By Sarah Best.
The UK capital lags obdurately behind major American cities when it comes to raw dining options - and vegan dining options in general, for that matter. But fans of healthy plant-based cuisine will be delighted to hear that Phong and Mui - founders of the highly popular Vita Organic on Wardour Street - have just opened a new, and much larger, restaurant - Vantra. (Vita Organic continues at the same location under new management, and a new name - Vitao).
So what is different about the new place? Well, it is a lot bigger - it seats 90 to Vita Organic's 20. You can find the same innovative selection of fresh raw juices, smoothies and salads, and Phong and Mui's trademark smorgasbord of vegan food from Asia, India, Africa and the Mediterranean (no frying or microwaving, no harmful fats, all pulses sprouted prior to cooking, and everything heated to the lowest temperatures possible).
What Vantra will offer in addition is:
- a vastly expanded menu of raw gourmet foods, including a sushi counter
- a selection of packaged raw foods
- a dessert bar which will be 100% vegan, and which will offer many raw choices
- a selection of wines and other alcoholic drinks and a "Vespresso" bar - a vegan coffee bar offering a wide selection of coffees and healthier substitutes (choices include Rooibos Chai Cappucino and Maca Ice Latte).
We tip this to be London's top raw dining spot by the end of the year. Why? Because the food is as good as it gets, yet also healthy and energising. Phong and Mui's approach to raw food is firmly rooted in offering gourmet delights without sacrificing on health principles, so here is a place you can enjoy raw restaurant food that is not loaded with nuts, oils, salt and agave. It is ideally located in the heart of W1, and it's a fantastic space for a long lunch or an evening with friends.
Vantra quietly opened its doors just a week ago and when we visited, the following day, the food on offer was its sumptuous vegan buffet, with choices including several delicious raw salads. For just £7 per (very large) plate there is no cheaper, nor healthier, feast to be found in the capital.
As they are still getting up and running they are not yet offering the raw menu - that is planned for next month. They are also not set up to do juices and smoothies, but we enjoyed something even better - fantastic fresh young coconut water. The dessert bar is not open yet, either, but they had two fantastic raw desserts on offer - chocolate cake and apple cake.
Vantra is currently open from 12 to 8pm but once they're in full swing it will also be open for breakfast and for dinner.
Vantra, 12-13 Soho Street, London W1D 3DJ (two minutes walk from Tottenham Court Road tube)
Telephone: 07834 535999