Manna: welcome return of a slice of food history

Thursday, 21st July — By Tom Moggach

Manna

Manna has re-opened

THERE’S a framed menu hanging above the door at Manna restaurant in Primrose Hill.

Dated around 1967, it captures the early days of this long-standing vegetarian and vegan restaurant, which was described as “europe’s earliest plant-based establishment”.

The old menu is a fascinating insight into the evolution of food fashion and vegetarian cuisine.

It lists dishes such as a Chinese omelette or cheese fondue; drinks include crème de menthe and a half bottle of Liebfraumilch.

Manna restaurant has recently re-opened under new ownership, after its closure and major structural renovations to the building during Covid lockdowns.

Right now, it’s open for brunch at the weekends, 12-5pm, with imminent plans to open again for evening dining.

They offer the Manna Full English, £15, with homemade sausage, baked beans, hash browns and a tofu scramble with baked tomatoes, grilled mushrooms and toast.

On Sundays, there is a full Sunday roast.

I last visited in 2017. Back then, an owner described the place as “a neighbourhood restaurant that just happens to vegetarian” rather than part of a strident movement.

The interior has changed since then. The conservatory has gone but there are booths for al fresco dining.

There’s a small bar on the right, majoring on British wines and spirits, such as vintages from Denbies vineyard in Surrey and Jelley’s organic vodkas.

You can buy delicatessen items, too, such as seasonal fruit juices, pastries and jams.

I visited Manna for Sunday lunch with my children, who were greeted with bottles of freshly made strawberry lemonade.

We looked at the framed prints of animals on the walls, such as a fox or a pair of pigeons.

One frame showcases a range of a quotes from on the subject of veganism. My favourite was from Pino Caruso, an Italian actor: “People eat meat and think they will become as strong as an ox, forgetting that the ox eats grass.”

The menu at Manna changes with the seasons, as they work hard to source British produce.

We started with a flatbread with garlic and vegan pepperoni and the Tug Boat – skewers of tofu and polenta with a tangle of pan-fried red peppers and cabbage.

The Sunday roast, £19.80, is a generous serving. You get a Wellington of pastry encasing slices of seitan, a meat substitute made with wheat gluten.

There are roast potatoes, a Dauphinois, carrots, broccoli, a Yorkshire pudding and cauliflower cheese.

The slices of seitan can get a little dry, so definitely needs a splash of the mushroom gravy.

Our favourite dish was the Buddha Bowl, £12.60, an umami-rich broth with noodles, scrambled tofu and beansprouts.

For pudding, we shared homemade sorbets and a cherry crumble.

The cooking at Manna was robust rather than elegant. I felt the dishes were crying out for more fresh herbs and spices.

It is fantastic to see Manna back open once again – it is a slice of food history in north London.

Manna
4 Erskine Road, NW3
To Book, email Manna@mannalondon.co.uk
or TEXT/Call on: 07788 835892
www.mannalondon.co.uk

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