Plant life: chef Ravinder Bhogal discusses veganism

Words by
Flora Drummond-Smith

10th April 2018

Ravinder Bhogal talks about veganism, her new menu at The Perception at W London and how her niece inspired her to devise an inventive plant-based menu

In the past decade, veganism has transformed from a niche diet for the uber health-conscious to lifestyle choice backed by many. Embracing this change, a host of London restaurants (Tibits, Mildreds and Farmacy to name but a few) concentrate on vegan and vegetarian menus while others are shifting their focus from fine cuts of meat in favour of healthier and cleaner plant-based ingredients. But without meat, eggs and dairy products to flavour and carry dishes, chefs are having to find clever and inventive ways to give body to vegan menus.

One such chef is Ravinder Bhogal (who is behind London-based restaurant Jikoni) who has created an entirely vegan menu for W Hotel’s The Perception, that will be served until the end of June.

Combining global culinary influences, Bhogal’s inventive menu is so full of flavour and texture that you hardly notice you aren’t eating meat. The caramel braised tofu, is flavoursome, robust and meaty in texture with a skin-like crust, while a starter of ‘cauliflower popcorn’ served with a black vinegar and chilli dip is so delicious that it would be worth visiting The Perception for that dish alone. 

After sampling her menu we spoke to Bholgal to find out more about her menu at The Perception at W London, why she created it and how it challenged her cooking.

Cauliflower popcorn with a black vinegar, sesame and chilli dip
What do you think is behind the vegan trend? 

I think people are more aware of the ethical & environmental impact of the meat & dairy industries. 

What do you think about the recent trend for vegan food? 

I think we are in a critical moment of veganism’s evolution and in fact, I think there has never been more interest in what we are eating. While for some it may be a passing flutter like Veganuary, I think there are others who are looking at the ethical & environmental picture & embracing a vegan lifestyle so I think it is definitely more than just a passing trend. 

Tempura Inari
Tempura Inari, moong dhal with sweet & sour tomatoes and turmeric carrot kraut
What led you to create a wholly vegan menu for The Perception at W London? And what did this mean for your cooking? 

My niece Avneet who I am very close to turned vegan some time ago & the menu for The Perception is a love letter to her - I always want her to eat well. I had to cook without relying on the safety blankets of meat and dairy, which isn’t as difficult as I first thought it would be. I think the key is flavour - using spices in surprising ways and making sure everything has a range of texture.

What is your favourite dish and how is it prepared?  

Avneet’s favourite dish on the menu at The Perception at W London is the caramel Braised Tofu. It is also my favourite dish. We compress it to drain away as much liquid as possible which gives it a more robust texture. It is then fried to give it a crisp exterior & a meltingly soft interior. The caramel has a big hit of Sichuan pepper which have the effect of slightly numbing your tongue. You get a chase of spicy heat, deeply savoury umami from the soy and then a pleasant sweet. It is served with garlic confit rice & refreshing pickled cucumbers.

Where would you go in London for good vegan food dishes? 

I haven’t explored vegan restaurants as such but I do love vegetarian Indian restaurants such as Delhiwala in Southall that serves typically Punjabi food and Asma Khan’s meat free Monday’s at Darjeeling express

Caramel braised tofu with confit garlic rice and smacked chilli cucumbers

Ravinder Bhogal’s menu menu will be available, alongside carefully selected vegan wines, until the end of June 2018. For more information please visit