Review: tibits– excellent vegetarian buffet

Whether a break from the dreaming spires or just a quick visit home, London is a short hop away from the Oxford bubble and offers a host of excitement to serve as entertainment in both the vacation and termtime.

The start of the New Year is the perfect opportunity to recharge your creativities, and there’s no better place to put this into practice than our beloved capital. (Why not check out Harriet Fry’s article to quench your thirst for all things theatre.)

London’s food scene is also abuzz, and if your New Year’s resolutions included pacts to eat healthier and better, look no further than the Capital’s infinitude of healthy eating spots. Prominent in the ever-increasing trendiness of eating clean is the emergence of a number of purely vegetarian restaurants.

Nestled in the heart of the central London hubbub lies a scarcely believable spot of vegetarian delights. Every table was full on a grey Tuesday lunchtime, reflecting tibits’ oasis-like status, just off the bustle of Regent Street – a destination worth making a trip to London for. As the perfect antidote to the crowds of Oxford Street, lunch or dinner at tibits fits extremely well into a shopping day, thanks to its unique style of buffet. It calls this the ‘food boat’: literally, a wooden boat in the middle of the restaurant that boasts over 40 different dishes, many vegan and all vegetarian, that you can load your plate with before it is weighed at the bar. Thanks to this, it can easily serve as a nip-in-nip-out joint, although we enjoyed a far more lengthy stay. We started with coffee (or hot ginger tea, in my case, which was excellent) because as well as winning at breakfast, lunch and dinner, tibits offers a multitude of hot and cold drinks, and cakey-goodies.

The restaurant claims to provide an experience of discovering ‘food that does you good’, and this ethos was consistently evident. We splurged on a positive rainbow of healthy dishes: everything from lentil daal to traditional hummus and falafel. The salad options were heavenly, including a beetroot salad, edemame beans, celeriac with walnuts (sadly the walnuts seemed a little bit past their best, though) and dried bean salad. Their hot food (amazingly still warm, even in salad-bar status) was also plentiful, and my only regret was failing to stock up on their wonderful cream-filled, battered jalapeños. The beauty of the self-serve system is that you are in sole control of portion size, and therefore price. At lunch (11 – 6) , 100g costs £2.30 and at dinner £2.60 (6 – 10.30) which tends to approximate at about an £11 lunch and a £15 dinner. This depends on what you choose, of course – if you’re feeling skint, it’s worth it to pile your plate with the kale and swede salad, because it’s wonderful, and the delicious bread rolls are free. Even if you’re stuffed by this point, don’t whatever you do leave without sampling some of the desserts. Again, you pay by weight, so if you fancy both a spoonful of the mango mousse and the sticky toffee pudding, your options are boundless.

tibits is pioneering in the future of food and restaurants in the U.K. Its Swiss roots are clear through its efficient and imaginative approach to the evolution into realms of increasingly common vegetarianism, veganism and gluten and dairy free diets. Traditional, omnivorous restaurants are an endangered beast; indeed, tibits actually has specific days when it serves solely vegan food – a raging success. Meat-and-two-veg days are over, and places like ‘tibits’ are paving the way to a future of nutritious, diverse and innovative food. Bring it on!

Vegetarian food is problematic, because when commercialised it has to be good enough to attract people who would really rather be tucking into a large steak. The reduced opportunities for vegetarians and vegans alike require levels of creativity that regular restaurants don’t have to muster, and therefore, in my experience vegetarian eateries are usually excellent. Thus, the competition is high and the novel ‘food boat’ solution is admirable. The key to tibits’ success, I think, is its versatility. From a family lunch to a work ‘do’, birthday party (they have a vast lower level) to casual catch-up coffee, it ticks all the boxes. When the food is this good, carnivorous or omnivorous persuasion simply doesn’t matter. It was, in my opinion, one dubious walnut off perfection (but nuts go rancid almost overnight, so I can forgive them that.) tibits is as much an experience as an eatery, and it was a joy to see it thriving with members from every generation.

Tibits can be found at 12-14 Heddon Street (Regent Street Food Quarter).

PHOTO/ Lydia Drukarz