Welcome to Redemption, where the toughest decision you make is to come, and after that, you can’t make a bad decision for yourself or the planet. Why should socialising always be at the expense of your health? This is the question we asked ourselves in creating the idea. So we created the world’s healthiest bar-restaurant, serving up vegan, sugar-free and wheat-free food with an alcohol-free bar. Spoil yourself without spoiling yourself!
The Notting Hill branch of Redemption is nestled in a quiet residential backstreet and has the feeling of a relaxed local eatery rather than the uber-trendy woke creation that it is; the restaurant is a pioneer of plant-based and sugar, wheat, and alcohol-free dining, which sounds awful, but really isn’t. Bear with me.
The walls are daringly covered in a dark inky blue, giving the restaurant a sultry and esoteric ambience that is well balanced by the vast amount of glass that encloses two sides of the restaurant and allows in the soft glow of the streetlamps from outside. It would be the perfect place to people-watch during the daytime. A neon sign spells out ‘Redemption’ in one corner and brass pendant lights hang over candlelit marble tables. Lining every window are attractive window box planters homing vibrant marble-leaved snake plants.
Despite all odds, there is nothing smug or formulaic about Redemption. Everything, from the beautifully presented food to the candlelit Buddha statue perched welcomingly on the bar, carries the palpable trace of heartfelt small-biz style design choices. This isn’t another concept restaurant dreamt up in swanky LA offices and exported to London losing some of its soul on the way; instead, eating at Redemption feels like having dinner at your zany-but-wise aunt’s house, the one who wears great hats, hands out homoeopathic remedies instead of sweets, and was vegan way before it became the global trend that it is today.
Redemption Notting Hill seats 32 covers and the night we visit is quiet, to begin with, but picks up consistently throughout the night. We chat with the manager who points out that the restaurant isn’t on a commuter thoroughfare and therefore very much serves a local clientele. Indeed, the whole evening has a cosy and familiar feel to it, and I can imagine popping down with friends visiting from out of town on the regs if I was based nearby.
Plant-based restaurants often have a bad reputation for being unbearably pretentious and exclusionary, but at Redemption, everyone (at least everyone who can afford to eat in Notting Hill) is welcome: A solo diner relaxing with a book, a few couples talking about the things that matter (the tables are perfect eavesdropping distance apart, big plus). There’s a table of three behind us who are something to do with fashion week and who talk over each other incessantly, cringily comparing Instagram follower counts and inappropriately demanding that butter is provided from the (dairy-free) kitchen, but their sort is very much in the minority and everyone else seems perfectly normal and low key for a Thursday evening.
The food, the food, the food. So much wonderful food! Not quite settled in and still too wary to commit to the plant-based “cheese” board, we opt for sharing starters of grilled aubergine and tahini (sticky white miso and sesame glazed aubergine with sesame seeds, tahini dressing, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and micro basil, £9.95) and, bravely, mozzarella with heritage beetroot (plant-based mozzarella with seasonal roasted beets, white balsamic, lovage pesto and micro leaves, £8.95).
Luck of the draw sees the mozzarella dish placed in front of me and I smell it before I see it; rich, fragrant pesto combines with the sharp sweetness of balsamic and wafts towards me. I’m already sold. The ‘mozzarella’ is soft and creamy, more like its posher cousin burrata in texture than the chewy, stringy stuff we are used to eating on pizzas. It’s got a soft bite nicely complemented by sweet, toothsome beets and is elevated by the essential saltiness from the homemade lovage pesto. Pretty smatterings of watercress liven up the plate to create a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.
The star of the starter show, however, is the aubergine with miso tahini. Served as attractive little rounds and topped with generous quantities of pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and plenty of dressing, the aubergine and miso-tahini create a deliciously creamy combination on the palate while the pomegranate adds a satisfying crunch resulting in a well-balanced, moreish little plate.
For mains, we opt for a bun-less redemption burger (shitake mushroom, hemp seeds, quinoa, roasted chestnuts and toasted walnuts with caramelised red onion marmalade, kimchi super and rosemary roasted potatoes, £15.95) and the spicy Korean jackfruit (slow-cooked bbq jackfruit with kimchi slaw and pickled cucumber, £15.95).
The redemption burger is so big that I’m losing half of it off the side of the plate onto the table when it’s set before me, so substantial is the meal. It’s served with a hefty dollop of kimchi slaw and a mound of rosemary chips. The kimchi slaw is crunchy and adequately kimchi-ish and the burger is a lot like eating a nut roast; it’s huge and filling and could have been half the size, but we eat it all anyway because it’s delicious. No fussy, miserly, unsatisfying morsels of vegetables and edible flowers that mean you have to get chips on the way home here; people don’t leave Redemption hungry.
My companion is not as taken with her Korean pulled jackfruit, finding it overly sweet and lacking bite. But when we swap mouthfuls I enjoy the spicy, warming, smokiness immensely. The texture is a little on the stew-y side, and I’m not sure how someone would go about keeping it in a bun (which is how is advertised on the menu) without it escaping all over your chest and lap, but I can imagine is working perfectly on a base of brown rice or even on crisp sturdy toast.
The rosemary roasted potatoes that accompany both dishes are chunky-chip shaped, plentiful and utterly tasty. Portions are extremely generous; I suspect that even my husband who always feels bitterly shortchanged in restaurants (hollow legs and an infuriating metabolism) would have been satiated by this point. Nevertheless, we rise to the challenge of a banoffee pie, which arrives stunningly presented on a half-heart shaped pool of perfectly bitter cacao and its match made in heaven: creamy, rich blobs of cashew cream that dissolve on the tongue in an almost inappropriately pleasurable way. Smooth slippery rounds of sliced banana are piled on top of a dense base (I can taste dates and oat) and the whole concoction is the perfect, unnecessary finale to a thoroughly enjoyable meal.
All drinks at Redemption are alcohol-free, but a number of alt spirits such as Three Spirit, Ceder’s and Borrago are on hand to assist the diverse cocktail menu. Note, I don’t use the word mocktail here, which I feel would cheapen Redemption’s carefully thought out beverage menu; drinks may be alcohol-free, but they are crafted with creativity and fresh ingredients, making them deserving of the true ‘cocktail’ title in my view.
The flu fighter martini is a little bland but I forgive it because it’s served so beautifully in an elegant cut-crystal style glass. I follow it with an Atopia spiced citrus (spiced citrus with aromatic hibiscus flowers and hibiscus tonic, £6.95) which is poky and refreshing and hits the spot usually taken care of by a gin and tonic. My friend has a coconut rumish martini (Rumish, coconut yoghurt, coconut milk, vanilla, maple creamy martini dusted with cinnamon, £7.95) which is like drinking dessert: rich, creamy and overindulgent.
In a nutshell
Redemption is a playground for vegetarian diners like myself. It’s so refreshing to have a whole menu of exciting, creative dishes to choose from instead of a couple of afterthoughts that we are lumped with on most menus; things are improving from the goat’s cheese tart days, but options are still limited in lots of places. Even meat lovers who “could never be vegetarian” will enjoy the magic of plant-based eating if they are brave enough to visit. The food is well thought out, plentiful, flavoursome and kind to your health and the planet. What more could you ask for?