Manna 1

4 Erskine Road , London, NW3 3AJ

  • Manna
  • Manna

SquareMeal Review of Manna

This veteran vegetarian restaurant recently decided to take its socio-ecological ideals one step further & become completely vegan. Fortunately, the decision doesn’t seem to have hindered the kitchen, which still provides ‘the innovation and inspiration that is hoped for in vegetarian/vegan restaurants’. Even carnivores cheer the bountiful menu that brims with salads and pastas alongside Indonesian tofu satay, spicy potato cakes with coriander chutney, and long-standing favourite fennel and pumpkin-seed bangers with red-wine jus. Ambrosial puds include ice creams (made with nut milks) and a dreamy chocolate almond torte with raspberry and cranberry coulis. To drink, choose from a surprisingly well-priced list of vegan, biodynamic and organic wines. Downsides? The ‘rookie’ service can be clumsy, and the decor could do with a bit of a brush-up.

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5.5

Food & Drink: 6.5

Service: 4.3

Atmosphere: 6.3

Value: 5.5

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 2.0

Alice G. bronze reviewer 08 June 2010

Bless this place – I get what they're trying to do, it just hasn't quite come off. Both of my parents are veggies so when they're down in London – it's nice to go to somewhere that can serve them decent veggie grub. This place definitely does that, and I guess that's the most important thing. But the staff, service and surroundings really lets it down. The tofu starter was to die for and the veggie sausages and mash were so tasty and didn't seem too fatty. We had to wait about 50 mins for our main courses and then they committed the mother of all sins by bringing one dish and no more for a further 10 mins! This isn't acceptable for a place that is obviously very popular. The staff were quite rude and unapologetic so my father decided to ask to take the 12.5% (are they kidding) service charge off. At which point, the manager came over and apologised – too little too late. Get your act together – we need decent veggie restaurants!!

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 3.0

Mitzie8cake platinum reviewer 26 April 2010

On first impressions Manna comes across very much like a cosy neighbourhood local and based on most of the custom on the night we visited, it is. But there are hints of something a little more refined that comforted me in this out of the way visit. The menu provides ample choice of world cuisines and you get the feeling these dishes are going to be big and hearty with skillful cooking and presentation. To put it into context; This isn’t claiming to be Michelin standard but neither is it a hippie start up. But this in-between status and the fact that Manna has been going for 40 or so years, does create confusion and is visible in the décor and service too. For example, it is a well designed and thoughtfully decorated venture, however service is slack to the point of pitiful regret. After waiting 25 minutes for our drinks order we decided our wait had to come to an end and managed to flag down the hapless waiter to get our night going. The same waiter then went on to make a series of rookie mistakes; forgetting drinks, being incapable of remembering the two specials on the menu (throughout the night across all tables, no less!), not checking to see if all was ok once dishes were delivered, failing to deliver cutlery with dishes… I could go on but the I'd be doing the food injustice. The dishes were luckily delivered in good time and went some way to make up for the above. Food was homely but with a touch of elegance and the stars of the night were the cleverly matched ingredients that went on to form seasonal and inspiring dishes. Starter of vegetable samosas and a hearty dish of fennel and pumpkin seed sausages served with spring mash, broccoli and red wine and thyme jus were perfect for a Sunday night meal. Fellow diners were equally impressed with their unusual yet winning combinations, including Tortellini with vegetables, green pea and coconut sauce. In many ways Manna is a living example of the innovation and inspiration that can be found and is hoped for in vegetarian dishes across all restaurants. But annoyingly, the presence of the proverbial nut roast, contradicting interiors and haphazard service all create impressions of a minority cuisine. This is a shame, as I know for a fact it isn’t.

Food & Drink: 0.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 0.0

Max25 10 May 2009

It's inconceivable that this restaurant is a bastion of vegetarian eating. Frankly the food we had last night tasted like it had been made by committed carnivores forced to reluctantly serve up some non-meat dishes. While the atmosphere is rather sleek and sophisticated (certainly versus your average expectation of a vegetarian restaurant), the food was an all round catastrophe – korma that was nothing more than two carrots and a few sad bits of cauliflower in a sea of coconut milk; dry, tough, organic vegetable bangers that defied identification, let alone eating, risotto cakes with crusts on them that tasted like they'd been made 3 days ago and heated up… all inexcusable for a restaurant priding itself on vegetarian food. Add to this soulless starters to begin, and the worst excuse for a fruit crumble I have ever tasted (surely there's nothing in a crumble that warrants a vegetarian version being inedibly awful…?), together with largely indifferent service and I have to say it's one of the worst meals I have ever had in a restaurant, vegetarian or otherwise. Visit at your own risk.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Richard M. 26 February 2009

Prone, as I am, to flights of fancy, I thought I'd share my latest one with you. It's July 1994 in London; ‘the recession’ is the name of a night-club in Wigan and Apple Mac make ‘word-processors’ for soccer-moms and dentists. I own a small factory which produces 35 different scents of joss stick; needless to say, I'm in the money. I have no family, a butt-load of (rich) friends, a big white house in Primrose Hill, and hair like Hugh Grant. Every day at 12.30 PM, after a hard day's work, I slip on my Reebok classics and squeek down the street to Manna; my favourite restaurant. I always dine alone at the same, beautifully dressed table by the window and the staff know me as “Bread-and-olives-upon-arrival-man” or “B&O” for short (a name I would repudiate if it weren't a symbol of familiarity). Despite their constantly shifting menu, Kate (the waitress with glitter on her eyes and chop-sticks in her hair) knows just what I want; I don't even open the menu. She asks me if I'd like to try their new Sauvignon Blanc while she scribbles ‘bean chimichanga w/ blackened tomato sauce and avocado mango salsa’. I smile – the ‘Hello Kitty’ head on the end of her pencil does the nodding for me. As with the day before, the food is spot-on. The chimichanga battles in my mouth and mind with a North American high school cafeteria, but it's no contest; the cafeteria is battered by explosion after explosion of powerful, accurate taste missiles and is left waving a white hair net from behind a plastic tray. The blackened tomato sauce tastes like someone took all the tomatoes in the world, blitzed them and simmered them in a pan for a million years until all that remained was the most tomato-y tablespoon of anything that has ever existed ever. My portion is never pretentiously small nor disconcertingly large and as I finish my glass of wine I thank God for joss sticks. In my parallel universe, Manna is already a veteran of the Primrose Hill foodie scene as it perpetually redefines what it is to be a vegetarian restaurant. Just like fellow resident 90's Kate Moss, the restaurant is quietly breathtaking, it easily impresses without shouting or preaching (or appearing in every magazine, mobile phone advert or publicity campaign under the sun). I settle the perfectly reasonably priced bill (for food of that standard I'd sell my Nokia 3315) and head for the door. And then, as quickly as that, I'm forced from my blissful reverie and back into the real world. The world where I am permitted to visit the truly magnificent Manna only once a year, as a special birthday treat. This year I'm going to wear hair mascara and tell the waiter the food was “buzzin”.

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