One of London’s most innovative and long-standing vegetarian restaurants has announced it will close permanently as a result of the impact caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Owners Andrew Dargue and Donna Conroy said that Vanilla Black, a small independent restaurant, which opened 16 years ago at 17-18 Took’s Court in Holborn, could not operate in a financially viable way in the aftermath of COVID-19. Its central London location is reliant on office workers who have not returned in the numbers pre-pandemic.
Dargue wrote on Twitter that “as a direct side effect of Covid-19 we are deeply saddened to announce that we are unable to see a financially viable way to re open Vanilla Black on it’s [sic] current site.” He added that the “effects of the last few months have been immensely devastating.”
The owners added that they did not see this “as the end” of what was described as a “mission to create innovative vegetarian and vegan cuisine,” adding that the chef would “return in the near future with a new and exciting venture.”
In a guide to the best vegetarian restaurants in London, Sejal Sukhadwala wrote that Vanilla Black was not just among the most innovative places to eat in London, but “one of the most unusual, interesting and exciting meat-free venues in the world.”
This elegant, minimalist restaurant near Chancery Lane is London’s smartest vegetarian. More than that, it’s one of the most unusual, interesting and exciting meat-free venues in the world. It marries molecular gastronomy techniques with classic French fine dining, a quirky English sensibility and exceptional ingredients — including some grown on-site using state-of-the-art technology. It doesn’t hide behind the comforting clichés of pastas, quiches and meat substitutes; instead taking inspiration from fresh individual vegetables, sometimes lesser-known, unloved ones. Not everyone will get dishes such as whipped creamy, unctuous Londonshire from Wildes Cheese served with cracker-like squares of dehydrated Branston pickle ‘toffee’ and celery and lovage jam – but those who do, are in for a treat.
Sukhadwala wrote on Twitter yesterday that “Vanilla Black was the 1st restaurant in whole of UK to really push the envelope for vegetarian food. I took lot of friends, family members, editors, colleagues & visitors from abroad over the years. I’ll miss it desperately, but good luck & can’t wait to see what comes next.”
Elsewhere, Guardian food writer Tony Naylor paid tribute, noting: “If you know, you know etc. VB was an outlying envelope-pusher back when the idea of ambitious, creative vegetarian cooking was still seen as an amusing novelty. Hope they land right.”
Read more about the London restaurants which have closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.