124 Southwark Street SE1 0SW https://www.tibits.co.uk/en/
There have been a lot of vegetarian or vegan friendly restaurants and coffee shops popping up in London in the last couple of years, yet tibits – with two locations in town – is an established enterprise which is now in its 10th year. We went along to their Southwark restaurant to try out their new menu and a couple of cocktails too.
The people behind tibits are three Swiss brothers who felt there were no decent, viable options to eat for vegetarians a few years ago: Christian, Daniel and Reto Frei made their idea a reality creating a delicious and fresh vegetarian buffet, ‘as speedy as a fast food joint and as cosy as corner café’.
To do so, they enlisted the help of Rolf Hiltl, owner of the legendary and oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, Haus Hiltl in Zurich. Hiltl generously shared their experience with the Frei brothers and helped to open the first tibits restaurant in 2000.
Today there are eight tibits restaurants and the two families still share close ties, united by the desire to explore and expand vegetarian and vegan cooking.
The restaurants are buffet only and offer over 40 vegetarian and vegan salads, hot dishes, soups, freshly pressed juices and desserts, with inspiration coming from all over the world. Diners pay by weight, and can take as much or as little as they want. It's an all-day affair from breakfast, after work drinks, a leisurely meal or a take-away.
The Southwark branch is attractive, with a decent number of tables, a conservatory area, a bar and a central oval buffet area which was packed when we visited as it was a menu launch night.
The concept is extremely similar to Hiltl, in fact, almost identical even in the graphic signs that spell out each dish and, for those who have been to the predecessor, bears a comforting familiarity. There is less choice than the Swiss siblings though, but a similar 'wackiness' in some of the dishes: we tried Seitan bourguignon and orecchiette pasta salad amongst other things. Sambal and hummous are side by side as condiments.
As it is a buffet, the dishes do not end up looking particularly pretty as our photos from the night show. Some options were very tasty: the sweet potato salad had a very good flavour, and the cauliflower curry was bright and punchy; the Lebanese rice was well cooked and seasoned and the guacamole smooth and intense. Yet the gluten free bread roll was pretty stodgy and the kale and spinach falafel was a touch dry.
The dessert choice was not huge, and we felt this was a little disappointing: bircher muesli did not appeal after dinner, so we tried everything else on offer. The chocolate sponge cake was our favourite thing, deeply flavoured and rich without being overly sweet; the pannacotta with berries was ok, while the sticky toffee pudding had an odd aftertaste and the apricot millionaire squares looked the part: they had a lovely, nutty base, a good chocolate layer but a slightly strange apricot 'caramel' substitute.
Tibits is a good addition to the neighbourhood and a good option for a quick, healthy lunch – pricewise is not particularly cheap (my plate of food, pictured, would have cost around £14), it does offers freshly prepared items, using different, not your run of the mill ingredients.
They open for breakfast too and at weekends.