Angel’s Upper Street has long been celebrated as a lesser-known culinary hotspot, with quaint bistros on every corner and upmarket eateries sharing walls with cheap and cheerful chains.
Islington’s latest vegan offering brings something a little different to the scene.
Tofu Vegan is an authentic Chinese restaurant with a twist: as the name would suggest, there are no animal products in any of the dishes.
The restaurant serves meals found across various regions of China, with a focus on the breadth of options and authenticity as well as flavour.
Within the vegan community, the newly-opened spot has attracted a lot of attention and rave reviews, with many vegans travelling from across London to sample what’s on offer.
I had long been excited to try Tofu Vegan for myself, but feared my several years of strict meat avoidance would make me somewhat biased.
My dinner companion was a former vegetarian, a sympathetic but somewhat vegan-sceptical meat-eater: the perfect candidate to really put the food to the test.
To start, deep-fried tofu with salt and Sichuan pepper and, at the recommendation of our very friendly waiter, wontons in a spicy sauce.
Gong Bao ‘chicken’ with peanuts and stir-fried ‘lamb’ with cumin and chilli followed, along with Sichuan-style special fried noodles, washed down with a bottle of Tsingtao.
An indicator of a good meal is when you can’t decide what your favourite aspect is.
My friend and I changed our minds about what we liked most roughly four times respectively, with me eventually landing on the tofu starter, and her on the special fried noodles.
The Gong Bao chicken, though delicious, was the only item that didn’t make it onto our shortlist.
The combination of rich, bold flavours, large portions and protein-heavy tofu and meat alternatives mean that one thing is certain: you won’t leave Tofu Vegan hungry, and on more than one occasion we almost put our chopsticks down for good.
But, digging into the ‘lamb’ (long after admitting defeat at the portion sizes, and yet unable to resist another bite), my meat-eating companion said: “I don’t tend to go for meat replacements, I just think, ‘What’s the point?’ – but this is really, really good.”
So vegans, rejoice: this is one your meat-loving friends might just be convinced by.
My one reservation with Tofu Vegan was its prices, with starters and sides coming in at around £8 and mains falling anywhere between £7.90 and £14.80. It won’t necessarily break the bank, but it lands on the more expensive end of the spectrum compared with similar offerings such as Archway’s Loving Hut, an established all-vegan Chinese destination.
But walking out happy, full and with takeaway box in hand, I felt that in this instance, you certainly get what you pay for.