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On a Vegan Flex

Stem and Glory are well-established in Cambridge and have already laid down roots in London’s Barts Square. Despite a laid-back feel at the new Broadgate Circle restaurant, there is no dearth of attention from waiting staff, who are friendly and well-informed about the nuances of the menu. It’s an intimate spot, with gentle electronica playing, and the early crowd are polishing off the day’s work on their laptops at the bar, making way for an influx of smart, young professionals in their twos, threes and fours.

The décor is somewhere between Scandinavia and Asia, invoking a serene feel which set me at ease: low-hanging lamps, straight lines and curves, sleek wooden surfaces, faux marble-topped tables and artwork inspired by the natural world. Upstairs, a larger party is enjoying what looks to be a staff party.

What Stem & Glory have done so well is to make the dishes look like Michelin-starred fare. You could be forgiven for thinking the ‘fish’ taco actually contains fish, because it certainly looks like fish and - unless you were paying very close attention to the use of inverted commas and vegan lingo such as ‘novocado’ and ‘Tofurkey’ (see glossary below) - then you might not even realise the restaurant was vegan.

I have heard it said that some vegans frown upon food which mimics meat, on the basis that they are not seeking to replace or imitate the experience by avoiding animal produce. As a flexitarian who adores fusion cooking above all else, the mimicry of meat and/or fish suits me just fine. I’m constantly coercing my tastebuds into new combinations of flavours

The texture of the King Oyster ‘Scallops’, made from the stems of mushrooms, has the same flake-in-your-mouth quality, which combine with artichoke leaves and an unmistakable touch of Dijon mustard beautifully.

It being December, I couldn’t resist the Christmas menu, and found myself tucking into the Rosemary and Orange Fragrant Tofurkey*, with roasted potatoes, caramelised vegetables and red wine gravy. There is a good, strong flavour to the herbs, and the potatoes gave excellent crunch-factor, making me wish this kind of fare was on offer at my local pub.

Dining at Stem & Glory is not just a culinary experience but an educational one. Each dish is labelled with a traffic light system according to its carbon emissions. The only red light corresponds to the affogato dessert, served with Amaretto, which hints at how locally-sourced the bulk of the ingredients are. There is also the option to offset your inevitable carbon consumption by paying a nominal fee to have a tree planted, and there was a genuine feel-good factor knowing that each meal served at Stem & Glory will result a meal being given to a child living in poverty.

The drinks menu, too, has much to boast about, particularly the kombucha mocktails and signature lattes. Never before have I tried a pink coffee, but the “cotton candy latte” was the stuff of dreams. Made with lucuma and beetroot powder, it is caffeine-free and not syrupy or sickly as you might imagine from its name.

I emerged from Stem & Glory feeling genuinely glorious, and excited to see that healthy, low-carbon, plant-based fusion-cooking is finally getting the star treatment it should have had years ago.


Novocado – avocado substitute consisting of spinach, green bean and mint paste, and far fewer carbon emissions.

*Tofurkey – turkey substitute, made from Tofu.

By Laura Steel

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