Friday, 17 May 2013

food for thought - review

Whenever I see out-of-town families and couples alike seated in the window booths of a depressing Garfunkel’s, a desperate Angus Aberdeen Steakhouse or a dejected Frankie and Benny’s, all strategically situated in the tourist hotspots of London town to coax over-stimulated and disorientated visitors into their dull and uninspiring interiors by means of familiarity in both brand and menu, my being gives way to a full body shudder.

These faces often read despair – mine would too if I had just paid £10 for southern fried chicken strips slightly more moist than cardboard but with the same flavour
Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Charing Cross Road, Oxford Street are just a few of the areas littered with these and other equally vapid excuses for eateries – the footfall fodder of the culinary world. 

It is only the threat of police intervention that stops me from marching into these establishments, throwing Dad’s tough-as-old-boots steak to the ground, grabbing Mum by the shoulders in front of wide-eyed children frozen mid face-stuff with limp and greasy chips in their hands, screaming ‘But why? WHY are you here?! There are so many, SO many better places to eat than here. You’re in London - one of the culinary capitals of the world! Take a side street, venture into the realms of a new cuisine, an unfamiliar name above the door. You never know, you might ENJOY it’.

that most incredible aubergine dish

But I do understand that it must be hard to resist the calls from such establishments when you’ve been on your feet all day, the kids are hungry and whining, and you only have one hour before the show starts. 

There isn’t really time to wander round, working out where might be good or different that won’t blow the bank. This is central London after all - everything here must be expensive unless it’s a McDonald’s or Subway, right? Wrong. 

I introduce to you somewhere slap bang in the middle of Covent Garden, where you don’t need to book a table, where the food is both healthy and off the scale delicious, where they welcome BYO with no corkage charge (one for you Mums and Dads), and where you can fill your boots for under £8 per head. I present to you, Food for Thought.
inside Food for Thought

My regular London Cheap Eats companion (Aarti) suggested we try this place to see if it would make the grade in the form of a blog entry. It’s a place I’ve failed to notice or hear about before, yet after some research it turns out it’s been reviewed highly and has been established in the same location for around 40 years. I’m already excited.  

Food for Thought is an eatery where the focus is on fresh food and a friendly service – ‘simple decor of pine tables, stools and whitewashed walls, enlivened by original artwork’. It’s also located in an 18th century listed building where the low seating alcoves were once used for ripening bananas, apparently. 

The menu is vegetarian (don’t wince – this is at absolutely no detriment to any flavour let me assure you), changes daily (while the prices stay the same) and is as fresh as it gets. The format is a two floored establishment – the ground floor has a few window stools and a take-away service counter while down the stairs you’ll find the main seating area, still cosy in its proportions. 

Once the stairs have been descended, you take a look at the menu and order what you fancy, pay with cash, then take a seat. You may well end up sharing a table as you cosy on up with your neighbour, but who cares. We felt it all added to the charm and atmosphere of the place.

Both myself and Aarti ordered the same hot dish out of three options (all options £5) – it was soft baked aubergine with chunky slices of fennel, courgettes, and puy lentils, coated in a wonderful yoghurt and dill sauce, topped with large croutons intense with the flavour of olives, with melted and then hardened savoury bites of cheese. 

I can’t tell you how completely gorgeous this was – all I was reading from it was the love, effort and consideration that had been put into both the design of this dish, and its execution. I am determined to replicate it at home. And I was almost certain I didn’t even like fennel – I'm not so certain now. I would take a tube ride from Clapham Common to Covent Garden after a long day at work just to eat this aubergine dish, it was that good. 

On the day of writing this up, some of the ‘hot dishes’ options include Jamaican black bean pot in a medium spicy coconut and tomato sauce, and butter bean and asparagus primavera in a yoghurt and sour cream sauce. These both read as things I would happily devour. And don’t forget this menu changes every day – what joy.

With my aubergine dish I intended to order a couple of slices of the freshly baked bread which was mushroom and sage on the day we visited, but they had alas run out. I can only imagine it was equally superb – must get there earlier next time. Instead I ordered a bowl of brown rice (£1.20) and a portion of Greek yoghurt (30p) to accompany my main. 

