When I moved back to London as a vegetarian (yes, it was that long ago), Mildred's in Soho was something of an institution.
Having opened in London the late 1980s and hung on ever since, Mildred's was one of the best known vegetarian restaurants in the capital. If you were veggie or vegan in London at any time since the 1990s, you're almost certain to have eaten in Mildred's at some point.
You've probably eaten there, and you've probably then wondered what the fuss was about. It was dark, it was dingy, it didn't take bookings, and the staff had a neat line in sniffy disdain for diners. The food was hit and miss - my first visit offered up a scenty Chinese-flavoured broth with vegan duck that was delicious, and a vegan cheesecake that wasn't so much. Due to said sniffy disdain, I didn't venture back until a while later. I had a so-so pie and chips that was largely cold, and more disdain on the side. I decided I could probably live without a visit to Mildred's again any time soon.
Not so long ago, Mildred's opened two new branches, one in Kings Cross and one in Camden. Mr Flicking the Vs persuaded me to give Mildred's in Kings Cross a go. I wasn't desperate to, but sometimes you have to throw yourself on the culinary grenade for your other half. This was one of those times.
The first signs I was going to have to rethink my ambiguity towards Mildred's came when I saw a vegan pisco sour on the menu. Instead of the egg white that normally gives it is characteristic foamy head, this version was made with every vegan's new BFF, aquafaba.
Things started to wander back into familiar hit-and-miss Mildred's territory with some gyoza - they had the right crispy, browned underside that you'd hope for from Japanese panfried dumplings, but they'd been left to sit for too long, and had become cold and rubbery by the time they reached me. I couldn't tell you what flavour they were meant to be, but the sauce was more promising than the poor, unloved gyoza deserved.
Happily, the burgers that we chose for our mains were so good, they restored not only my faith in Mildred's, but my faith in humanity.
Mr Flicking the Vs went for a standard issue vegan burger made of smoked tofu and piquillo peppers with fixings in the form of basil mayo, vegan cheese, red onion, and salad. With his fries, he chose chipotle ketchup, which was astonishingly good. You know you're onto a winner when the ketchup - the ketchup! - causes you to make happy stomach noises, before you've even got to the burger or the chips.
I went a bit more off piste with a less traditional Polish burger. There are many things to love about this burger, starting with the fact that I don't think there's a similar burger anywhere in London, ending at the fact it's bright pink and travelling through the fact that it tastes amazing. The beetroot, despite what the colour would lead you to believe, is actually pretty subtle in the burger, and the dominant flavour is dill. If you like the staple herb of Eastern European and Russian cooking as much as I do, then you'll be very happy with your burger indeed.
Other things to love about both burgers: they come with mounds of lovely crisp chips, and a little bowl of basil mayonnaise. Both are lovely.
The burgers aren't small, so I was full about half way through mine, but I carried on eating until my plate was clean pretty much just because they were so tasty.
The dessert, passion fruit crème caramel with ginger snap and passion fruit compote, was definitely more hit than miss. The brandy snap was a bit thick and chewy, but that was the only bum note in the whole arrangement.
The crème caramel had a lovely wobble, and the sauce was as sharp as you'd hope. It could have done with a few fewer passion fruit seeds - chewing on them makes me feel like a parrot making its way through peanut shells - but we cleaned our plates and were happy.
There were after dinner cocktails that were calling my name, but by this point, my stomach had begun waving a white flag and crying for mercy. Next time, maybe.
Now I finally get why people go to Mildred's. The service isn't stroppy any more, the food's pretty darn tasty, there's tonnes of vegan options, and quality booze. They might have got things sorted 20 years too late, but better late than never.
Mildreds Kings Cross
200 Pentonville Roadd
Kings Cross, London
0207 278 9422
When I moved back to London as a vegetarian (yes, it was that long ago), Mildred's in Soho was ...