Manna restaurant review, or pudding from heaven
It was my birthday a few weeks back. And I know what I'd like you to give me as a present: your forgiveness for the general low-rent quality of the snaps I took at Manna.
My gran bunged me a few quid at Christmas and told me to take my other half out for a nice meal somewhere. I waited a few weeks, then happily obeyed: I'd been wanting to go to Manna for ages, but it had always seemed a bit on the expensive side. Granted, it is in London's upmarket Primrose Hill area, but still, it grates hard on a South London pocket.
After a long, boozy lunch with a friend and a few drinks with another friend (I mention that to both account for my well-disposed nature towards Manna and to explain my somewhat hazy memory of the meal), I picked up my boyfriend and headed to Manna.
One waiter described the specials with all the sweet concentration and memory lapses of a young child in a particularly taxing spelling bee, while another explained the difference between the mezze as a sharing dish and as a main course for one person: "If it's for two, we put in the centre of the table, if it's for one, we'll push it more towards you. It's the same size." Rii-iight.
We started with a bit of hummus. Hummus is like the benchmark for a vegan restaurant - the one vegan dish even omnis will be familiar with, and which is ubiquitous in its chick pea glory. Was it good? I think so. I remember the bread being tasty and the hummus being good. I don't remember much more (I blame that boozy lunch, and those drinks.)
For a main, there was a mezze platter for two: three of the starters to share (or not, if you ask them to push the plate towards you). I chose the slider, basil and (cashew) cheese croquettes, and vegetable croquettes as the threesome, with some onion rings thrown in for good measure.
The onion rings were perfectly crispy if a wee bit oily, but at £4 a dish - or £1 per onion ring - I was expecting some perfection. The Primrose Hill vegans clearly have a few quid to burn.
Luckily, the mezze had it in spades. Though my cameraphone happy snaps won't really prove it, two out of the three starters were glorious. The basil and cheese croquettes were a masterclass in vegan cheese - thick, creamy, soft - and the cannelinni bean slider not only convinced me that veggie burgers are worth ordering, it was so good one bit would be enough to talk a jumper down from a ledge. There was all the goodness you'd hope for in a top notch burger: the best vegan mayo I've ever had, pickles, salad and a reassuring chunky and flavourful burger.
The tempura was solid and the accompanying soy-based sauce compelling moreish, but were firmly in the shade of the slider and croquettes' sterling work.
At the risk of refusing to change the record, at £8 for three croquettes smaller than walnuts, I couldn't help feeling that the volume of the food was in inverse proportion to its cost (no complaints on the quality though.)
Manna does provide one money-saving option to diners by offering carafes as well as bottles of wine, but given the carafes cost around as much as bottles do elsewhere, it's a bit of a wasted effort.
Anyway, this is where I stop my carping. Behold this pudding:
It cost £8. I would have happily paid double, it was that good. Caramel sauce, pecan ice cream and a sticky toffee pudding you want to take home to meet your parents. It was pretty as a picture, insanely rich and comforting on a grim winter night, and the manna from heaven the restaurant's name suggests. So good was it, my boyfriends' 'no, no, you have it' and 'I'm really not hungry' became 'just one more spoonful...'
At these prices, I'll not be coming back often, but next time there's a special occasion, you can bet I'll be straight up to Primrose Hill. And next time, I'm not sharing!
4 Erskine Road
020 7722 8028