Saint Luke’s Table at LIBRARY is A Non-Fiction Gem

19 Jul 2019

Do forgive me for that terrible book-related joke and let's move swiftly on. Right in the heart of the West End’s scramble of humans is the unassuming-from-the-outside LIBRARY, one of London’s many private members' clubs. This one, founded in 2013, exists as an ode to London’s creatives and innovators and hails itself as a hub for like-minded folk. With literature and the arts as its catalyst, the LIBRARY is built using up-cycling and recycling while still maintaining coveted design features. Tying into this theme of heightened consciousness about how we treat the world is Saint Luke’s Table, LIBRARY’s ultra-intimate and windowless 40-cover restaurant headed up by Chef Alessio Piras, where plant-based dining has officially been introduced.

On my evening at Saint Luke’s Table, worn books with tinted pages were set atop the tables. In front of me was fantasy novel ‘Thorn Ogres of Hagwood’ by Robin Jarvis, sporting a rather unsettling cover of two bright red demonic creatures  – one poking the other in the stomach with gnarled fingers. Not quite the book I’d opt for, but perhaps indicative of the breadth of LIBRARY’s library. When faced with the menus (both normal and plant-based), it occurred to me that the words ‘plant-based’ can only conjure one of two reactions for a non-vegan: intrigue or distaste. I will admit, I used to react with distaste, dismissing the idea as a fad I’d not participate in – much like my stubborn refusal to read any Harry Potter books as a child. I then developed mild lactose intolerance and, much to my dismay, was forced to consider vegan options to replace cheese in my diet and, much to my surprise, wasn’t entirely disappointed. Since then, I meet ‘plant-based’ things not with excitement, but certainly with intrigue. Hence my guest and I decided to initiate a comparison battle between a starter and main from the both the plant-based and the normal menu.

For our starters, we opted for the Grilled Asparagus with pea shoots and purple potato salad (£17) and the Beef Carpaccio with pickled mushrooms, hazelnuts and parmesan twirls (£13). A verdant vision of vibrancy on the plate, the satisfyingly crunchy and slender asparagus were sprinkled with sesame and bursts of pomegranate arils. Not the most filling perhaps, but tasted delightfully fresh and looked a Fauvist masterpiece of colour. Going up against the asparagus shoots was the beef carpaccio, a classic favourite and a generous portion topped with a scattering of hazelnuts, perhaps lacking in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and/or lemon. On this round, it was a no-brainer – the points went to the plant-based option. Then again, I had a sneaky bite of someone else’s Seared Scallops starter (£16) with nduja crust and truffle cauliflower puree and it was pure heaven.

Round two was the mains – Venison Fillet (£28) and the Artichoke Linguine (£19). Confession time: despite all my foodie prowess, I’d never tried venison for fear I’d find the taste too “gamey”. But of course, like all expertly made food, I loved it. Like a beef fillet steak, the marvellously rare pieces of meat bounced with thickness but was earthier, richer and easier to cut apart. It was paired with a smooth sweet potato velouté, crispy chunks of polenta, a bejewelled peppering of sweet pomegranate and droplets of rock salt. Leaner than beef and lower in cholesterol, it’s a wonder that this meat isn’t more attainable for home cooking – especially as we are all becoming increasingly conscious of what we eat. The linguine, drenched in walnut pesto, was impressively creamy for a vegan dish and was served with soft sun-dried tomatoes. The masterful venison won the round with ease.

Due to the unavoidable fact my guest and I both fell head-over-heels at the sound of the Chocolate Fondant (£9) on the menu and uncompromisingly wanted one each for ourselves, we weren’t able to sample the plant-based dessert options (Pineapple Carpaccio, Chocolate Mousse and Dairy-Free Ice Creams). The Fondant, with its oozing peanut butter and red berry heart, was a crowd-pleaser due to the tried-and-tested flavour combination. A fine-dining twist on America’s PB&J desserts.

And so, with a ‘one all’ result, the mystery of plant based vs. normal menu at Saint Luke’s Table remains unsolved, though we had a dreadfully good time conducting the experiment. I suppose, wilfully, we will have to return for a re-test. Do join us, won’t you?

Insider tips: LIBRARY London boasts an excellent speakeasy bar called ‘Dear Alice’, where guests can enjoy Alice in Wonderland-themed CBD oil-infused cocktails and vegan pizzas. All members of LIBRARY London can also get access to the newly opened Arborteum, London’s only plant-powered members club and co-working space – a botanically inspired space with eco-conscious ethics at its heart.

Ashiana Pradhan

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