Last week saw the passing of National Vegetarian week (20th – 26th May). I have been a non meat-eater for around 15 years now, but not once have I been to a 100% vegetarian restaurant. For my first I thought I’d go to the finest, Tibits vegetarian restaurant in their London branch, ideally located just off Regent Street.
Tibits has been at this location for nearly 5 years, the brand having originated from Switzerland. I don’t naturally associate the Swiss with a wealth of vegetarian food per se, just cheese and chocolate, but then the Swiss influence on display has created a whole breadth of vegetarian options I had previously never thought of. The owner of the Tibits chain is also the owner of Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant dating back to 1898, based in Zurich.
This small chain consists of a ground-breaking concept, a focal point of a ‘food boat’, containing around 40 hot and cold dishes from around the world. Customers can create their own ideal menu from a selection of vegetarian dishes, and can choose to eat in or take away. The food is then weighed, so the customer is in complete control of how much food they order, bringing alive a ‘you get what you pay for’ mentality. At any other ‘buffet’ type restaurant it is so very easy to over-indulge, eating until you feel sick and start to fear having to use the extra notch on your belt. Plating up your food for it to be weighed is a nice way to sample the best of cuisine on offer, whilst being less inclined to cram as much as you can onto the plate, thus saving you some money, and some room for that dessert.
This large restaurant is on two levels, ground and lower ground. There is flock wallpaper and velour seat covers in greens and deep pinks, but it’s certainly not hippyish or overly ‘vegetarian’. It’s a calm, chilled environment with a relaxed vibe. There is outdoor seating in a courtyard dubbed ‘the Regent Street Food Quarter’, and several punters were just treating it as a bar. It’s less pretentious than its neighbours, and perhaps that’s what draws in the crowds – the place was buzzing on a midweek afternoon.
A warm and friendly welcome greeted us as the concept was explained and we were taken to our table. Whenever I eat out, the vegetarian option is always something around mushrooms or eggs, and I dislike both. Luckily for me, Tibits have a whole other level of imagination when it comes to diverse and delicious food. The food looked really fresh, putting other more mainstream buffets to shame. The dishes displayed a rich variety of Asian and Mediterranean influences amongst others, all with the lovely reassurance that it is healthy food, delicious and good for you. “Food that loves you back” is their slogan, and it certainly felt that way. The dishes are constantly monitored by a chef who constantly replenishes and freshens the options available throughout your visit. They obviously had high standards and pride in the food and moreover the restaurant’s presentation, as they always seemed to be checking and wiping up any spillages.
If you find eating vegetarian to be a chore, generally feeling more virtuous than enjoyable, you need to pay a visit to this Heddon Street restaurant to show you an alternative path. Tibits offers you titbits of flavour and variety, all with the promise that quality is assured and healthy food is a priority. Any myths of boring vegetarian options can be struck down with one visit to this restaurant as the food is fresh and the dishes so diverse that you’ll be hard pressed to ever find the selection lacking. The drinks are reasonably priced and the surroundings stylish. Better yet, you’ll never be hurried off your table because someone else has booked it for a later sitting, and there’s no service charge to pay. In fact, all things considered, Tibits may well be the perfect credit crunch restaurant. All in all, this is a must visit restaurant for veteran vegetarians, the curious health conscious or the plain sceptical. Expand your horizons with Tibits.