New Experiences: A Vegetarian Thanksgiving in London
It’s no secret that a well-roasted turkey is the cornerstone of any good Thanksgiving meal. When done right, turkey is succulent, seasoned well and has perfectly browned skin. It’s the main highlight (with full credits going to the head chef, of course), and always easily complimented with roasted vegetables, boats of gravy and piles of mashed potatoes. (Can you pass the regular and sweet variety, please?) But what happens when you take meat out of the equation? Can you really enjoy the North American holiday without drowning everything in gravy? Is it possible outside of North America? This meat-eater would soon find out. I was recently invited to a vegetarian Thanksgiving event hosted by ETHOS, exactly a week before American Thanksgiving (the Canadian version takes place in October). ETHOS is a meat-free, self-service restaurant that operates on a pay-by-weight system during its lunch and dinner hours, and a fuller table service during the evenings. Located in Central London and minutes away from Oxford Circus, the restaurant offers a long list of options for those with dietary restrictions such as vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. The first things you notice when you walk into ETHOS are the trees. They’re are right in the middle of the restaurant with the trunks stretching from the floor to the ceiling with autumnal leaves hanging off the braches. The trees add to ETHOS woodsy environment and compliment the cool marble tabletops. My friend and I were instantly offered glasses of bubbly which I gladly accepted. My friend opted for a bottle of organic cold-pressed juice made of almonds, coconut water, dates, fresh vanilla bean, salt, and to give it the festive Thanksgiving kick, pumpkin spices, pumpkin puree, and maple syrup. It tasted like sweet milk with spices or, as my friend put it, a little like eggnog but much, much better. The bartender recommended adding vodka to the juice, which I took him up on later in the night and was pleasantly surprised.
With drinks in hand, we found ourselves a table and like hungry vultures, took turns circling the marble tables covered in petite dishes filled with cold food selections. We to will waiters carrying plates of amuse-bouche over to our little corner with our non-existent telekinetic powers. Needless to say, it only worked about 10 per cent of the time. We ended up grabbing bowls of hummus, guacamole and some sort of beet mash paired with little triangles of pita.
What we did like were the scotch eggs, a butternut squash, feta and spinach dish, and a broccoli and butternut squash combo. Admittedly, while they were all tasty on their own but looking back, another dish with a little bit more crunch would’ve been a nice contrast. Another stand out was what I believe is a pumpkin spice mini-cupcake and a matcha flavoured cheesecake. I wish I grabbed more of those and less of the overly sweet minced pies.
Overall, ETHOS made a good argument for a more vegetarian/vegan friendly Thanksgiving. While it was not enough to sway this turkey fan, it has encouraged me to seek out healthier options while out and about in London.