RESTAURANT REVIEW Stem and Glory, London
Tucked away in an airy, open square not far from St Paul’s Cathedral and the Barbican is one of London’s newest vegan restaurants. Stem and Glory, which opened in January 2019, is a long way from its unpretentious roots on top of a small yoga studio a 15-minute walk from the centre of Cambridge.
When I first ate in that original branch four years ago, the service was friendly, if a smidgen shambolic, the food was variable, and the decor minimalistic. Its heart was definitely in the right place though, and the timing was perfect for the thriving plant-based market.
A few years later, the owners raised more than £600,000 on Crowdcube and opened its new flagship restaurant in Barts Square; the irony of its position around the corner from Smithfield – the UK’s largest wholesale meat market – is hard to miss.
But I love the setting. The area is large and spacious and a mix of 19th century and modern architecture. The restaurant itself has a light, open feel inside it. There is a reasonably large seating area outside, with a superb, if paradoxical, view of Butchers’ Hall directly opposite. The service, meanwhile, has been reliably friendly and efficient.
The menu consists of around six small plates or starters, ten main meals and a handful of desserts. There’s a burger and chips option, which my companion really enjoyed. Not an adventurous eater, he was a little nervous of the fermented cucumber beforehand, but said it added a really pleasant crunch to the whole thing.
I’ve been there several times recently and have tended to stick with the flavour-rich swede gnocchi. The combination of velvety “gorgonzola” sauce and crisp walnuts is a delight. I’ve heard good things about the baked tofu yakitori, and on my last visit tried the katsu. I’m going to return to the tried-and-tested gnocchi next time, as it lacked the umami punch I was hoping for.
I’d also be keen to try one of their super-healthy option lunch bowls on a future visit, if I could overcome the feeling that I might be left hungry at the end of it. The portions in general aren’t over-generous, although this does always leave room for dessert.
Speaking of which, I’ve tried the cheesecake, the sticky toffee pudding and the fudge brownie sundae – all old staples that didn’t disappoint in terms of gooeyness and flavour. I’ve also sampled a couple of their excellent cocktails.
Stem and Glory is a great addition to London’s growing array of vegan eateries, both for its food and the chance to visit the area around it.