Nestled enchantingly in the railway arches of Clapham North, Fu Manchu stands out through the explosion of colour on a graffiti covered wall. The evening was off to a good start with The Meet’s stone throw proximity to the tube station providing a welcome surprise on a cold November night. It’s not just the outside of the building that stands out, but more importantly, the experience will too.
Fu Manchu really is a hidden gem; suitably located inside what can only be likened to the interior of a cave. Stepping into the dim arch passage, lit by dim lights that seem more like candles than filament bulbs, you feel sheltered from the outside chaotic atmosphere that Londoners have been forced to adapt to. It sounds quite romantic, and in a non conventional way, it is. However, a partner is not the first person I would choose to bring back here, as the atmosphere is far more electric. In fact, the diversely fun menu immediately squelches the common misconception that vegan food is “boring” and the vibrant vibe would encourage me to choose a group of friends to share this vegan food with me when I return.
Offering an extensive menu, each dish is a play on standard dishes usually created using meat. This comforting plant based versions of classics combined with exclusively vegan cocktails are part of Meet’s concept, driven by south London chef, Dominic Taylor. Former Executive Chef of The Jam Tree, Dominic Taylor has used creative cooking techniques to revamp popular millennial dishes into indulgent vegan alternatives. The Meet has opened at the right time as the simple concept of eating less meat has exploded into a full blown phenomenon. Veganism is one of the fasted growing lifestyle movements and has fully embedded itself into London’s restaurant culture. With benefits of a meat free diet ranging from improved heart health to cancer prevention, it is no surprise that Dominic himself adheres to a meat free diet.
Open daily, The Meet offers a selection of small sharing plates, burgers, late-night bites as well as offering bottomless vegan brunch and Sunday roasts on the weekend. The menu has been designed for everyone from committed vegans to experimental foodies. Early risers can enjoy a cold press juice or request the waiter to Bowl Me Over with coconut yoghurt, toasted granola topped with berries- or Avo Go garlic sourdough toast topped with crushed avocado and jalapeno spiked pico de galo.
The variety of small sharing plates resulted in a lingering waiter as my already indecisive self was spoilt for choice. As a committed carnivore I knew that the dishes would be unfamiliar to me, as such I changed my usual choosing tactics and simply opted for dishes with the most appealing name. Typically a crowd, here the trio of hummus and flat breads makes it a Party. Served with flat breads, the different hummus types on offer classic, zataar and harissa ripple, sundried tomato and basil. I also ordered the Mac & “cheese” which comes as it is, or with the option of adding “chorizo”. Next up, there’s choices between burgers and late-night bites or you can narrow down your options and choose between options from Onto Bigger Things or the Lighter Side of Life. Never being one to opt for the latter, my guest and I just about managed to reach the “end game”, the appropriately chosen label for the deserts. Topsy Turvy is an upside down cake combining the tropical flavours of pineapple and almond, topped off with a scoop of coconut ice cream. Be careful, these flavours might just take you back to that beach you were lounging on three years ago. It was not just a sweet taste in my mouth I was left with, having experienced (and enjoyed) a variety of dishes created without the conventional ingredient of meat being used, I have seriously been considering making the move to a meat free diet.
As if the vegan food options were not extensive enough, the plant-based pop-up also serves vegan cocktails and a selection of vegan wines and craft beers. Cocktails include a Rhubarb & Vanilla Custard Martini (made with Finlandia Vodka, Rhubard syrup, cashew milk & Ms Betters Miraculous Foamer).
The Meet will take place every Tuesday to Sunday at Fu Manchu as a fun-spirited addition to London’s vegan restaurant and cocktail bar scene. Open Tues-Fri 5pm-10pm and Sat-Sun 11am-9.30pm.
The Meet @ Fu Manchu, 15-16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham SW4 7UX