Monday, March 27, 2023

Heather's - vegetarian delights in turn of century Deptford

Heather's was a legendary Deptford vegetarian (and indeed mostly vegan) restaurant in the 1990s/early noughties. This was a period in which options were often limited for those who didn't eat meat. There were some vegetarian places to eat (see previous post here), but there was often a kind of standard wholefood fare which lacked variety. Heather's was exceptional and memories of its food still make my taste buds fizz.

It started out as Heathers Cafe at 190 Trundleys Road SE8, a small place that soon drew attention. Food was served as 'an eat as much as you like buffet', indeed according to this 1996 advert 'the best vegetarian buffet in town' in Time Out's estimation.

Advert from Arkangel animal liberation magazine, No. 16 (1996)

A review in the book 'Veggie London' by Craig John Wilson (1997) highlights its Cuban fruit curry and spicy chick peas as well as its broadly leftist culture, organising 'themed evenings as fundraisers for various causes', women only nights and a free cold drink for people arriving by bike. The people who ran it were very involved with supporting the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

 Heather's then moved to 74 McMillan Street in Deptford, a bigger space that had once been the the United Friends pub. I remember some happy Sundays there eating to my heart's content and listening to jazz. I found the menu below tucked inside an old 1999 diary, once again featuring a Time Out endorsement ('the most radical and happening of all London's vegetarian restaurants'), and with food including a spicy Ethiopian stew,  mushroom and chestnut strew and a range of salads and dips. Mick Foster and Dominic Ashworth were advertised as playing 'free live jazz'.

Even the food critic Jay Rayner - in those days notoriously indifferent to vegetarian food - was persuaded to visit and gave it a mostly good review, describing it 'a light and airy room of white walls, stripped floorboards and subtle lighting with carefully spaced tables so that you feel neither hemmed in nor on the verge of agoraphobia. In the middle sits the buffet which, at a very reasonable £14 a head, covers all the stations of the cross from soup to pudding'. He couldn't resist a dig at Deptford though 'as the kind of place one might go to dump a dead body. It has that ragged, urban wind swept aspect to it that lends itself to the concealment of crimes' (Observer, 21 January 2001)

Heather's was still going strong when it closed not too long after, I believe that the couple that ran it wanted to move out of London. A bar replaced it for a while - McMillans then Farragos, but it was then converted to housing..

[update to post: on twitter Jay Rayner confirms that 'It was great. Had the weirdest dreams after eating there... put it down to an exuberant amount of nutmeg']

See previously:

1 comment:

The Grim Reaper said...

The point about Heathers was that not only vegetarians enjoyed the excellent food.