Tendril at The Sun and 13 Cantons in Soho: “A gateway drug for veganism”
Whether you’ve heard of the Sun and 13 Cantons or not, you have likely heard of a few of the chefs who popped by for a temporary residency on their way to stardom. Over the years the pub has not only been a hideout for filmmakers, a hub for musicians and a hotspot for thirsty Londoners, but also a launchpad for some of the city’s most interesting restauranteurs. Notably, back in 2015-16 the venue gave Asma Khan the leg-up she needed to open the doors of the iconic Darjeeling Express. Hopes are high, then, for Rishim Sachdeva, the latest in the lineup, to become a household name. No pressure.
Don’t be mistaken: Sachdeva isn’t some rookie, completely new to the scene. The young chef has already led an impressive career that has taken him top world-class establishments, from Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred The Fat Duck to AD Singh’s legendary Olive Garden & Bar in Mumbai and Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone. In 2019, though, the chef ditched the stabilisers entirely to undertake his own culinary venture, reassessing his self-confessed hardcore carnivore lifestyle and founding a new, “mostly vegan” kitchen, Tendril. The ride has been something of an up-and-down affair. A series of popups and supper clubs across the capital soon picked up speed and landed him the current residency, but only two weeks after opening, the pandemic forced the doors shut. Nonetheless, Sachdeva wasn’t fazed by the bump in the road, and adapted his meals for a heat-at-home delivery service. Now he’s back after a 14-month hiatus and ready to convince us that plant-based food should not be scoffed at – but rather, scoffed.
The pub itself seems a fitting home for Sachdeva: the black and white photos, cool green tiles and comfy leather booths feel laid-back and unaffected, just like the chef, who makes an effort to greet us in person, a big smile visible even behind the face mask. The food sounds equally inviting, and we opt for the recommended Discovery Menu, a tour of the chef’s signature dishes – and, it seems, the globe. The expedition begins in the UK with charred asparagus, a meek yet mighty starter which pairs the vegetable (all hail this sacred and short-lived season) with crunchy pumpkin seeds and a fresh herby purée. Bring your most impressive sunburn, because this is British summertime in a bowl. Then comes the Greek-influenced Smoked Aubergine, Tahini, Pickles, Pomegranate. It’s baba ghanoush at its best: peppered with morsels of sweet and sour, scooped up on a sliver of toast.
Next up is one of the standout plates, which could just be the world’s best cheese on toast (step aside, rarebit). Baked brie sits on cranberry bread, hiding an additional layer of truffle mascarpone and sprinkled with parmesan for good measure. The outer crust has that beautiful crunch that takes me back to my old old-school toastie-maker – you know, the ones that compact your sandwiches at the sides until they turn into triangular pockets of pure molten pleasure. The only difference between the vegan and non-vegan menu is actually this dish; however, the alternative offers an invigorating contrast, a fresh medley of grilled cauliflower, pickled raisins and kimchi.
The tostada that follows brings the traditional flavours of Mexico but with a key difference: no guacamole. Sachdeva is conscious of the trendy avocado’s carbon footprint and keen to teach hipsters that British broad beans can do the job just as well alongside Jerusalem artichokes and pico de gallo. If sustainability tastes this good, there really isn’t any excuse.
The highlight of the whole menu, for us, is the chipotle mushrooms. Coated in the kind of lip-smacking sauce that a chef might take years trying to crack, this is marinading mastery – and along with the peanut glaze and barbecued leeks, it’s the best argument for veganism so far. These are served with a simple side of purple potatoes and chargrilled courgettes, seasoned lightly with a touch of mustard and chilli.
The final bowl takes us right back home. I always have mixed feelings when I see sticky toffee pudding on a contemporary menu; it’s a childhood favourite, and there’s only so much tampering that I can take. In this case, I’m already soothed by the mention of custard over ice-cream (I’m a traditionalist when it comes to classic British desserts). Despite being dairy-free, the cake is perfect pub fare, buttery and rich yet much lighter than the usual offering (ideal after six courses) and topped with spicy stem ginger.
Sachdeva will be at the Sun and 13 Cantons for six months, but we suggest you take a trip sooner rather than later, before the news spreads. Refined and down-to-earth, diverse and dangerously addictive, the Tendril menu is so accessible it’s like the equivalent of a gateway drug for veganism. Whatever your diet, there’s no judgement here, just great food served up by a chef who shows equal passion for the planet and his plates.
Photos: Azhul Mohamed
To book a table at Tendril at The Sun and 13 Cantons, The Sun and 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street London W1F 9NG, call 020 7734 0934 or visit their website here.