So you’ve never been to… Manna, Primrose Hill

Has the oldest plant-based restaurant in London still got it?

Age: Well over fifty. This is not only one of London’s, but one of Europe’s longest-standing plant-based establishments. A remarkable achievement, in fact.

Where exactly is it? Tucked away off Regent’s Park Road in Primrose Hill. Where it’s always been.

What goes on there? For around forty years it was vegetarian, before going fully vegan in 2010. Yep, that’s about half a decade before everyone else did.

To eat? We enjoyed the food, but the colourful menu descriptions don’t quite match how it actually looks. Four of us shared a mezze platter, choosing three different combos: an okayish buffalo cauliflower tostada with refried black beans and cashew sour cream, vegetable tempura with a rather bland sweet chilli sauce, and cashew cheese croquettes – not quite the hoped-for flavourbomb.

Mezze platter. Photos: Manna

Surely the ‘raw’ tacos hit the mark? Yep, they were decent – lettuce leaf “shells” with sunflower seed ‘chorizo’, carrot salsa and another dollop of cashew nut sour cream. But overall, the mezze was a tad retro, and may prove something of a shock to those more familiar with the offerings of the next-wave vegan stalls in Camden Market.

And mains? Very generous portions indeed, rendering the starters (at £8 a head, not cheap) almost redundant. Each of our party struggled to finish their dish, especially a mammoth, tasty £16 mushroom and pea risotto strudel (rice and pastry!), which straddled an intimidating mound of greens and roasted tomatoes. At least we imagine the chefs want to make sure you don’t leave hungry or feel ripped off; there’s no question of that, anyway.

The interior: discuss. It’s a simple, low-ceilinged room which looks fairly unchanged over the decades. That’s part of its charm too, of course.

And what do I drink? The vegan wine list is good; we supped on both prosecco and Beaujolais.

How’s the service? Ridiculously lovely. We really liked our friendly waitress, and the atmosphere in the restaurant was upbeat. Overall, a warm experience.

Do say: ‘I’ll dive straight in and have a main’.

Don’t say: ‘Where’s Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner?’

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Manna is open daily for lunch and dinner, 4 Erskine Rd NW3, more here.

Main image: Manna

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