For many diners, veganism and decadence are two concepts that stand poles apart. It’s to the credit of Essence Cuisine, then—a hip Shoreditch restaurant with high-end looks but fast-casual accessibility—that their always-vegan, often-raw dishes are so genuinely delicious.
American chef Matthew Kenney is behind the menu of creative, plant-based fare. Breakfast is served all day, and includes items like scrambled garbanzo beans with kale and green harissa; lunch and dinner offerings range from vegan pad thai (which puts kelp noodles to good use) to caesar salad (which features “anchovies” made of marinated shiitakes).
Trompe-palate dishes like the raw lasagne are especially remarkable. Made from thin shavings of courgette, sundried tomato marinara, cashew cream, and pistachio pesto, the dish looks beautiful, albeit foreign; its stack of vegetables comes adorned with roseate, edible flowers, after all. But in the mouth, its flavours somehow meld and comingle and call up the Proustian experience of every comforting, cheese- and carb-loaded plate of lasagne you’ve ever eaten. It’s a transfixing experience.
Not every menu item is as thrilling. Items like cold-pressed juices, grain bowls, and avocado toast read more as clichés than innovations at this point. And while the dining room’s sleek walls and modular seating may Instagram well, anyone over the age of 25 will likely have an aching back by the time the meal is through. But quibbles aside, even the most avowed carnivores are likely to leave Essence Cuisine in a state of bemused wonder.