Some people consider themselves to be a “daddy’s girl” or a “mama’s boy” but in all honesty, I don’t pick sides. I really relish my time with both my mom and my dad and heck, sometimes I even hang out with them together. They’re pretty cool, they always make me laugh, and they’re down to eat almost anything at anytime.
I’ve been dying to try London Plane, Matt Dillon’s relatively new spot in Pioneer Square and knew my mom would be game with its vegetable-centric menu. It was a freezing, sunny Thursday (my favorite kind of day) and we tucked in for an early bite to eat before the weekday lunch rush hit. Named for the trees that surround the restaurant in Occidental Park, the bright airy space was the perfect setting for a warming, late November meal. Not to mention, the place is a collaboration between Mr. Dillon and Katherine Anderson, the magical wizard behind the beautiful flowers at Marigold and Mint in Melrose Market. Beware: If you love flowers, gorgeous cookbooks, and/or beautiful artwork, this place will be dangerous for you.
I’ve heard London Plane’s lunch described as buffet-style more than once, but when I hear the word buffet, my inner snob comes out and I’m haunted by images of tourists stuffing their faces in Vegas with powdery scrambled eggs. Buffet it is not. There are large beautiful plates of vegetable salads behind the bar and if you choose the three salad option on the menu, you can pick three from the six or seven options. And when I say you can pick them, I mean you can tell the nice man behind the bar and he will serve them to you. Remember, this is NOT a buffet.
We decided to share a large plate of the three salads as well as the cauliflower and coconut soup with cashews, cilantro, and lime. Man oh man, this soup was delish. It was the most beautiful yellow color and tasted luscious and comforting. It tasted like a mix of summer and winter; the creamy coconut, cilantro, and refreshing lime met the cauliflower in such a toasty, hearty way. I even think it may have been vegan, even though it tasted so indulgent. (Clearly I equate veganism with deprivation. Sorry if that upsets you.)
Also, I can’t not mention the bread. The bread that Matt Dillon’s team makes is pretty amazing. Excellent for soup dipping, or really dipping in anything for that matter. Get creative, people.
The soup was especially wonderful on such a cold day, but the salads were equally delicious. While it may not have photographed well, the mashed celeriac with walnut and apple cider spread with sage and caraway was perfect to me. The fried sage on top melted in your mouth and was just the right amount of sweet with wintery spices throughout.
The other salads were also great. We went with the roasted savoy cabbage and delicata squash with dates, pistachios, and sesame as well as the braised fennel bulb and roasted chanterelles with chopped olives, celery, and capers. There were pumpkin seeds instead of pistachios with the cabbage, but that was just fine with me. I definitely took more than my fair share of the squash and the roasted mushrooms. I couldn’t help myself.
There’s something really great about room temperature vegetable dishes, and it’s clear that people are catching on to this. They’re being served all over town, most memorably at The Whale Wins. Typically cold weather makes me crave things like the meatball sandwich at Salumi or pho from down the street, but this rustic, vegetarian lunch at London Plane was such a lovely departure from the norm.
In addition, my mom loved the quiet of the space. Luckily, no one was sitting directly next to us at the communal table so we were free to discuss at length the stereotypical Seattle conversation topics of alternative medicine and organic Thanksgiving dishes without fear of judgment. We left feeling satisfied and nourished, both from the peaceful atmosphere and the thoughtful food. Grab a friend or bring a book and make yourself at home. We definitely did.
The London Plane, 322 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA, (206) 624-1374, http://thelondonplaneseattle.com/wp/, Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.