When the latest vegan restaurant, Eat By Chloe opened in Covent Garden, it surprised me that there wasn’t as much hype as its American counterparts. With flexitarianism on the rise and almost every new establishment gunning for the millennial Instagram crowd in a bid to go viral, just what was By Chloe’s PR doing with their time? The mystery was soon solved: on my visit I realised that it just isn’t that photogenic. While it tries with the typical palm tree wallpaper and neon sign aesthetic, most of the time, the restaurant lighting is an odd one and worst of all, it’s packed with people aggressively vying for tables. I didn’t have a great overall experience here, with a rude family pressurising my friend and I to move mid-meal because we had a bigger table and no one to manage the situation. That’s the kind of problem that free-seating in a packed casual restaurant invites and it was disappointing to deal with this, considering how amicable the staff are. But don’t worry, my review of Eat By Chloe in London is not going to be based on appearances.
And operational issues aside, despite some of my favourite restaurants being famous for meat like Hawksmoor and Temper, I’m always open to plant-based cuisine. In the past, superfood cafes and trendy spots like Farmacy have gravely disappointed – they serve up everything I could make myself at home with a gross lack of flavour and an inflated price tag. But By CHLOE is different. Here, cleaner methods of cooking such as air baked fries are used and they make their own healthier renditions of popular sauces, like beet ketchup. The joint also prides itself on locally sourced ingredients and serving up food in its most ‘natural’ form. I don’t know a single person that would bother to do all of that in their own kitchen. And juxtaposed with its casual offerings like tacos, burgers and mac and cheese (all around £9.95), Eat by Chloe says: I’m not a try-hard and I hope you like this lighter alternative.
However, my last impression that the New York export left me with was, ‘I can’t believe I just ate beans in between two pieces of bread and a cookie for lunch’. Even though the cookie really was satisfying and according to a Google search, only 200 calories, I was still consuming sugar under the guise of health. As for the rest of my meal, my thoughts on the classic burger was equivalent to receiving ‘k’ after you write out a really long, thought out message. So critics of vegan diets will be rubbing their hands with glee because the cliche that everyone doing it ends up eating carbs is pretty much true here. But then again, Eat By Chloe are pretty upfront about the fact that they do fast food.
Okay, so would I return? Yeah, out of curiosity I kind of want to try their meatballs (traditional recipes contain bread and cheese, both things I dislike) and their pea and ‘ham’ soup, which is only available on the London menu. I fell hard for their homemade lemonade (£3.45) that’s dosed with fragrant rosemary syrup but neither too effervescent nor artificially sweet. They also welcome dogs and have a treats menu for them, while servers happily bring over fresh bowls of water.
But you know what, if you’re planning to eat fast food and you’re not a vegan, just go to Shake Shack. Also, nothing beats a classic McDonald’s if you’re feeling really dirty.