I am a vegetarian, but I don’t think I have ever been to a restaurant entirely devoted to vegetarian food. Something about just seems a little too, well, vegetarian. Luckily I have found Tibits, a funky, modern veggie restaurant that crashes through any hemp-wearing sterotypes.
Tibits is a Swiss chain, which launched in Switzerland under the watchful eye of Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant (founded in 1898). They opened in London last October and I honestly don’t know why it’s taken me so long to find them.
“But I’m a carnivore!” I hear you cry. Perhaps the fact that vegetarians live on average 3.6 years longer than their meat-eating friends, have a lower risk of diabetes and cancer, and weigh up to 15% less might persuade you. The UN also estimates that meat production contributes 18% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Still not convinced. Try the food at Tibits. You’ll barely notice you’re eating your five a day.
The concept is simple, vegetarian food is healthy, and can be delicious – no bean sprout, hemp sandwiches here. At Tibits, you can eat as much or as little of it as you want by loading your plate up at the Food Boat. This is essentially a buffet, but get rid of any images you might have of wilting salad and luke-warm dishes, everything is made freshly that day, and only small amounts are put out at any one time. There are cold dishes, which change seasonally, and hot dishes which change daily. Think of it like tapas… You can either load up on your favourites, or go for smaller portions of everything – if you can fit it onto your plate. Once you’ve chosen your selection, it is weighed at the counter and you pay. Prices are pretty reasonable, with the average price of a dinner plate £8-10 (depending on your appetite) and lunch about £6-9. Of course you can have as little as you like, so if you jut want a snack, it’ll cost you less.
Not everything at the food boat was pretty (one of our favourite dishes, some deliciously tangy dried beans, looked like desiccated worms), but everything was really tasty. So tasty in fact, that we had to go back for a second plate to try anything we’d missed the first time – and perhaps just a tiny bit more of that delicious linguine with courgette strips and orange sauce… Despite, being a vegetarian, I was a little put off by the amount of dishes involving grains such a quinoa, bulgar wheat etc, but after trying one or two (in the name of journalism of course!) I was converted. I’m not sure whether some of my more carnivorous friends would have been so easily won over, but there were plenty of recognisible recipes to keep them satisfied: spinach quiche, Thai-style salad, onion rings and breadcrumbed jalepenos with sour cream, and lots of pasta and salad options.
As well as being good for the customers, Tibits also tries to make its food good for the planet. Ingredients are organic where possible, although taste is first priority, and sourced locally from the Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market – except speciality items that have to come from their country of origin. Even the drinks are in on the Tibits trends: plenty of freshly made juices with no additives, and a special dark Purity lager that was created with Tibits in mind.
The décor is quite funky and youthful: dark industrial piping on the ceiling contrasting with pretty, modern country-house style flocked wallpapers in bright colours. It feels contemporary, and they refresh it every two years to keep it that way. It also feels pretty spacious, partly due to the fact that the walls are almost all window and there’s extensive outside seating, but even when full we were assured that the noise-absorbing ceiling means you can still hear yourself think. Which is good, because there are a lot of serious decisions to make at the Food Boat.
If it were busy, it might be slightly tiresome having to wait to serve yourself and then wait to have your plate weighed, but I think I’d forget that as soon as I tucked in. If you really can’t face queuing every time you want a drink, you can set up a tab, which entitles you to table service for drinks and coffees. There were a real mixture of diners, from business people to die-hard-hippies, and apparently in Switzerland 80% of guests are non-vegetarian. I went with a meat-eating friend, who was back at the Boat for seconds with no qualms.
So next time you need a post-shopping pick-me-up, embrace your inner flexitarian and indulge in some delicious, healthy, veggie cuisine.Tibits 12-14 Heddon Street off Regent Street London W1B 4DA