The inSpiral Lounge in Camden is, officially, one of my favourite places to eat. Whenever I find myself in North London, by chance or design, I make a point of heading over to the Lock and grabbing a buffet box – which usually results in trying to cut broccoli with the side of a wooden fork while wandering around the markets, tomato dripping from chin. Classy.
A little while ago, I tagged along with Thom and Lia who were intent on a trip to the markets. The night before, I’d revealed my plan of turning vegan to Thom, and we’d had a very circular argument. ‘But, if you’re trying to build muscle, you need meat.’ ‘Well, you can get protein and iron from plant sources…’ ‘Yeah, but if you’re trying to build muscle, then you need meat.’ and so on. When we passed the inSpiral Lounge, I suggested they check it out.
The food in the hot buffet looks and is fairly basic fare; lasagne, curry, polenta. You have the option of one hot main, with two rice/potato/wheat additions, then salad, and the prices are quite reasonable for the portions (considering London prices/portions.) We hung around at the counter for a while, looking lost, then proceeded to quiz the staff in depth about the food. Question one: What is it? Question two: So there’s cheese in the cauliflower cheese? Question three: You can make cheese from nuts? Question four: So, really, it’s cheese made from nuts? Although the buffet is advertised as vegetarian, we found most of the dishes were vegan (and gluten free), except for the cheese used on the spelt pizza (which isn’t a part of the buffet meal options). All the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to go through with us in detail the contents of each dish. Yes, yes it’s cheese made from nuts. We ordered a bowl each, I with lasagne, Thom with cauliflower cheese, all with salad. Lia opted for solely salad and we had a chocolate brownie between us.
The Lounge is a very pleasant place to hang out, with huge windows giving a great view of the Lock, scattered cushions, ambient music and er, glowing rocks, but since it was summer, we decided to sit outside, where we could watch the murky river water flow past. Yum.
This is Thom’s first time trying nut cheese. Tasty nut cheese. After one bite he began to rave about going vegetarian and maybe halfway through the meal he even considered going vegan for a week. (He did start with the vegetarian thing afterwards.) I think this face is the best possible review of a meal, but still. My pasta was tasty and filling, and it’s great to eat out and know that you’ve got the healthiest possible option available. There isn’t any other adjective worthy of the food than: good. Delicious, healthy, fresh. I really, really like the food there. (Just look at that face!)
Then, desert. They do a range of vegan cakes and cookies and the chocolate brownie looked to be the most chocolatey of all. The cookies only have chocolate chips, see, whereas the brownie has it all the way through…went my logic. However, upon taking an enormous bite of the potential brownie of chocolate joy, I was only to be disappointed when it didn’t live up to my chocolatey expectations. But then, what can? It was also quite stodgy, and didn’t taste of anything, let alone chocolate. Shame.
A couple of weeks later, I went again and had a cup of chocolate ice-cream. Their ice-cream claims to be dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free…so I’m not entirely sure what it’s actually made of. The first lick proved alright, but a few more mouthfuls and it began to take on a chalky quality and left a strange (and un-chocolatey) aftertaste. In comparison to the smoothness of dairy ice-cream, no dice. If not comparing it to dairy deserts, it still wasn’t all that enjoyable. Maybe other flavours have different qualities? (Or aftertastes…)
I would, and frequently do, eat here again. And again. And then another time. If you’ve got the time, it’s a great place to chill out and relax in, with all the glowing stones, or if not, it’s quick and easy to grab a box of hot food and attempt to it conquer with wooden cutlery. Definitely an affordable, if not cheap, place to grab a vegan bite.