I'd actually never been to Mildreds in Soho before- I've written about them being great, and sent plenty of friends there to try it- but it also does have a reputation for being tricky to get a table in, especially if you're in a big group. My other sliiiiiight thing about Mildreds (if I can't be honest here then what really is the point, right?) is that I do find the idea of cooking a lot of different cuisines on one menu a bit old-fashioned. A bit '80s. And I get that Mildreds is an institution, and it's wonderful to have somewhere with such a focus on vegan option in the city, but I'd always wondered why the menu needs to jump around so much from pasta to burgers to curry to pies and stir fries (aka international-themed). On the other hand, I was judging Mildreds before I'd tried it at all.
Tsouni and I both decided to go for something different from what we'd usually order- Tsouni went for the Polish burger while I dove into the classic burger, with gyoza dumplings to start and sweet potato fries with basil mayonnaise as a side. The gyoza were bang on, I could have eaten a bowl full of the basil mayonnaise and my burger was the tastiest one I've tried in London. If there's a choice, I usually go for anything but the burger when eating out (because so often there isn't a choice- and then you end up with three burger lunches in three days and my jeans don't wanna speak to me any more) but it was delicious. I loved the focaccia bread bun, and the smoked tofu and lentil patty was incredible. Not at all bitter or bland, which is easy territory to roam in to when making vegan burgers from scratch (it's my usual downfall) - OR tasting too much like a Birds Eye freezer throwback.
Seeing as it was a Tuesday night, Tsouni and I were about three proseccos deep and pudding was, by this time, happening. We both went with the coconut panna cotta with salted caramel sauce. I'm no pudding pusher, but damn. I'll be trying to recreate for months to come, I can tell.
Considering we were sat in our seats by 6.30pm, I couldn't believe it was 9pm by the time we left. Staying over an hour in a London restaurant is rare these days (they often want you in and out for the next unreserved table), and even though Mildreds had a huge crowd of people waiting to take our table, we didn't get rushed along once. Service was firm and clear, which I prefer so much more than a pseudo-take on American nonchalance, which IMHO just doesn't work in a non-tipping culture. I like to know where I'm at with the people feeding me, not that there are "no worries".
In all, Mildreds new Camden outpost was about as right on as it's possible to be right now. I love the fact it's sat on the same street as Wagamama, Byron and The Diner- it's prime real estate in Camden, meaning it's an attractive alternative to any vegans kinda sick of ordering from a far more restricted menu at any of the other places near by. According to Tsouni, who is a Mildreds regular, the location itself is far more roomier than its Soho counterpart, meaning I'll definitely be booking my parents in for their next meal in town.
Which brings me to the other thing- the international-themed menu. While (on paper) it might remind me a bit of a Wetherspoons-catch-all-approach to dining, I can also see the benefit of offering all of these. I could take my Grandad and the rest of my family to Mildreds and know there would be something everyone could enjoy- which is exactly the kind of place Mildreds will be perfect for. No, they haven't tried to re-invent the meat-free wheel with a niche focus on a certain cuisine or ethos to cooking, but it also means they're making themselves an easy choice. Whether my Grandad would hypothetically fancy a pie, my brother a burger and my Mum a Sri Lankan curry, the great part is we could all eat here, and that's no easy feat. Mildred's have got it sussed.