Four carnivores walk into a vegan restaurant…
When I was asked to review Kensal’s latest restaurant opening Comptoir V with my other half and two kids (aged two & nine), it was met with some trepidation. The only contribution my eldest made in hearing about Veganism as a concept was “why would you want to do that to yourself?” This was going to be interesting…
Opened just over two months ago just in time for the Vegan boom that was Veganuary, Comptoir V (V standing for ‘Vegan’) is the sister restaurant of the popular local haunt Comptoir Mezze. The vision of its vegan advocate owners Anwar Cherquaoui and Sa’ed Kazmi was to provide high quality food that isn’t compromised by the omission of meat and dairy or the inclusion of processed meat alternatives.
Tucked away from the main hustle and bustle of Chamberlayne Road and opposite the main entrance of Kensal Rise station, the restaurant looks cosy and inviting. The décor is distinctly Moroccan with cushioned bench style seating, dim lighting, gold gilt tables and mini cacti. A walled seating area sits outside the front, which is sure to be popular when the warmer weather arrives and the windows are opened up.
Interior of Comptoir V
As it was such a cold mid-afternoon when visiting, we went straight in for Mint Tea, but on a more adventurous day we could have opted for one of their interesting sounding Lattes – such as Beetroot & Coconut or Matcha, Ginger & Ginseng, or even one of the delicious sounding cocktails.
Upon the recommendation of our attentive and knowledgable waitress Anna, we opted for a selection of starters including Falafel, Carrot Smash, Aubergine Zaalock, Beetroot Humous and Dynamite Shrimp – all served alongside Pitta Bread in a Fez which made for a great talking point.
The Carrot Smash was lightly spiced with hints of cumin and cinnamon; the Falafels (nicely laced with coriander) were crisp on the outside and wonderfully smooth and light on the inside – whilst the Aubergine Zaalock was both sumptuously smokey and spicy. The beetroot humous drizzled with olive oil and topped with poppy seeds deserves a special mention as it was so deliciously morish and eye popping in colour that I’m even planning to replicate it at home. The Dynamite Shrimp was a really interesting component of the starter dishes as it was surprisingly made from tofu, potato and kelp and it not only had the same shape as shrimp but also had the same taste and texture; topping it off with a mouth-watering Malaysian Satay sauce ultimately made for a really great dish.
Our main course was just as varied, consisting of Roast Pepper Parmesan ‘meatball’ Tagine (for me), the Aunty Esi – a roti style Caribbean curried chickpea dish with Moroccan Ghife bread (for him) and sweet, crisp potato fries and Mac & Cheese for the kids.
The tagine had a velvety richness due to its Shakshooka base of roasted peppers and spicy tomato sauce whilst the courgette, mushroom and kidney bean ‘meatballs’ were a touch softer in texture than I would have expected but delicious nonetheless.
The Aunty Esi was very tasty although it contained a lot of chickpeas for one person, and with a strong presence of cumin, it could have benefitted from some yogurt style raita to cool it down – but the accompanying Moroccan bread was so deliciously crispy that we had to order more.
We always knew a Vegan restaurant would be a hard sell for the kids, but thankfully our youngest couldn’t get enough of the starter falafels, and the restaurant kindly made some lovely fresh chickpea humous for our eldest who was a little harder to please. This was thankfully inhaled by both the kids! Their Mac & Cheese main course however was the only disappointing dish on the menu, probably because the kids’ expectations or receiving the more traditional creamy, cheesy dish that they are used to couldn’t be delivered (for obvious reasons due to the lack of cheese and cream). I would suggest it coming off the menu and keeping to the Middle Eastern inspired dishes that they do so well.
Despite being rather full, we couldn’t resist going in for dessert, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that both the Banana and Date Crumble and the Moroccan pancakes with ice cream were free of refined sugar yet didn’t compromise on taste in the least. The crumble was light, perfectly sweet with decent chunks of banana and dates and was served with a rich caramel custard. The crumble topping could have been a bit crispier to add to the texture but it’s a minor flaw. The Moroccan pancake was however the winning dessert – filled with an almond caramel paste and topped with agave syrup, soya ice cream and chopped nuts – it was simply delicious!
Overall, we really enjoyed our visit, and think Anwar and Sa’ed have accomplished their goal of providing high quality vegan food without compromising on flavour. We are really looking forward to coming in again, and perhaps next time we will opt for an evening meal without the kids to enjoy the intimate surroundings – and the cocktails!
We may have entered true carnivores but we certainly left more open to trying alternatives (well three of us anyway).
1 Keslake Mansions
12 Station Terrace
London NW10 5RU
Tel: 020 3092 0047