I very rarely do restaurant reviews. I think it’s because I get so excited when eating somewhere all vegetarian that I’m not very critical and I also never remember to take photos or they’re too dark.
I’m definitely doing a review of my 2 visits to Horizons though as I’ve wanted to go there for so long. Matthew went a while ago as part of a work visit to Philadelphia, raved about it and bought me both of the cookbooks (hint hint). I’ve used them both a lot and still have lots of recipes bookmarked to try. I have whinged a bit about some of the recipes not being tested properly and not having very clear instructions but I don’t really mind because they are full of delicious ideas which taste great. Really, it’s the one restaurant it’s silly to do a review of since it’s now closed, but I don’t care.
We visited on successive nights a few weeks ago, delighted to take the opportunity before it closed. Knowing we had 2 trips lessened the crippling menu indecision I’m often faced with and the first night I just picked what I liked the look of in the safe knowledge I could try some of the other options the following night.
I started with the Crunchy Korean Tacos – spicy seitan, daikon, cilantro, avocado, kimchee mayo.
This was probably my favourite thing over both nights. Soft seitan in a spichy gochujang sauce with a refreshing daikon salad and a splash of tart kimchee mayo. I’ll certainly be recreating this.
Matthew returned to a dish he’d had last time and loved, the portabello carpaccio with salsa rustica, panelle crouton and arugula crema.
This was so expertly handled; lovely and peppery with the crunch from the panelle balancing out the silky richness of the mushrooms.
For mains I chose the Steak Spice Seared Tofu with housemade fregola, chanterelles, fresh garbanzos, asparagus and radish. The tofu method in the books is one of my favourite ways to cook tofu now so I was curious to see how it would taste straight from the chef.
It was amazing. Unsurprisingly, the chef had managed to get an even crisper crust on the tofu than I did at home, making for a most stunning texture. I’d never had fresh garbanzos before and liked them a lot while the mushrooms provided richness and the radish an unexpected crunch.
Matthew opted for the grilled seitan with yukon mash, spinach, horseradish cream and roasted red pepper tapenade.
The seitan was every bit as good as the reputation that goes before it; grilled to get a fantastic smoky flavour and crisp texture. It was the star of the show but sat perfectly happily on a thick bed of creamy mashed potatoes and sharp horseradish cream. I doubt I will ever have seitan as good as that again.
I’m not a dessert person as you will know and I don’t have the dessert menu to hand so can’t tell you the exact names of what we had.
Mine was a chocolate cake with blackberries and an ancho smoked peanut butter ice cream (I think).
I wasn’t too bothered about the chocolate cake, especially the pastry but the ice cream was absolutely heavenly and I could have eaten a bucketful of it.
Matthew had some sort of strawberry and sorrel bread pudding which was definitely interesting and that he raved about. I liked it fine; sorrel in dessert was certainly a first for me and I would order this again.
The following day we were physically at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (and Blackbird pizzeria) but it’s fair to say that we were mentally back in Horizons with the huge task of what to order facing us. There was still one starter and one main course which stood out but the others less so; not that they wouldn’t have been great but my mind and tastebuds were playing that old “have the same dish again” trick on me.
So we were thrown a complete curve ball (yes, we did go to see The Phillies while we were there) when we arrived and Kate said that if we wanted we could have a tasting menu, but that we could order off the normal menu if we didn’t like that idea. A whole day of indecision flashed in front of my eyes and after a brief discussion we decided to go for it. Matthew has more fundamental food hatreds than I do so it was a bit of a gamble for him but ultimately the opportunity to try something no-one else could won out.
We were presented with our own little menu which listed the dishes and the wine choices. I am getting it framed as it is one of my prized possessions.
The first course was a taste of raw, pickled and roasted vegetables with olive bagna cauda and smoked grain mustard.
From left to right (roughly) we had maitake mushrooms, pickled leeks, roasted aubergine, raw radish, roasted shiitakes, pickled carrots and roasted asparagus. The presentation was delightful and it was a lovely taste of spring.
Next up was a truffled pea soup with wild mushrooms. I was delighted when I saw this because one of Matthew’s “will not eat under any circumstances” vegetables is peas, so I thought I’d get two bowls. Not so. He almost licked the bowl clean – the pea soup was really just a clean tasting broth to be used as a carrier for the earthy mushrooms and truffle.
Next up, salt roasted golden beets with heirloom tomato panzanella. I’ve never eaten salmon but the beet had what I imagine to be the same qualities, oily, salty and rich without too much earthiness that you can get from red beets. Call me a fan.
After that we had pan seared tofu with italian salsa verde, cherry tomatoes, beluga lentils and cauliflower. More of the expertly cooked tofu, even crisper than the previous night if that were possible, with zingy salsa and rich lentils, with the raw cauliflower lightly grated on the top. (I almost forgot to photograph this one!)
The final savoury element was grilled seitan, “sopa de tortilla” style. Corn is another one of the “will not eat under any circumstances” vegetables and this time I did benefit from extra corn, but again the seitan was the star of the show alongside the slivers of crispy tortillas on the top. The recipe for this one is in the book, but I’ll never get my seitan to be as good as this was.
Finally lavender cheesecake with crushed blueberry. It’s very easy to make lavender flavoured dishes taste of soap but this didn’tt, and the little crispy pile of granola stuff with it was divine; I liked this better than either of the desserts from the previous night.
And that brings us to the end. I can’t possibly say how much I enjoyed these trips. I’ve eaten at some highly rated restaurants such as Millennium, Portabello, Blossoming Lotus, SAF, Manna and Terre a Terre, amongst many others, but for the whole experience I liked Horizons the best. I always watch cooking competitions where judges talking about contestants getting the seasoning exactly right, but it wasn’t until Horizons that I fully understood what they meant. Everything was seasoned perfectly and nothing was on the plate that didn’t need to be there.
I’m so sorry that Horizons has closed but am relieved that I got the chance to go before it did. I look forward to visiting the new restaurant and wish Kate and Rich every possible success with their new venture. In the meantime, watch this space as I hit the Horizons cookbooks hard in a vain attempt to ever eat that well again.
Now you have truly dined vegan-style. I’ve only been to Horizons out of all that you listed, but I’m sure they are the very best. Thanks for sharing this!