Unless I’m entertaining at home, I tend to eat really simply. Certainly on these hot Summer nights, it tends to be raw and salad focused. This is what delights me so much about the self-service cafes. Yes they’re a little more pricey than you’d expect, however it means that you can indulge in a plethora of dishes without having to worry about the fuss of preparation time. When I prepare food at home, i’ll probably only have two or max three movements on the plate. In the last two weeks I had the pleasure of sampling two of London’s self-service vegan restaurants, and I can really see the appeal. It gives you the opportunity to really go to town on your selection, sampling a bit of this or a bit of that from both hot or cold options.

Ethos Restaurant in Oxford Circus was a pleasant surprise. Probably catering more to the lunchtime crowd than dinner, it wasn’t particularly packed when i went to meet a friend post work. Everything is priced by weight, which always gives me mild anxiety as I know that’s not going to deter me, even though it really should. You receive a top up card when you arrive which the team update with your plate’s weight, before you sit down to eat. You pay for the plate once you’re done.

It reminds me of the pay per kilo restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, although you tend to pay for everything upfront rather than post meal. I like this style of eating out, but i much prefer the Brazilian price point. At £13.50 for my plate of food, it doesn’t come cheap, so not somewhere I’d visit frequently, however everything I sampled was delicious and freshly prepared, plus the smoothies were also refreshing too.

Ethos – Self Service Vegan

By Chloe in Covent Garden offers more of a twist on fast food burger chain, with their at the counter ordering system and collection point. There is a large range of made to order dishes including British favs like Fish N’ Chips, Mac N’ Cheese to Burgers and Brunch. Absolutely everything on the menu is Vegan. I met a friend for lunch, and the place was pretty packed, but we did manage to grab a table, all be it a tiny one, though we had swings for chairs so can’t complain too much.

I opted for the the Quinoa Taco Salad, a tasty bowl of chopped romaine, spicy Seitan chorizo, black beans, sweet corn, avocado, tomato, tortilla strips, tofu créma, agave-lime vinaigrette, my friend went for the Mac N’ Cheese consisting of sweet potato cashew cheese sauce, shitake bacon and almond parm.

The salad was really moreish. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the mock meat ingredients, however the spicy Seitan chorizo was really tasty and rich in flavour. It was a good sized portion too, unlike so many salads these days. When you’re eating plant based you don’t want to scrimp on ingredients as you’re just left feeling hungry. There was a great balance of protein and carbs on the plate.

BY Chloe Covent Garden – Quinoa Taco Salad

I’ve read some mixed reviews of By Chloe in the past, perhaps people don’t really get that fast food feel of the place. I didn’t even realise it was self-service until I arrived. Personally I really liked it. I don’t think the food is trying to be pretentious, I think it is hoping to be accessible to a wide variety of people, plus it is a little more affordable than Ethos so can’t be all that bad.

Both these places are perfect if you need to refuel on your own, or if you’d like an early evening dinner with friends. Probably slightly too casual for a date location, although you’d both probably really enjoy the food.

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