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Places and Faces: Indian Veg Edition

Roar writer Malachy McWilliams reviews his trip to Indian Veg and shares his experience with their owner, Safa.

Outside of Indian Veg

Outside of Indian Veg, thirty-six years after its doors opened.

Indian Veg by name, Indian veg by nature. This heavenly, zero-meat, all-you-can-eat, B.Y.O., vegetarian buffet of the Indian cuisine sits in the heart of Angel, Islington. You can expect to find lots of potato-based curries, vibrant salads, yummy lentil dishes, and my personal favourite, the banana bhajia: perfect for scooping up all those leftover juices. Speaking of juices, this joint is unconditionally and unlimitedly Bring Your Own Bottle(s), meaning you and your workmates, classmates, just mates or ‘just…mates(?)’ can tipple your belly-warmers before giving the Islington strip your worst, or sip loose leaf teas and fully embrace the post-buffet slump. Writer’s tip: Jägerbombs and paneer are not a nutritious combo.

Banana bhajias (right). Made simply from self raising flour, banana and sugar.

In a year of The Chernobyl disaster, “Livin’ On a Prayer” and the completion of the M25 motorway, the opening of Indian Veg can be overlooked. This David Attenborough of the buffet industry goes pound for pound with the Tesco meal deal for tending to rumbly tummies and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. For just over ten bob, you can enjoy unlimited trips to fill your plate.

The founding father, Safa, just like his food, is full of beans, and he certainly knows his onions when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Did you know “rubbing your feet for ten minutes every evening before bed improves your eyesight,” “walking for 75 minutes a week can add two years to your life,” and “vegetarians have a more robust sex life”? Only one of these I can vouch for, and I am yet to rub my feet before bed. Safa’s mantra, or “militant propaganda,” as one part-time Google reviewer and full-time doubting Thomas puts it, is plastered around the restaurant, not only but especially extending to the toilets: home of the infamous “Don’t Be Sad” poem. No more spoilers, but these posters make for an unforgettable experience. For what these lack in cold, hard empiricism, they do make up for in the warm feeling of guidance and direction you find yourself with when leaving The Ministry of Truth. After your third visit, you’ll be slappin’ sausage sarnies out of hands left, right and centre.

Aside from being an educator and lyricist, Safa is also an avid humanitarian, one of the real good guys, which is what drew me to Indian Veg. I came for the food, but stayed for the vibes. You may spot a busy buffet a bit later on; this is because Safa and the Veg team offer free dinner for anyone in need, which they have been doing for a number of years. In the homelessness capital of the UK, this really does go a long way, and is far from common practice amongst food stops. In fact, as I was taking the snapshot of the outside of Indian Veg for this article, a young man asked and was welcomed in a few clicks later for a warm plate of flavas. Even more, Indian Veg has opened its doors and buffet lids on Christmas for those who didn’t have a warm place or food.

No doubt you will be joining new societies and making new friends in twenny-twenny-two, so why not convert your meat-cred to street-cred and take ‘em to Indian Veg? The worst that can happen is you leave with a full belly. So, next time you’re stuck between a chicken katsu from Wagamama’s or a Bella Italia carbonara, think of Safa and his veggie masala.

Price: £10.95 (experience: priceless)

Location: 92-93 Chapel Market, Islington

Safa and myself

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