Adesse review: the Selfridges London restaurant's vegan menu is tasty and thoughtful

Launched by plant-based chef Matthew Kenney, the venue serves seasonally sourced produce

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With more than 40 restaurants to his name globally, renowned plant-based chef and author of 12 cookbooks Matthew Kenney has made his mark in the culinary world.

After opening three restaurants at Expo 2020 Dubai last year, the restaurateur’s latest endeavour is in the UK capital.

Matthew Kenney is a world-renowned vegan chef. Photo: Adesse

Adesse, which means “to be present” in Latin, opened in luxury London department store Selfridges in January. The restaurant aims to focus on the “here and now”, and the entirely vegan menu is built around seasonally sourced produce.

What to expect and where to sit

Adesse overlooks Oxford Street.

Its location on the second floor of Selfridges means diners first pass rails of clothing, and can feast their eyes on the latest fashion before satiating their appetites. Tucked in a corner of the shop, Adesse has a surprisingly tranquil atmosphere that belies the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street below.

The minimalistic interior offers a calming reprieve from shopping, while still being conveniently situated for those who want to carry on after they’ve eaten their fill. For those who value consumption over consumerism, the restaurant’s windows overlook London’s famous shopping street and provide ample opportunity to watch others pounding the pavements without having to partake.

The tables are square or circular, with cushioned benches reserved for the latter. The layout lends itself more to an intimate two-person dining experience rather than larger groups, which makes sense given the locale. The decor is simple and elegant; crystal wall lights over antique-styled stained mirrors are the room’s only adornments, and the tables are uniformly decorated with one small silver mushroom-cupped lamp.

The menu

Wild mushroom and root vegetable burger at Adesse.

Keen to try something I had never eaten before, I chose the potato and celeriac rosti for my appetiser. Softly textured, the rosti’s pan-fried underlay gave it a nice crunchy contrast and the slightly charred edges added a hint of smokiness. However, while the dish was generously portioned, I found it lacking in salt and any other notable seasoning. Dressed in vegan creme fraiche (innovatively made with smoked tofu), fennel and apple, the accompaniments gave a little zest, but not much zing. My companion described the dish as “delicate”, which may suit some palates, but it didn’t stir mine.

Her jackfruit “crab cake”, however, was delicious, bursting with punchy red peppers and finely chopped vegetables. The tartar sauce, made of chickpea water, pickled cucumber, lemon juice and old bay seasoning, was a delectably masterful vegan version.

If my starter was a little bland, the main course – spicy udon with togarashi, tempeh and shiitake mushrooms – overflowed with delightful richness. Thick noodles in a creamy cashew-based soup, the bowl packed a fiery and fulsome punch. The mushrooms were perfectly textured and the seared tempeh added a strong earthy flavour for more adventurous taste buds.

My friend had the plant bowl of black lentils, quinoa, kale, seasonal vegetables and romesco sauce, which made for such a filling and wholesome meal at lunch, she barely had any dinner. This may have been helped by the desserts we indulged in.

The coconut and banana “cream pie” is impressively divine.

Coconut and banana 'cream pie' at Adesse.

With a base layer made of macadamia nuts, a banana mouse centre and coconut cream top layer, this pudding will appeal even to the most ardent dairy lovers. The carrot cake was less marvellous, but I did grow to appreciate it more with each bite. Substantial, fresh-tasting and low on sugar, the sponge was nevertheless on the dry side. The sesame ice cream, with a slightly charcoal flavour, added moisture but was perhaps more intriguing than appetising.

One of the best things about the restaurant was being introduced to new ingredients and seasonings, creating an exciting discovery for the mind as well as the tummy. This was helped by the wonderfully informative service of our waiter, Jimi, who explained many of the finer details of the dishes.

Adesse is not trying to offer meat substitutes, but rather to show how many delicious and filling non-carnivorous options are available to eat.

A chat with the chef

South Korean chef de cuisine Ted Yuk joined the team in September 2021 and has worked with several other plant-based restaurants including Balwoo in Seoul, and Vanilla Black and Farmacy in London.

Yuk believes that “food is medicine” and describes his cooking style as “harmony”, and says it’s important to have different nutritional balances in vegan cuisine. Passionate about tofu, Yuk says transforming soy beans into delicious tofu is a scientific process that requires a great amount of skill. Once it’s made, however, it can “take on a life of its own” and its neutral flavour means it can “wonderfully hold” whatever other flavours you add to it.

He is not a fan of trying to mimic meat-based dishes, preferring rather to reimagine how it can be with plant-based ingredients. “The point is to create delicious dishes that just so happen to be vegan, not to create dishes that taste like a meat-based dish you may be familiar with,” he says.

Price point and contact information

Starters range from £8 to £11 (up to $15); sharing plates (including an avocado tikka, baked raclette and cheese plate) go for about £15 each; mains will set you back £17 to £22; and desserts go from £8 to £10.50. A three-course meal for two comes to about £40.

Bookings can be made on OpenTable and via Selfridges.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 6:04 PM