Neal’s Yard Salad Bar

Tel: +44 (0)20 7836 3233
Address: 1,2,8-10 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2
Cuisine Type: international
nearest tube station Covent Garden (PICCADILLY)

Neal’s Yard, tucked away behind the theatres and shops of Covent Garden, is the sort of place you either stumble upon accidentally, having taken a wrong turning on the way to somewhere else, or seek out because you consider your body to be a temple. In this mecca for veggies, Neal’s Yard Salad Bar, a café that claims to offer “a variety of exclusive treats”, serves hot food throughout the day, both to eat in and take away. It was a fine evening, so we opted to sit at one of the many tables that spill out across the courtyard.

From the unusual breads on offer, we chose spicy cornbread, a grainy textured and surprisingly tasty “muffin” made from polenta and sweetcorn, and wheat/ yeast/ dairy-free coriander rice bread (£1.50 each), which was cold and rather stodgy and should be avoided except by the most stalwart vegans.

From the hot food menu, soup of the day (£3.50), made with spinach, potato and coconut milk, was pleasant but unremarkable. The selection from the specials board included a leek and fenugreek hot pot, and courgette, red pepper and mustard seed risotto (£5.50 small / £6.50 large). I opted for the latter which, topped with fresh parsley and almonds, looked promising. I dug in eagerly, only to find chunks of potato (yes, potato!) buried within. Risotto and potato are two foods that are rarely, if ever, associated and that, in my opinion, is the way it should stay. Other mains included Lebanese kibe, stir fry, pizza (£3.20/slice) and sandwiches (£4.00).

The saving grace was dessert: an almond, berry and ginger tart (£3.40) made with fresh fruit and root ginger, was moist and memorable. For those with a sweet tooth, other offerings included Brazilian sweetcorn pudding, carrot chocolate biscuit pudding, chocolate mousse and muffins, several of which are suitable for vegans.

Washed down with a Brazilian fruitshake (£3), a delicious concoction of soyamilk, banana, papaya, mango and apple, we emerged feeling healthier (how often can that be said of eating out?), but that we’d paid slightly over the odds for the privilege.