Welcome to Ask Eater, a new column from Eater London in which the site’s editor and contributors offer to answer specific or particularly troubling requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every week. Have a question for us? You can ask it here.
Hi Eater London,
I’m looking for a restaurant in Soho. There’s two of us, and we want to eat Indian food — we’re also open to other Asian cuisines. Most importantly: it needs to be vegetarian.
Hi, Voracious Vegetarian,
The one place that immediately springs to mind is the famous Govinda’s. It’s part of the Radha-Krishna temple in Soho Street owned by the Hare Krishna movement. It’s been around since the late 70s; many older Londoners reminisce about it, very fondly indeed. It serves cheap and cheerful curries, dals, pakoras and great-value thalis, as well as a few international items — lasagne, quiches. There are always fresh salads on the menu, which is free from eggs, onions and garlic.
More exciting, however, are South Indian vegetarian mini-chains Woodlands Piccadilly and Sagar West End. Although not strictly located in Soho, they’re both very close by. Woodlands is tucked away in a basement on Panton Street, a little side street off Leicester Square. Sagar, meanwhile, is just off Tottenham Court Road, minutes from the tube station.
Woodlands specialises in Tamil dishes, so give the generic street food items a wide berth in favour of idli, medu vada (savoury lentil doughnuts), one of the great selection of dosas or the Madras thali. Sagar serves Udupi cuisine from the south west coast of India, so the Udupi thali is naturally a showcase of the greatest hits. There is also an especially wide selection of dosas and uthappams (rice and lentil pizza-like pancakes with toppings); tiffin snacks like rasa vada (urad lentil doughnuts in a split pigeon-pea lentil broth) and kancheepuram idli — a particularly spicy variety of steamed rice cakes — are also phenomenal. Both restaurants have lots of vegan options, too.
If it has to be Soho, however, you can’t beat Darjeeling Express, run by Asma Khan’s all-women kitchen. On Mondays, the restaurant serves a delicious and varied “Meat-free Monday” menu of Hyderabadi nawabi gems, Calcutta street food and Bengali festive dishes — all based around seasonal British-grown vegetables.
Other than Indian, there’s Yming in Greek Street. Here, there’s a great Chinese vegetarian menu focused on tofu and aubergines. Try the hot and spicy dragon broccoli, or Sichuan-style beans with preserved mustard greens.
Hope that’s plenty of (vegetarian) spice to entice! Enjoy your dinner, wherever it may be.