En Root To A Winner

Michael Holland (27 May, 2022)

You can have food that makes you feel good, and then do a good deed to make yourself feel good too

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The first impression of En Root was of a laidback vibe. The green and yellow colour scheme screamed Jamaica while the music ranged from Lee Perry to U Roy with some Curtis Mayfield in between. But looking deeper, the interior gave a feel of being on the hippy trail through the foothills of the Himalayas on the way to Katmandu and your own personal nirvana, writes Michael Holland.

The drinks menu offering many exotic attractions was laid before us but I opted for a nice cold beer – a Brixton Brewery Pale Ale, and very refreshing it was too. Nina the Ballerina, never one to miss a chance of displaying her West Indian credentials, went for the Lassi Colada, its USP being a vegan mango lassi livened up with rum and lime. ‘It’s like a smoothie with a kick,’ she said.

As we perused the food menu I also scanned the steady stream of delights going from the kitchen to the tables. Each and every one looked a winner, from the coconut water in its shell, to the mini samosas.

En Root is the vegetarian’s Heaven. Not only is the food healthy, wholesome and sustainable, but also affordable. The beers were £3. Read that aloud so that you know it’s not a mistake. And the cocktails and smoothies were extraordinarily cheap in comparison to other places. Besides the beverages, the dearest main dish is a tenner, and that’s for a platterful of food. 

Harsh, a South Londoner who along with his brother Nish, co-founded En Root with a plan for their venture to be a community place where cultures were brought together. Their cooking has influences from India, Africa and the Caribbean, and can be found on every plate.

Our starters were an explosion of tastes and colours. The Plantain Chaat looked like a heap of beetroot, onion, chickpea and chutneys with the fried plantain laying over the top, which it was. And it was fantastic. All those textures and taste bud teasers on one plate, but if it is was a takeaway that would be one cardboard box used and not six plastic containers. These boys are looking after the planet as well as its customers.

The Para-Tacos were a little bit special too. Before I had it I could never have imagined mushroom, kidney beans, plantain, pickled cabbage, raita and onion tomato salsa in a paratha wrap! Now I can’t stop thinking about it.

Raja Bonnet Sauces with the starters. Photo: M. Holland

 

There is nothing bland about the food here at En Root, but for those people who like it hot and spicy with everything they have En Root’s homemade Raja Bonnet Sauce: ‘A South London Creation of International Inspiration’ it says on the bottle. First was the original, then came a Lime & Ginger Kicker version, and finally the Fyah Fyah. Tread carefully with any of those bad boys, but if you can handle it, go for it. Oh what a strange joy it is to have your eyes watering and your lips tingling. I love it.

Nina, with her mouth on fire, had the Watermelon Rise (Watermelon, Beetroot, apple, ginger and mint) to cool down. Me, I had the Rise en Gin, which was what the Ballerina had but with gin. Lovely. Drinking it hit home how gin cocktails in other establishments sometimes taste of chemicals. Nothing here had seen the inside of a factory.

Our mains arrived. Once again we were invited to a festival of flavours. As a carnivore I can’t believe how so much excitement is created from the produce used, and not once did I feel that any plate needed meat to make it right. Harsh explained that ‘Anyone can make something taste good by adding meat fat, butter or sugar, but when you make delicious food with plant-based produce you have to be good and know what you’re doing.’ Point taken.

 

Don Dada Platter & Jerk Dosa. Photo: M. Holland

We shared a Don Dada Platter replete with rice, coconut curry, dhal, saag aloo, salad and plantain, along with Jerk Dosa: two light pancakes around kidney beans, mushrooms and plantain, with a lentil soup and coconut chutney. We could not stop ourselves from making all those ‘Hmmm’ noises to show our appreciation. We spoke of En Root all the way home, and planned our next visit.

Another great thing about this place is that you can also leave money to pay forward and fund a meal for a homeless person, which the restaurant will match. That means you can have food that makes you feel good, and then do a good deed to make yourself feel good too. As Hot Chocolate once sang, ‘Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s no lie’.

From a small pop-up in Herne Hill in 2016 the brothers have grown. They first expanded into a restaurant in Clapham. And now there is this busy and friendly Peckham site. With the motivating force that has got them this far, I’m sure we will soon see another En Root.

TOTAL £52.00

28 Peckham Rye, London, SE15 4JR

www.enrootldn.co.uk – 0207 732 7629

Hours: Mon-Sat 12-9pm; Sun 12-6pm.

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