Ceremony: hot new vegetarian restaurant open on Fortess Rd

Decadent dishes and dynamic cocktails – this ain’t your standard veggie joint

The former Fortess Tandoori, now reborn as Ceremony. All photos: Matthew Robertson
The latest addition to Tufnell Park’s increasingly varied food landscape – Ceremony – is a mostly plant-based restaurant complete with killer cocktail bar, which has just soft launched on Fortess Road, (it’s fully open from next week).

“We serve vegetarian food that’s not trying to be good for you,” says owner Ali, “it’s just meant to be delicious.”

She, and husband/business partner Joe hit upon their concept to serve up the kind of veggie fare American-born Ail grew up with back in New York, but failed to unearth in London, even after putting down permanent roots in NW5 years ago.

Bright, airy and Scandi: the interior at Ceremony NW5

“You’ve got your Mildreds and your Mannas,” she says, of the city’s finer veg specialists, “but we wanted to play down the vegetarianism and just be a place for excellent food and a really good time, regardless of the fact the menu happens to involve no meat.”

With increasingly debauched vegan streetfood creations dominating the media right now, it’s fair to say the couple are already riding atop the crest of the meat-free zeitgeist.

That’s no surprise though, as they are both seasoned hospitality pros. Joe runs his own drinks and events consultancy, having previously worked as a bartender around the world and London, including stints at Milk & Honey, Trailer Happiness and more. Meanwhile Ali is the creative director of London Beer week for Drinkup.london, having previously worked for Belvedere Vodka and in bars and restaurants all over the US.

All of which hints towards some fairly decent booze alongside the food, and a strong new outpost for Kentish Town’s burgeoning cocktail quarter, as we’ve come to call it.

Ceremony signature dish: Raw veggies with Romesco
For 36 years, neighbourhood takeaway Fortess Tandori knocked out the aloos, jalfrezis and vindaloos on this site. But with the retirement of the family, the takeaway, located right around the corner from Ali and Joe’s own home, became available.

“We’d been looking for a site and really wanted to be on Fortess Road, but never considered the takeaway as it seemed so small,” Joe tells us. However when they looked around inside, they soon realised the footprint of the property went back – way back.

“We found that there was actually enough room for seating 40 people,” he says, “and there was a huge garden that was completely overgrown, with things like piles of discarded washing machine motors in the undergrowth. When we cleared it all out, we couldn’t believe the size of the outdoor space.”

And that’s how their fledgling restaurant gained it’s very own on-site herb and vegetable garden. Working with local gardening experts Of Butterflies and Bees, they developed the space with planters, so daily dishes on the menu will contain produce of extremely local provenance.

1. Crispy duck egg with wild mushrooms and wet polenta. 2. Pappardelle with pea and celeriac
Sourcing locally is, of course, high on the agenda throughout the menu, so expect bread from neighbouring Spence Bakery and ice cream from Ruby Violet, too.

With an Instagram account that’s been previewing dishes like grilled aubergine with smoked yogurt, and a hazelnut and rosemary risotto from chef Kinga Jablonka, (her CV including Marylebone’s Michelin starred Dinings and D&D’s Fish Market), we’d wager Ceremony is about to be as much of a destination joint as a neighbourhood one.

Fortunately, counter seats at the cocktail bar will always be available for walk-in customers, so no need to act like territorial carnivores.

This is box title
Ceremony, 131 Fortess Rd, NW5 2HP, official opening on September 19th, closed Mondays

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