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A natural choice for vegetarians

17 August, 2017 — By Tom Moggach

Woodlands’ imaginative menu makes it a destination

FOR vegetarian diners, some global food styles are friendlier than others.

Eat Italian, for example, and the range can match any that has been prepared for the carnivore. It’s the same with Middle Eastern cuisine, such as Lebanese – it’s not all chicken and lamb, but salads, vegetable stews and, of course, plenty of chickpeas.

But perhaps the simplest and most satisfying way to dine out if you don’t eat meat is to head to an Indian restaurant.

It’s a style that really lends itself to a meat-free meal – you are not left feeling as though you were an afterthought when the chef was designing the menu.

Woodlands, in a well laid out and spacious site in Heath Street, Hampstead, is a long-established Indian restaurant that is a wholly different proposition to many high-street curry houses.

It has a menu with such diversity that we were planning what we’d eat on our return visit, even before we had finished the food we had in front of us.

Proprietors Rajat and Pooja Sood started by serving mainly south Indian dishes, but now draw on influences from across India to create not only vegetarian dishes, but vegan and gluten-free ones, too.

Established in 1981, Woodlands now has three restaurants in London. This shows the level of their success, but they are still not so large that they are a “chain”, with all the associated baggage.

We began our meal with some appetisers and a good Italian Merlot. A pair of platters, scorching to the touch, came laden with chunky fresh vegetables.

Whole mushrooms, coated in a tikka masala sauce, were firm to the fork and incredibly juicy inside. A broccoli “steak” – quite a claim to make on a menu – was essentially a selection of florets, chargrilled and softened by a gentle aromatic sauce.

For my main course, I chose a London Thali – a large selection of small dishes to work through.

Boasting a delicious light tarka dal, the creamiest saag I’ve ever had and a masala dosa, the London Thali is a great way to check out the range of kitchen skills Woodlands offers. A vegetable sambar accompanied it, which was on the spicier side.

Best of all, the vegetables were not drowned in other flavours – there were no overpowering sauces masking the individuality of each piece. The textures were allowed to do their thing

My partner chose a vegetable jalfrezi, which had a little lemony zest about it – a refreshing element to a classic dish.

Woodlands does what you expect from an Indian restaurant extremely well – and then offers you a little bit more and something a little bit different, which turns it into a destination.

Flare and imagination goes into each dish to give a fresh take on much-loved menu favourites.

102 Heath Street, Hampstead, NW3 1DR
0207 794 3080


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