, , ,

A very vegan welcome: Can you get a good plant-based meal at the Wellcome Collection?

Being as I'm currently studying medicine, I have a bit of a soft spot for the Wellcome Collection, the London museum dedicated to all things health.

There's a lot to like about the Wellcome Collection: the main collection is fascinating and a manageable size, there's always an interesting exhibition on, and it's free. If you've ever fancied a quick tour around the human body and a look at health from a fresh perspective, then an hour spent at the Wellcome Collection won't be badly spent.

A couple of friends were coming to meet me in London, and put in a shout for visiting the Play Well exhibition. After working our way around the exhibits -- big shout out to whoever swapped the voices of Barbie and GI Joe as a protest against gendered toys -- we were sated for knowledge, but pretty hungry for food.

The downstairs cafe at the Wellcome is always hectic and the vegetarian and vegan options (if there are any) aren't clearly marked. We wandered up to the second floor restaurant, without much hope for good vegan food awaiting us.

I was a bit wrong-footed to find a open quiet space with a decent amount of vegan options, and for London food, not wallet-damagingly expensive.

Aside from a couple of standard vegan nibbles, the menu had a vegan sandwich, a couple of salads, and another two hot mains: a stew and a gratin. The gratin sounded a bit more interesting: tofu, cauliflower, and chickpeas with a side salad.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but here's what I got:

At first glance, I thought I ordered a wrong 'un: should cauliflower, tofu, and chick pea really be sitting together under a white sauce with a bit of vegan cheese on top? If I'd had the same ingredients in a curry, it would be a more natural team, with the gentle flavours of the veggies able to play bass to the spices' lead guitar. But with just tumeric and a bit of Violife for flavour? I wasn't convinced, I'll be honest.

It seemed a bit like the sort of dish someone who's never eaten vegan before would come up with if someone challenged them to make a plant-based meal out of the ingredients they had in their cupboard. 

And then there was the side salad: a big bowl of watercress with a sharp dressing. 

It's fair to say I had more than my fair share of reservations before I started eating, but once I got into it, I was happily surprised. The cauliflower and chickpeas had been roasted to give them more texture, the tofu added a bit of texture and moisture rather than flavour, and the watercress side salad added a bit of peppery heat to the otherwise gentle dish. And, if it all got a bit mono-texture, the almonds were there for a bit of contrast and crunch.

I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and it's something I'll be recreating at home some time.

And, if that wasn't enough to give the Wellcome Kitchen a vegan thumbs-up, there was a vegan dessert that wasn't sorbet - result!

Instead, there was a chocolate mousse with spiced pear, and I was powerless not to order it. Here's what happened:

Mousse, meet pear
Again, not what I was expecting. I thought there'd be a poached pear with some mousse on the side, rather than a bucket of mousse with some distinctly biological looking pear slices on the top.

What it missed in looks, it more than made up for in flavour -- a delicious warming Christmassy tinge to the fruit, with a not-too-sweet milky-chocolate mousse. It was just the ticket, and a really generous portion.

In honour of the Play Well exhibition, the Wellcome Kitchen also had some games available for diners -- you can see our dominos game behind the mousse! Turns out my parents were wrong -- playing with your food is actually a great idea.

Pear, meet mousse

You Might Also Like


  1. This is a museum that I would love to visit - we have a small medical museum at melbourne uni that has an old Victorian pharmacy which I think was brought out from the UK and it is rather beautiful. Glad the food worked for you even if the presentation wasn't quite what you expected!


Popular Posts

Blog Archive