not an actor?), rather than make an over-cooked appearance as a sad side dish. Its strong flavour and sturdy structure means it can stand up to grilling (the cooking method of choice) and multiple, powerful garnishes. Here’s where to get the best cauliflower dishes in London.
The main focus at Spitalfields restaurant Hot Box is the meat, smoked in their oak fuelled rotisserie or grilled. Cauliflower is the meat replacement vegetable du jour however, and on the Hot Box menu it's given a rubbing with jerk spices, then served with charred (yes, everything is charred right now) pineapple, and a cashew nut salsa.
Hot Box, 46-48 Commercial Street, E1 6LT
Berber & Q
The whole grilled cauliflower with shawarma spice, tahini and pine nuts at Berber & Q could be credited with starting a whole new wave of cauliflower love throughout London. Once the cauli has been par-cooked, whole, it’s then smothered in spiced butter, which bastes it as it grills and infuses with smoky flavour. It arrives at the table garnished to the hilt with rich sesame sauce, nuts, rose petals, pomegranate seeds and extra butter. Cut into fat slices and served with their fantastic bread and herb salad well, we’ll never BBQ a cauli the same way again.
Berber & Q, Arch 338, Acton Mews, E8 4EA
Zelman Meats replaced seafood restaurant Rex and Mariano, after it was decided that the R&M concept wasn't quite right. This new restaurant is owned by the same group (Goodman steak houses), and is something of an experimental space for them to play around with all things meaty. Forget that though, because we're here to talk about cauliflower, in case you hadn't noticed. Hummus and pomegranate seeds give this dish the Middle Eastern treatment.
Zelman Meats, 2 St Anne's Court, W1F 0AZ
One of our Big Deal restaurants of 2015, Oklava is the baby of Turkish Cypriot chef Selin Kiazim. Selin calls her cooking 'modern Turkish' and you can expect lots of beautiful grilled meats infused with smoke and spice, glorious vegetable dishes like marinated and candied aubergine puree, sour cherry pearl barley and of course, cauliflower. Here it comes roasted and topped with chilli, red onion, parsley and pistachio.
Oklava, 74 Luke Street, EC2A 4PY.
The Good Egg
The Good Egg now have a permanent site in Stoke Newington, serving Jewish deli staples like smoked meats, fish salad and bagels. Their whole roast cauliflower (cook it whole to stay right on trend), is served with tahini sauce, pomegranate and coriander.
The Good Egg, 93 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 oAS.
This pretender is actually a whole head of grilled broccoli, as the more astute among you will have ascertained. Gunpowder is a very small restaurant with a big personality, which could easily pass for a broom cupboard, were it not for the brilliant food coming out of the kitchen and onto the tables. We recently loved their whole baby chicken grilled in tandoori spices, and Kashmiri lamb chops, but advise you to leave room for the sigree grilled mustard broccoli.
Gunpowder, 11 White's Row, Spitalfields, E1 7NF