Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Out and about in London #4: Raw food at Vantra Vitao and more Wholefoods eating

Continuing my recent food-focused 'out and about' posts, I was pleased to finally make it to Vantra Vitao last week. Located on Oxford Street near Tottenham Court Road, Vantra Vitao specialises in raw food as well as a selection of carefully cooked hot dishes. Everything is vegan, most things are organic, and they have a lunchtime buffet using the pay-by-weight approach.

Vantra Vitao buffet selection

I follow Vantra Vitao on Facebook and had been admiring their dessert photos for months. They are also quite well reviewed, and so I entered with high expectations. The restaurant has minimal street space but is long and narrow, with 10 or so 2-seater tables and perhaps half a dozen larger ones. The interior is quite dark, and I apologise for my poor phone photos, but is attractively set up. I liked the wooden tables and the bathrooms at the back were clean and well maintained.


Vantra Vitao - wooden tables


The lunchtime buffet is not huge, but does include a good mix of raw and hot dishes. It was a little hard to know the system as staff were not readily available, but I found a (very large!) silver plate to load up and followed what others were doing. I did see some people with more normal sized white plates, but I don't know where they got them from. In addition to the eat in, pay by weight approach, you can also fill takeaway containers for a set price.

Appalling photography, but a good mix of food

My dishes included a raw apple and beetroot salad, pickled vegetables, a chickpea and quinoa dish, and some curry and brown rice. It was all good food, but I have to confess it didn't dazzle me. Other than the pickled vegetables, I could have made it at home. I had a modest selection and the price also came in at more than I'd have expected, over £5 for a small plate.

I was most interested in the desserts anyway, so moved on from my savoury selections to choose a raw chocolate coconut cupcake and a soya milk latte. They offer soya and coconut milk but not almond, which would otherwise have been my first choice.

Raw cupcake

I wish I could be positive about this cupcake, but it may be my least favourite raw dessert ever. I thought I was guaranteed to like anything raw and sweet, but this cupcake seemed like chocolate-coconut cream in a solid shell. It was too creamy, and not at all cake like. I also didn't like the coffee much, which was a bit bitter.

I am sorry not to leave a more positive review, although on looking at Trip Advisor reviews again, there are mixed comments on there. Some of it may be personal taste and obviously there are lots of people who love the place and find the food inspiring. If I came across Vantra Vitao while travelling, I would also be delighted to have a selection of fresh, whole food dishes to choose from. However, as a local option in a city with lots of vegan choices, I don't think I'll be going back.

Winter sunshine and a Wholefoods lunch

To end on a more positive note, I have continued to enjoy products from both Planet Organic and Wholefoods. Strange as it may seem, it was only recently that I ventured to test the Wholefoods buffet. Now I know what people rave about! The selection of vegan dishes was excellent and I enjoyed a mix of spicy couscous, roasted carrots, a Mexican corn salad, kale, and tofu. It deserves note, however, that Mr Bite tried his first Wholefoods sandwich that day and couldn't even finish it. He chose a basic cheese and salad roll and thought the roll was dry and the cheese tasteless.


At a different lunchtime, I was delighted to spot vegan, brown rice, teriyaki tofu sushi in the Piccadilly Wholefoods. I didn't like the vegan mayonnaise (I have never liked mayonnaise) but otherwise loved it. That store also provided me with the best coffee I've had since leaving Australia, an almond milk cappuccino that was beautifully mellow and not at all bitter.


So, mixed eating, but I do feel lucky to be able to explore so many vegan options nearly on my doorstep.

Vantra Vitao is located at 25-27 Oxford Street, London, W1D 2DW - just next to the Tottenham Court tube station. They have a website at http://vantra.co.uk/ .

I frequent the Piccadilly circus and Kensington High Street Wholefoods stores.

Have you eaten anywhere recently that struggled to meet your expectations?

17 comments:

  1. What a shame about the cupcake and sandwich! So disappointing when there's a place lots of people rave about but you try it and it's blergh!

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  2. Your post really highlights the strong competition for people who sell vegan food - it used to be so rare to find this sort of food and now there is so much that we get a bit fussy - I smiled at your comment about them not having the vegan milk you prefer - so much choice these days. And I guess there are a lot of travellers in London so your comment about finding it when travelling is quite pertinent but I am glad you have found a good coffee and some nice lunches at wholefoods

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    1. I like that you have politely but accurately pointed out I may be a wee bit fussy now I have so many choices ;) Of course you are absolutely right - if this was the only vegan place near me I'm sure I'd have liked it more. I think I was particularly disappointed because it is so well regarded and I couldn't grasp why. Then again, it is one of the older vegan establishments in London so perhaps it has a strong following from the days when choices were more limited.

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    2. I think we all are a bit more fussy now that we have more choice. I can't help but compare shakahari to Vantra Viteo because I felt like these establishments reminds me of times when veg places were not so common and quite a different lifestyle for those who chose to be veg. I still remember cranks at covent garden with fondness because it was one of the few veg places I knew of in london when I first went there.

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    3. I don't think I know cranks! Places definitely are easier to love when you have a history with them, and I am grateful for the vegetarian places that founded the way for veggie food becoming more available.

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    4. Cranks in Covent Garden closed many years ago but was one of the early veg restaurants the led the way in the UK and put out some great cookbooks too. I am not sure if any branches of Cranks still exist. They did great sausage rolls in the Covent Garden store but were quite old school vegetarian and unlike a lot of modern places.

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  3. Thanks for this! It may be that if you went back to Vantra Vitao on another day it might be better? We love, love, love the Wholefoods buffets! We always go there when in London, all the ingredients are listed and I just adore the choice! And Tibits, yum!

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    1. Absolutely - I suspect it could have been the day, or just my tastes, or a mix of both :-)

      I'm glad you enjoy the Wholefoods options, they are fantastic, and ditto Tibits!

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  4. What a shame because the cupcake does look really good - what a tragedy it doesn't live up to its looks! I do love clean bathrooms though so they do get a point for that. But it sounds like the food needs a good sorting xx

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    1. I know! I had such high hopes for the cupcake!

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  5. I've had a very similar experience at Vitao - the staff were disappeared and the food was really average. That was when I went a good long while back, and I've not really been tempted to return!

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    1. It's such a relief to hear you say that. I was really worried I wasn't getting something that all other London veggies did!

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  6. I love reading your eating out reviews - I get to be a fly on the wall. Sorry the first place was so disappointing.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I like your reviews too, so we're being respective flies!

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  7. It is frustrating to take pictures in a dark place, no worries, I’ve been through this a lot. I tried to take good pictures at Vedge in Philly and they turned out yellow ;( but your pictures of the buffet turned out wonderful! Shame about the dessert and the food - they look yum though!

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    1. Haha...I'm glad it's not just me with the photography challenges!

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