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Pamela, Dalston, restaurant review: Asian-inspired vegan menu with no Ayres and graces

Slate grey and sumptuous: the peanut and sesame ice cream at Pamela

Slate grey and sumptuous: the peanut and sesame ice cream at Pamela

Like an eternal culinary bridesmaid, Kingsland Road bar Pamela has watched a succession of pop-ups come down the aisle without ever catching the bouquet themselves.

Club Mexicana – who have since made Homerton boozer The Spread Eagle their permanent home – had an early outing here, as did southern-fried specialists Decatur. But only now have Pamela devised their own, 100% vegan menu, and it’s this I’ve hopped on the 236 down to Dalston to try.

And it’s a straightforward slip of a thing, consisting of three starters, four mains, and one pudding. Seed bowls and superfood sludge don’t go down well in this nightlife-focused area of E8; Pamela has opted mostly for Asian-inspired dishes, with touches from the remainder of the globe.

Summer rolls (foreground), jian bing (background) and cocktails al fresco at Pamela

Summer rolls (foreground), jian bing (background) and cocktails al fresco at Pamela

Taking our seats on one of the tables out in front, my partner and I swerve the dishes that, in our ignorance and the Friday afternoon sun, bring to mind names of hypothetical Pokémon – Vigoron (actually a Nicaraguan dish), Larb, and yes, Poké. (The latter features beet in place of the traditional tuna.)

Instead we decide to split two starters and two mains, and one of each turns up first. Forgive the premature pinnacle, but these were our favourites; the ones to try in a pinch.

First, the summer rolls, those Vietnamese morsels. Rather than fill them with cucumber and other such watery horrors (sorry, ‘cumber fans), these are packed with lemongrass-flavoured soya pork substitute. This gives them a meaty heft, but coupled with the dipping sauce they’re so thrillingly tangy and lively that any carnivorousness is an afterthought.

Jian bing - a Chinese take on the crepe

Jian bing – a Chinese take on the crepe

The jian bing centres egg substitute rather than faux-meat, being as it is a veganised take on the Chinese-style crepe. It’s light, mildly sweet, and full of umami courtesy of the generous amount of tian mian jiang (fermented bean sauce) in with the mushrooms and beansprouts. It’d be the perfect summer lunch, were it not for the fact that Pamela’s opening hours make that impossible. But on these summer nights…

(All this goes down a treat with our cocktails, by the way: my BaCardi P from the spring drinks menu, and my partner’s ‘Pammy classic’, the Des Barres, with its magical coconut ice cube – both great.)

The second two dishes, while not reaching the heights of the first lot nor the forthcoming height of the pudding, are still not to be sniffed at – especially since they offer thrills rarely available to vegans even in this most plant-based of boroughs.

The ramen option

The ramen option

Ramen is normally eggy and meaty in some regard. This take gives you more soy mince and oyster mushrooms on the meaty side, and fishy nori seaweed adds a more interesting flavour than all but the highest quality of chicken embryo. The broth was a little underflavoured for me, but my partner – more in tune with her inner fungi – enjoyed it a lot.

Our final side was yet another oyster mushroom, this time grilled, and taking on a lovely char and BBQ-y pep. Very nice, but not as showstopping as the pudding of ice cream. Peanut butter is worked in to give it a creamy quality, black sesame gives it its tahini-eque notes and slate-grey colour, and a sugar-shard embedded with peanuts gives just that extra touch of sweetness in a dish of well-balanced sucrosity.

So Pamela is now wed to a punchy vegan food selection, in a union that will hopefully last much longer than any of Ms. Anderson’s dalliances with Tommy Lee and co. Congratulations are due.

Dishes run from £5 to £10.50

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