Additional note: This restaurant was re-reviewed on 9th May 2010 . The quality of cooking score and the score for value for money have both gone down. QoC has fallen slightly from 3.5 to 3 (we thought the food was of a reasonable quality but did not particularly enjoy the meal). Value for money is even poorer given that we didn't enjoy the food and didn't think the portions were substantial enough to justify the prices. Service has been upgraded from the previous score of 2.5 to a much more positive 4.
Its Thursday and we've just been to a university open evening to explore the boyfriend's PhD plans. (Yes, he is a bit of a swot!!!).
There aren't many freebies except for celery sticks and cheese on offer and I'm a wee bit disappointed with the rubbish chocolate cake slice from the university cafetaria. We've walked 5 miles to get to the place and I'm not in the mood for cooking dinner. So we head to Manna, London's oldest vegetarian restaurant, and a place that I've wanted to visit for months.
We walk down the quiet streets near Primrose Hill and find the restaurant tucked away half-way up a quiet side street. For mid-week it seems quite well- attended. As we walk in, the place has a friendly yet fairly sophisticated feel to it. Our waiter is warm and courteous and we are quickly seated at a nice table towards the back of the restaurant. I look around and realise that the place blends in perfectly with both the yuppie Primrose Hill set and the village-y feel of its surroundings. It wouldn't surprise me if the models / film stars from the local Primrose Hill set thought this was a nice place to go to dinner with family or friends.
The boyfriend is engrossed in his Uni prospectus when I return from the powder room. "Would you mind if I continued reading?", he asks. I glare at him and he knows better.
My ears perk up as the two Sloaney-types seated at the next table, giggle over the merits and demerits of swinging. They laboriously discuss what effect this has on their partners...and as the waitress brings the menu one of them is astonished to find that the restaurant is vegetarian. Hee hee... Our drinks arrive and so do the menus.
The boyfriend is hungry. Our waitress is now at the next table holding forth on property prices in Primrose Hill. "Gosh, another bloody Kirsty Allsop", the boyfriend mutters (referring to the chatty host of the Channel 4 programme Location, Location). The waitress has forgotten about us and continues to chatter away. After a few false starts, we finally catch the eye of the waiter, who'd originally seated us.
The boyfriend and I order a vegetarian bangers & mash and a yam& corn fajita. (The prices are about £15 for a main and around £7 for a starter; these are definitely Primrose Hill prices).
The dishes arrive not long after, served by the waitress who now bestows her widest-ever smile on the boyfriend, who consequently forgets all his snide comments about her estate-agent-y abilities.
The bangers and mash looks yummy; its decorated with a tower of crispy onion rings and is set on a bed of kale. The sausages are fairly good and the mash is delicious, the onion rings are outstanding but the red onion and thyme jus that accompanies it tastes amazingly yuck !!!
The yam and corn fajita is nice - not particularly exceptional - but fairly well-made ; definitely needs to be less bland though, could do with a kick of some spicy sauce; the chipotle sauce that its served with does it no favours. The fajita comes with a pineapple salsa that sounds weird but tastes rather nice.
The portions are a good size though and we are fullll... We agree to share a fruit crumble for pudding. As she takes our order, I ask the smiley waitress if it contains any cinnamon which I am trying to avoid. She says she doesn't know, and will let us know. When I say I would like an extra scoop of ice-cream with the crumble, she asks which flavour. "Strawberry I say". She's distracted and replies " Oh, yes chocolate". I go , " No strawberry, please". She says, yet again " Chocolate". This goes on for a while and she finally walks away with our pudding order. A few minutes later the waiter arrives with pudding. The boyfriend and I dig in. I can smell it - its a very cinnamon-y fruit crumble. I see the boyfriend wincing " it tastes of some weird powder and has a really weird texture. " he says.
The kindly waiter comes over. I explain to him that the waitress had said she would check about the cinnamon. He is pleasant and says " Of course, we'll change that - it definitely contains cinnamon".
We hang on to the strawberry ice-cream; its devilishly delicious. I love it .. I adore it.. the cinnamon is forgiven. I've decided Manna is a good place... not the very best.. but certainly a good local...
Manna, 4, Erskine Road, London NW3 3AJ
Ph : 0207 722 8028