Experiential events are hit and miss. For every all-engrossing success there’s a £100 damp squib, where you grab a dressing gown, throw a colander on your head, turn up at a warehouse near the Thames, and let a guy dressed as a Smeg put you in cardboard prison for ten minutes. It’s just like being Han Skywalker, right?
Certain types of restaurants can feel like this as well and Cookdaily in London Fields is one of them. On paper it’s a vegan restaurant serving up tasty, multi-cuisine bowls in a converted arch. Experientially, it’s a black-walled goth canteen that’s the restaurant manifestation of a hormonal, Cyberdog-wearing teenager, who has no interest in meat. Or human interaction.
But first the food, because this is one thing you do want to experience at Cookdaily. Everything, from the pad thai to the chicken and mushroom pie, is meat and dairy free. And it all tastes pretty nice. The menu - displayed like vegetable-focussed wanted posters around the arched cave - jumps from Thai curries, to noodles, to jerk, to dhal. Although flavour-wise some bowls can taste a little homogeneous if eaten back to back, most things here, like the jungle curry, are very satisfying. A jerk bowl will be laden with carrots, aubergine, puffed tofu, and an umami-packed coleslaw on top. While a creamy (but creamless) pie will be heavy on mustard and bay leaves. It’s fast food, without shortcuts.
The problem is that you’ll be more inclined to take the food away, rather than eat in. There are trains duh-duh-ing overhead, staff effortlessly miming Cardi B from the speakers, and the occasional blood-curdling shout from behind the till. 8. 8. EIGHT. Are you 8? Am I eight? Who knows. You just want a curry without a non-bitey extra from Blade giving you the up-and-down stare, all because you forgot you wanted spring rolls.
Dystopian-feel aside, Cook Daily is undoubtedly a restaurant of the time-poor and vegetable-rich future. Every bowl here is cooked to order, priced at around a tenner (or more with the spring rolls), and you can be in and out within half an hour. It may not be the most comfortable or welcoming of canteens, but it’s a tasty and generous one. So do yourself a favour, get a bowl to go, and experience it at home.
Peppers. Broccoli. Aubergine. Onion. Carrots. Chilli. This thing is packed with vegetables and flavour, and no coconut milk, all on Japanese brown rice. We prefer it with puffed tofu, but you can get it with imitation chicken or prawn if you like.
Pad thai is often seen as the safe option, but when it’s this reliably tasty, why let that bother you? This is a good one.
This is almost definitely the name of a Seinfeld episode, but here it’s jerk marinated tofu on brown rice with a punchy coleslaw. Although the sauce is a little watery, this is still pretty good.
We’re not illiterate, that’s just how they refer to their fake chicken at Cookdaily. Maybe all the meat is in the e’s? Anyway, this isn’t technically a pie. Because it’s a mustard-filled, creamless creamy sauce, with a bit of pastry chucked on top. It tastes decent though.
Look, this isn’t going to get you high, even with the hemp seed crumble. But if you are high, or even if you’re not, you’re going to enjoy this bowl of stir fried veg in Cookdaily’s signature sweet, spicy, and smoky, BBQ sauce.
Sod it, you know you want them.