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Scared of eating meat? Visitors to London can veg out instead

Scared of eating meat? Visitors to London can veg out instead

June 5, 2001 Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Andrew Marton

LONDON _ Assuming that one successfully suspends the guffaws that inevitably accompany any discussion of British cuisine, then one must soberly come to terms with the terrible scourge of mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseasea (euphemistically referred to as the "medical crisis") that is currently ravaging beef-centric British and European cooking.

Still, tourists must eat, especially carnivorous Americans, so many are substituting something in a tofu or a bean curd for a comforting rump roast. In other words, more and more locals as well as visitors are going green.

London alone has more than 100 vegetarian restaurants, with many in the city's hippest enclaves. Neal's Yard is the Covent Garden cradle for a selection of vegetarian eateries, where diners can indulge in an entirely vegan meal topped off by a wheat-free chocolate muffin.

All in all, a random sampling of various London restaurants reveals that they have served as many as 20 percent more vegetarian meals than usual in the past six months. A number of restaurants have expanded their vegetarian offerings. The commitment to vegetarianism is such that even one of the city's shrines to red meat, The Butlers Wharf Chop House, has a vegetarian dinner menu featuring pressed goat cheese and leek terrine and caramelized beet-root tart.

Food for Thought

31 Neal St.

Covent Garden, London WC2

(020-7836-9072)

A mere slip of a place, Food for Thought features a downstairs seating area with an Ikea-meets-Haight-Ashbury decor. Low-to-the-ground, butcher-block tables and ceramic wall vases accent the slightly cramped quarters.

At Food for Thought, real men do eat quiche. And what a flaky concoction this quiche is, a mosaic of onion, red pepper and broccoli. It comes surrounded by a barricade of cold potato salad that is a tad salty. Tomato soup Portugaise is a ruddy affair substantial enough to float whole olives. And gado gado is an exotic name for a bowl of noodles mingled with spring onions, French beans, baby corn, snow peas and bean shoots swimming in a watered-down version of a satay sauce.

The Good Earth Restaurant

233 Brompton Road, London SW3 2EP

(0171-584-3658)

In a menu chockablock with Asian specialties, Good Earth boasts no fewer than 45 vegetarian offerings and has a real flair for taking a bit of bean curd and sculpting it into a luscious "prawn." The serenity of the interior, guarded by gold-encrusted lions, dragons and reclining Buddhas, is disrupted by the crackle and crunch of lettuce wraps whose interior spills over with a medley of nuts and chopped vegetables (a melange of scallions, mushrooms and bits of garlic). Crispy laver rolls carry a cargo of seaweed, parsnips, carrots and bok choy, enveloped in a crispy, deep-fried outer layer.

The sizzling tofu with Chinese mushrooms is salvaged by a character-building black bean sauce. The sizzling vegetables live up to their name as an assortment of miniature corn ears, pea pods, navy beans and carrots is tossed in a bold sweet-and-sour sauce. Finally, mock chile chicken is made from gluten, the gray, sticky, protein grain extract; the final product is mushier than chicken.

Mr. Wing

242 Old Brompton Road

London, SW5ODE

(020-7370-4450)

In a tropical rain-forest atmosphere, complete with thick foliage and an aquarium containing twitching sea creatures, Mr. Wing offers 26 purely vegetarian dishes.

Seaweed and cashew nuts work well as one appetizer, as does zucchini in a light tempura batter, and the more prosaic crispy spring roll is suffused with lemon. Of all the starters, the confetti of seaweed is a revelation, wearing a lightly fried outer skin with the crunch of a potato chip.

The stuffed tofu boxes provided precious little taste despite the presence of an advertised "rich, spicy sauce." On the other hand, the Singapore rice noodles packed a peppery heat, and the pad Thai noodles left the tongue with a tart, vinegary souvenir.

[...]


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