The only way is ethics: Cafe Van Gogh review

Annabel Twose goes meat-free at Café Van Gogh

A few years ago, overcome with guilt from the film Cowspiracy, I dipped my toes in vegan. But, after two mostly uninspiring months of tofu and beans (whilst battling intense cheese related dreams), I caved, ordered a large pizza with extra everything and never looked back.

Vegans must love the fact that times are changing with a number of dedicatedly vegan restaurants launching, each offering an upgrade on the traditional, rather challengingly dour.

Apparently there has been a 360% increase in veganism, partly on the back of more interesting vegan cuisine. Ethics are fine, if they taste good.

Café Van Gogh is part of this new wave, their menu has recently become 100% vegan. It is also non-profit, with money reinvested into programmes for marginalised members of the local community, like work experience for teenagers with learning difficulties.

Intrigued, and accompanied by a vegan friend, I set off to discover whether I would be willing to give the vegan dream a second chance.

Up a winding staircase and under a delightful Van Gogh-inspired starry night ceiling, we ordered our food and a bottle of a very enjoyable pinot noir. I chose the seitan sticky ribs, with potato and pickled onion salad, grilled corn and “bacon” butter. Seitan is the newest trend in modern meat substitutes, a gluten-based alternative which has been taking Instagram foodie feeds by storm.

But could vegan ribs actually work?  Pretty much – sticky barbecue flavours and a surprisingly meaty texture – although a little chewy. While it may not have fooled a meat eater, I don’t think that matters as, both failed vegan and proper vegan thought it was tasty and satisfying in its own right.

The Sri Lankan jackfruit and aubergine-stuffed chapatti with dhal was also a treat, with the slightly sweet pineapple chutney balancing nicely with the spices.

We finished off with the sticky toffee pudding, which, according to my expert, tasted “too good to be vegan”. With ginger notes and a delicious buttery caramel sauce, it was definitely the highlight and, as a long-time devotee of sticky toffee, one of the best I’ve had.

The menu may be short but, whether you’re a meat-eater, veggie or staunch vegan, you’ll be able to find something hearty, healthy and tasty at Café Van Gogh.

With the café’s ethically made food and its reinvestment in the community, it is certainly an enjoyable and guilt-free eating out option. While I may not return to veganism just yet, if every meat and dairy free meal tasted this good, I could be persuaded.

88 Brixton Road, SW9 6BE | | 07546 966554 | @cafevangoghCIC