Interestingly enough, the yoghurt was not charged for and the rice was only charged at £1, different to what the menu stated. I of course was not complaining. Also available on the menu is the soup of the day, quiches of the day, an array of homemade salads, a daily evening special, brownies, flapjacks, desserts and scones. And the scones are certainly something to write home about. 

My companion opted for that day’s savoury scone (£1.80) to accompany her aubergine, one with rosemary and cheese. I chose to have their other scone offering as a dessert, a fresh strawberry scone (£1.80). Both were almost the size of a side plate on their own and in particular, the latter was completely sublime. Buttery but light, not too sweet, a wonderful melt-in-the-mouth texture, and punctuated with fresh strawberries.

a quite wonderful fresh strawberry scone
Glass tumblers are continuously washed and placed on a drainer by a member of staff behind a large sink and are used for both the table water already present and any BYO that may have accompanied you

The food is served in and on quite lovely and weighty earthenware crockery.  We arrived at about 18.15 and had to hover around the ordering counter for just a handful of minutes before a couple of stools made themselves available - tables cannot be reserved. As time moved on, the seats started to empty out further, with a little flurry of clientèle just before last orders at 20.00. 

After devouring our hearty and life-affirming meals, swiftly emptying a bottle of very drinkable Beaujolais purchased from the M&S round the corner, and enjoying great conversation, my companion and I were quite far beyond the realms of mere satiety and were positively basking in the after-glow of a fantastic meal that barely brushed past our purses. The guilt of our consciences foreseeing the imminent descent into cocktails was at least slightly abated by the goodness that lined our stomachs and with bellies full, our night was yet young.

Next time you are in town for shopping, a show, seeing the sights or simply with an agenda to meander, I strongly urge you to try out Food for Thought. I have no doubts you will thoroughly enjoy it and return for more, as will I.

Liked lots - food, atmosphere, location, clientèle, staff, price, BYO, almost everything
Liked less - they had run out of incredible sounding bread - sad face :(

Good for - couples - wait for a private corner to free up, take in a bottle of wine and get cosy; spontaneity - no need to book a table; small groups; students; catching up; vegetarians and meat-eaters alike; hippies; the gut; the wallet

The bill

aubergine & yoghurt bake £5.00
brown rice £1.20 (but was charged £1.00)
fresh strawberry scone £1.80
Total £8.00*

*NB Also ordered Greek yoghurt £0.30 (but was not charged)

aubergine & yoghurt bake £5.00
rosemary and cheese scone £1.80
Total £6.80

Afiyet olsun.

Food For Thought on Urbanspoon


  1. As a vegetarian, a regular disappointment I face when dining out is to come away from an eatery truly satisfied. All too often I have to settle for the only vegetarian option on the menu which is all too often goats cheese-centric- yuk!

    When I stumbled upon Food For Thought, my immediate thought was “definitely persuade Leyla to add this venue to her diary”.

    From the day we scheduled this venue in, to the day we ate there, the menu changed daily- assurance that the food we were going to eat would be fresh. The food was served in rustic crockery, which we ate at shared tables with strangers.
    The one thing that the dishes exuded was LOVE. The food has been cooked from the heart and that undeniably came through.

    Even if you are not a vegetarian, do try this restaurant- the casual ambiance, the location, the hearty food, the cheap prices and of course BYOB- why would you not?!

  2. Leyla!

    This is surreal - I came online to find the websites/reviews for this restaurant to send on to a friend and here I find your website. (I don't know whether you remember me, my name is/was Hayley Weston and I was in your A-Level physics class).

    Fantastic website though and a great review of one of my favourite places to stop and eat when I'm anywhere near this part of London. Always a great atmosphere of people enjoying their food and (especially) with the rotating menu I could eat here every week.

    Anyway, once again, fantastic website! Hope you're well.


    PS Your comment above re. people finding it hard to resist the pull of well-below-par restaurant chains and giving in to whining children shouldn't be an excuse - my 10-month old daughter sat on our laps and ABSOLUTELY DEVOURED the food we ordered here. Kids (and babies) can love it too!


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