[From left to right, Adrian and Michael Daniel]
Michael Daniel is Co-Founder of The Gate, a top London vegetarian restaurant in two locations – Hammersmith and Islington. Michael established The Gate in Hammersmith in 1989 with his brother Adrian. The food reflects the diverse cultural background in which he and his brother Adrian grew up: Indo-Iraqi Jewish modulated by a French and Italian influence.
At roughly what age did you become vegetarian? I became a vegetarian at 17.
What made you become vegetarian? At the tender age of 17, after a summer as a five star crew member at the Golden Arches restaurant, eating meat was becoming both a political and moral issue. I began to see the meat industry was a large economic gravy train, causing cruelty and suffering on a mass scale and in the process disconnecting people from their food. Being vegetarian was something I thought about often as a young teenager but never acted upon. My eureka moment finally came in the frozen section at Tesco in Hendon. Looking at long freezer full of chickens, I wondered how many of these I would consume over the course of a year – even a lifetime. I felt that by making a personal decision I could really make a difference.
What is your favourite vegetarian meal? Indian cooking is my soul food, it is the food I grew up eating and is my comfort food. As I and my other sibling turned vegetarian, my mum and grandma began to cook much more without meat, it was just as good. It taught me a valuable lesson and what would become the mantra of The Gate, “you don’t need meat to have great food”. If I had to choose a favourite meal it would be Falia Bargy, a dry curry made with Indian green beans. Beautifully simple, just the vegetables cooked slowly with spices in their own steam.
Which is the best vegetarian restaurant you have been to?
Without being biased, I can honestly say The Gate! In reality I don’t eat out that often. Over the years I have had some lovely meals at Terra Terra in Brighton. Great cooking and lovely presentation.
Gate Hammersmith interior.
Where is the most vegetarian-friendly place? India.
What has been your worst experience as a vegetarian?
Too many to mention. Although if we’re talking about consistently bad, I would have to say that as a vegetarian I never feel quite like an afterthought as I do at kosher functions.
Can you recommend any good vegetarian resources (cookbooks/guides/websites/etc.)?
The Gate Vegetarian Cookbook: Where Asia Meets the Mediterranean and The Gate Easy Vegetarian Cookbook. Both cookbooks are available at http://thegaterestaurants.com/shop.php and from Amazon.
What’s your “signature dish” (and can you give us the recipe)?
Green Banana (Plantain) Fritters. The recipe can be found here.
You can follow the Gate on Twitter @gaterestaurant.