This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 23/02/2018.
My vegan Valentine at Bagatti’s
Our Valentine’s night 2018 in Croydon’s Restaurant Quarter was a game of two halves. It literally was, because it involved football.
My partner Paul and I had decided on cocktails at Memory Box, then down to our favourite, Bagatti’s. But the night was so wet and bleak that we skipped the walk by starting at the Tree House instead. We’ve had the requisite 14th February pink drinks there before, and enjoyed ourselves – but not last Wednesday night. Something was amiss: the place was so cold that we had to keep our coats on, bar service slowed to a crawl, Liverpool played Porto at high volume and the open fire which might have warmed our hearts and feet had guttered out. Sparkly Valentine trimmings seemed somewhat ironic.
With forty chilly minutes still to go until our reservation, we gave up and headed next door. Happily Bagatti’s was lovely and warm and we were welcomed, offered drinks and shown to our table half an hour early.
As well as really liking it, as another Citizen reviewer did a while back, we’d picked it for a reason. Moving with the times, it has a list of vegan options and I wanted to give these a try. Paul is ‘omni’ – that’s vegan slang for omnivorous – and this way we could dine where we can both feel the love.
The vegan list was fetched, but Bagatti’s goes further and our waiter was happy to explain how other dishes could also be veganised for me.
I picked from the list, and had bruschetta: toasted Italian bread topped with diced tomato, olive oil, garlic, chilli and herbs. It’s a simple dish, executed as well as it could possibly be with great ingredients, and hence delicious. Paul’s gamberoni all’ aglio – butterfly prawns with olive oil, chilli, garlic and parsley served with wild red and brown rice – were superb. The prawns were so flavoursome that they were almost meaty – and I still mean that in a good way. I snuck a bit.
His main course continued to be great: he chose fegata alla griglia – grilled calves’ liver with pancetta served on mashed potato with spinach and red wine reduction – and loved it. My choice was trickier: to avoid two courses that were all about tomatoes, I went for penne with olive oil, chilli, garlic and spinach. This was super-simple, and while it was nice, there wasn’t quite enough going on to make it really successful. Perhaps I should have tried the risotto giardiniera (arborio rice, julienne of vegetables, tomato and white wine) or had a longer conversation with the waiter about the veganisation of other options. Next time.
By the time we were done we were well-fed, happy and thoroughly romanced. The essence of both true love and a very good dinner turns out to be… compassion. Let others do their thing, and you do you. It’s easy at Bagatti’s.