The original London Tibits is a secret. At least it feels like a secret, tucked away on Heddon Street, a vegan and vegetarian buffet bursting at the seams with quinoa and chickpeas and curries and rice and leeks and parsnips and all of the good things.
Imagine the scenario, strolling out of the Apple store with a friend, turning to them and whispering “follow me,” before ducking into an alleyway like Jason Bourne and appearing next to what Tibits calls a “food boat”. A food boat. It’s a heated buffet you can walk all the way around, with dozens of dishes on it. But they call it a food boat. Now, the Swiss chain has launched a second restaurant, and an equally impressive food boat, on Bankside.
WHERE? On Bankside. Southwark Street, behind the Tate Modern. It’s a good spot to grab a bite before heading into an exhibition, and it’s open early enough to grab something on your way into the office. There are tables, but the place has a grab-and-go vibe.
WHO? Three Swiss brothers joined forces with the owners of the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world – Haus Hiltl in Zurich – to launch Tibits in the year 2000. They’ve now got nearly a dozen Tibitses dotted around Europe now, eight of which are in Switzerland.
ORDER THIS… I came storming in on a Tuesday, which is vegan day, and collected an eclectic selection of salads: tangy cauliflower and black sesame; samphire with pak choi, bean sprouts and peppers; and beluga lentils with courgette and carrot. The menu changes frequently, based on the seasons and the whims of some unknowable arbiter, so while the spiced vegetable and chickpea tagine in a cinnamon harissa might not be there when you arrive, there’ll doubtless be something among the 30 to 40 dishes to earn your interest. The food is well made, creative, flavourful and isn’t wrapped up in all the dumb, quasi-spiritual, health-conscious, feel-good nonsense that vegan cuisine is so often mired in. You could eat here every day and never be bored.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? It’s not the kind of place you’d meet the head of Goldman Sachs, but Tibits can deliver to your office if you’re hosting a meeting, or if you’re simply very hungry and lazy.
NEED TO BOOK? You can walk right in to both the Heddon Street and Bankside restaurants. For tables of four or more you can book by visiting tibits.ch
THE VERDICT… The term “food boat” conjures a very specific image, and Tibits delivers on that simple promise. A roughly boat-shaped buffet of food, filled with superb vegan and vegetarian dishes, and large enough that you could feasibly sail around on it.
ONE MORE THING… Tibits charges by weight, which leads to some weird cost-analysis calculations as you try to figure out the relative value of a single chickpea versus a salad leaf, and whether you could rip them off by hiding a tiny helium balloon inside a rigged falafel.