I went to new vegetarian self-service restaurant Ethos Foods a couple of times in the weeks leading up to Christmas, once with a fellow vegetarian and once with my girlfriend, who isn’t vegetarian but is happy to try out new places.
Ethos is a light and airy restaurant just behind Oxford Street. If you’re walking past it, you’ll probably stop outside the window because the food looks delicious and inviting, with salads set out in huge white bowls on marble-topped tables.
I’m always excited about new vegetarian restaurants, and was really looking forward to visiting Ethos as soon as I heard about it, particularly because it’s self-service, meaning you can eat as much or as little as you want, and can pick and choose from a wide variety of different items. Once you’ve loaded your plate, you take it to the counter where they weigh it, and that determines the price you pay. (It’s perhaps worth noting that the price per one hundred grams goes up slightly in the evenings.)
I would advise walking around the two large tables on which all the various dishes are set out a few times before selecting what you want. The staple items appear to be various dips (such as hummous, guacamole and baba ganoush); grilled miso aubergine with fresh chilli; a few iterations of vegetable fritters; sweet potato and feta salad; apricot and almond tagine; green bean and tomato stew; seitan Chinese-style ‘ribs’. There are also lots of other salads that are rice- or grain-based (such as quinoa), a superfood salad, a vegetarian version of Scotch eggs, and a smaller dessert table of different cakes, mousses and bite-size items.
On my first visit I went for the miso marinated aubergine (as regular readers will know, if aubergine is on the menu, I have to try it), baba ganoush, mini sweetcorn fritters, the sweet potato, feta and spinach salad, and the North African-style green bean and tomato stew.
The green bean and tomato stew was the best, rich with onions and spices such as cinnamon; very warming on a winter’s day. The sweet potato, feta and spinach salad was delicious, but nothing new; these are ingredients proven to go together well. The aubergine was also good, with some heat from the chilli (which is sliced in quite large pieces, so beware if you don’t have a good tolerance for it) and sweetness from the miso marinade and the sesame seeds. The sweetcorn fritters were good, too: not too heavy and in bite-size chunks, though they could have done with a little more seasoning. As could the baba ganoush, which was fine, but certainly not the best I’ve ever had.
On my second visit, my girlfriend and I tried much of the same as I had the first time, but I can’t remember now whether I was feeling unadventurous, or if it was because nothing else particularly grabbed me. However, my girlfriend did try a courgette fritter, some crispy sweet potato and a salad of beetroot and quinoa:
As you can see from my plate, it was almost exactly the same as the first time, except I tried the mozzarella arancini as well:
Sadly, on this occasion, basic mistakes had been made in the cooking of some of the vegetables. I had two slices of aubergine, and parts of the larger piece were still raw. Moreover, when my girlfriend bit into her courgette fritter, she discovered it hadn’t been cooked at all. When she pointed this out to the waiter, he was quick to apologise and let her replace it with something else, but it wasn’t a pleasant to experience a mouthful of raw flour. The arancini were good, however, but then a deep-fried ball of rice and cheese is usually going to taste pretty great.
On each of my visits, both of my dining companions decided to try the seitan ‘ribs’. Seitan is wheat gluten and a common meat alternative, though as I’ve never heard great things about it, I decided to pass. Given that neither managed more than a mouthful, I continue to feel like I haven’t missed out on anything!
The average for each plate came to between £10 and £11, which isn’t particularly expensive for the location, and I know I mind less about spending a bit more if I can choose exactly what I want and how much I want. For quality vegetarian food I would be happy to pay that much if everything was cooked flawlessly, but there were mistakes on both occasions, and you just can’t serve raw food. Also, given that a number of dishes are left out on the tables for a long time, the temperature can be quite uneven, and you might end up eating food that is tepid instead of hot.
Ethos Foods hasn’t been open that long, so perhaps they’re still refining their methods in the first few months. I’d like to say I’ll go back, as it’s very conveniently located, healthy and vegetarian, but I would have to be confident that the cooking was free from the simple errors made on the two occasions I visited.
Categories: Food & Drink