As London’s plant-based food scene continues to evolve, Phoebe Bracken heads to Omni in Peckham where quality, in-season veg is celebrated in the most creative of ways.
After running plant-based pop-ups and residencies over the past few years, the Omni founders, Jessica McGill and George Matheou opened the doors of their own restaurant in Peckham in the summer of 2021.
On the Saturday afternoon we visited, Omni was alight with the midwinter sun beaming through its glass-fronted facade. Paired with lo-fi beats and soul music, Omni fostered a warm ambience that encouraged its visitors to settle in with ease.
Whilst it may have been ‘5 o’clock somewhere', the alcohol-free cocktails sounded so intriguing we kicked off the experience with a Blueberry Lemongrass Smash and Pomegranate Old Fashioned. Both were neatly decorated in thick-rimmed glasses and instantly refreshing, with the latter unearthing nostalgic memories of red foam-backed Haribo dinosaurs.
Perhaps ordering a bread starter doesn’t sound all that thrilling but there is something I found near-spiritual about Omni’s focaccia - it was light and doughy with crisp slightly charcoaled edges, bathed in salt crystals and rich olive oil. When simple pleasures like this are created with such perfection, it’s a sure sign of even better things to come. However, much like ‘The Marshmallow Test’, if you can resist, savouring a few corners will reward you with an even greater delight of mopping up the flavourful sauces that accompany the following dishes.
At first glance, Omni’s menu feels unfamiliar. It brings together taste combinations rarely experienced in the same mouthful - take their Delica pumpkin and fermented black bean dumplings, for example, which are both succulent and delicate, leaving you with a lingering spice. Like every other dish, any hint of uncertainty about the pairings of vegetables is rapidly washed away on the first bite. It feels good to let go and be guided by the hands of Omni’s culinary masters: trust them.
Speaking with Jessica and George, they explain how much of the inspiration for creating new dishes come from re-imagining sentimental flavours of familial dishes. From drawing on memories of childhood-favourites like a summertime choc-ice recreated using black cardamom ice cream with a date caramel enveloped in chocolate. Both food and drink concoctions alike are a celebration of the team’s interest in bringing out the most unique flavours in veg.
Aiming to align with the natural peaks in fruit and vegetable seasonality, the Omni team refer to their often-changing menu as “micro-seasonal” for which they source from independent, quality-focused farms through the supplier Natoora.
The variety and quality of the produce are evident in all the food but was most notable in the Tokyo turnips with cime di rapa. In contrast to the bulky, earthy turnips I’m used to, the Tokyo turnip is a whole different beast. Its soft leafy greens are rich, delicate and nutty, with an almost buttery taste that’s only enhanced by the spiced sesame dressing. With each addition of another thoughtfully presented plate, the spread of vibrant colours and scents builds, with just enough time in between to savour the complexity of each individual element.
We wrapped up with two mains: the 1,000 layer potatoes topped with shiitake ketchup - a dish of crispy indulgence, and soft corn sliders. These were loaded with tempura tofu, a hibiscus and chipotle sauce with a zany kick from the pickled veg slaw.
Finishing with these dishes felt like the perfect summation of Omni‘s vision: the thoughtful pairing of expressive flavours that complement and effortlessly elevate each other in creative ways.
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Published 25 Mar 2022
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