Oh, the vegan Duke of York

I am not great at being spontaneous. As much as I love the idea of setting out for a day of unknown adventures exploring the streets and market-stalls of London, sniffing out and picking up vegan treats as I go, it never quite comes together; any hint of spontaneity is stamped out by train timetables, the picking out of changeable weather-appropriate layers, and the realisation that going anywhere or doing anything in London usually requires spending money which, when there’s nothing you have your heart particularly set on, can feel a touch prohibitive. So if I can avoid spending three hours on public transport, getting rained on, only to find myself parting with a week’s worth of grocery money for a substandard falafel wrap… well, I’ll make plans that steer me clear away from that experience.

It may have taken me only just over 24 hours to get myself to the Startisans food market at Duke of York Square when I heard that Vegan Sweet Tooth would be making their debut… But it has taken me weeks months to get my hands (and mouth) on the gorgeous Italian food served up by Sara of Pomodoro e Basilico.

Pomodoro e Basilico is a vegan Italian supper club and catering company based in London. Check out the Etsy page and you’ll know why I was so eager to get my (carefully planned) path to collide with Sara’s. Authentic Italian cuisine meets wholesome ingredients, smothered in a bear hug of passion and dedication. It’s everything I love about food, cooking, and eating.

To cut a long story short, I finally found myself standing on the other side of a market stall from Sara herself on a dry May bank holiday weekend, freshly drawn cash burning a hole in my wallet and my stomach beginning to digest itself in excitement/protest.Pomodoro e Basilico farinata

The stall was starting to sell out by the time we got there at 1pm (the market runs from 10am until 4pm, and it was heaving – a testament to how appetising Pomodoro e Basilico’s offerings were). I was secretly relieved as I had secretly planned on getting at least one of every item for myself, so the circumstances made the going a little easier on my wallet and stomach. I started with the farinata, a half-inch thick chickpea pancake-like slice, very subtle in flavour which was the perfect way to ease into my day of feasting.

We both got a slice of the Pizza Puglia, which featured homemade chorizo, black olives, mixed peppers, and onions.

Pomodoro e Basilico

This pizza was pretty much one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten, and you know I don’t throw statements like that around. The crust was chewy and pillowy, the tomato sauce base was rich and flavourful, the chorizo was greasy and spicy, and all the toppings were in perfect proportion.

I also had a slice of Pizza Cisa because, like I said, I was going to have everything anyway and it was green.

Pomodoro e Basilico Pizza Cisa

With pesto, pine nuts, and mushroom, I was always going to like this, but I did take a moment to appreciate how well the bold pesto flavours were balanced with the salty-sweet ham, offset by the creamy cream cheese. The fluffiness of the base played equally nicely with the moistness of the mushrooms and the crunch of the pine nuts. Flawless on all fronts but I think the Puglia stole the show because… chorizo.

Pomodoro e Basilico Pizza Puglia detail

We decided not to get any of the foccacia – there was an onion and a potato variety on offer by the time we got there – but you can see it posing behind the pizza in the photos above and doesn’t it just look beautiful? Sara kindly gave us the last of her adorable Boston cream doughnuts which Ben enjoyed, pointing out that it wasn’t too sweet and that it was closer in texture to a doughball than a doughnut… which to me sounds about perfect!

I’m going to have to move on with this post as my mouth is watering and all I want now is more of that pizza… But go have a look at that Etsy page and be sure to check out the Instagram account for details of Pomorodo e Basilico’s next appearances. Among them is a Vegan Burger Brunch, featuring four differently-themed burgers, which I am bitterly disappointed I won’t be in the country for. Bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

What I was not disappointed about was how many vegan food stalls were lurking in the rest of the market at Duke of York Square! I was too full and happy to taste or buy anything else, but I did snap a few photos when the crowd allowed me to get close and stand still long enough.

There was a stall selling raw vegan goods including kale chips, crackers and “macaroons”, and a Peruvian stall – Panka Peru – advertising a vegan option! How often do you see that in touristy West London?!

Duke of York Square Market vegan Peruvian

We were just as surprised to run into a Global Fusion stand, selling their irresistibly simple loaf cakes that I have previously raved about (and devoured). Just opposite them – and unpictured as I couldn’t get close enough to showcase everything – were Rainforest Creations, who fed me extremely well at last year’s Vegfest UK.

Duke of York Square Market Creole Fusion

Pretty much everything else was meat, cheese, and seafood, but on our way out we popped our heads into the Startisans hut although we knew Vegan Sweet Tooth wouldn’t be there. I was immediately intrigued by the Live Unguilty stall with its dainty assortment of paper cup-clad nutty treats… but I am ashamed to say I dismissed them for yet another “bliss ball” concoction of dates and nuts.

Duke of York Square Market Live Unguilty

I got my hackles up further when I took issue with the suggestion that we should perhaps feel guilty about eating any treats, but poor Dina smilingly persevered in getting me to taste a sample. These are a far cry from the gooey healthy snacks I had been expecting: I would genuinely have no idea these are vegan or gluten-free. Moist and flavourful, my only gripe is that they are not about twenty times bigger. Thank you Dina and sorry for being grumpy before I had cake in my mouth!

Duke of York Square Market Friulismo

Yet another mention goes to Friuliamo, who despite not being a vegan or free-from business have thoughtfully catered to vegans with what looks like a delicious aubergine parmiggiana. I believe there may have been another vegan special advertised on their menu board, but I had had my fill of Italian food for the day.

I was really impressed with what I would have thought to be, upon first impressions and uneducated assumptions, an overpriced and vegan-unfriendly upmarket West London tourist spot. Vegan food options were reasonably priced, and at Pomodoro e Basilico we paid £14 for three huge slices of (amazing, homemade) pizza and two slices of farinata which fed us both comfortably for the rest of the day. We sat on a step outside the Saatchi gallery, people-watching and stuffing our faces with pizza, and it was the perfect start to a bank holiday weekend.

So if, like me, you struggle with spontaneity, start making plans now to visit the Duke of York Square Saturday market to support the vegan businesses it has chosen to showcase. I am already trying to schedule in my next meeting with Pomodoro e Basilico, but failing that, maybe I’ll decide to take a spontaneous stroll through the market and see what vegan offerings take my fancy. If it’s not raining, and the trains are running normally.