In the homeland of salo, where non-meat-eaters can still be greeted with incomprehension, plant-based dining options are steadily growing in number. This summer, a newcomer has joined their ranks: FenKHel, a cosy vegan restaurant at the top of Volodymyrska, nestled incongruously between a trendy pie joint and a beer restaurant specialising in meat dishes
My first attempt to eat at Fenkhel is thwarted by this summer’s unpredictable weather: my guest is caught in the deluge and forced to cancel. Dinner is postponed to the following evening, but the elements are clearly against us: battling my way up Sofiivska Street feels like wading up a waterfall. We arrive soaked and shivering and turn straight to the hot drinks – I order a warming turmeric latte with almond milk. They also have smoothies, a decent wine list, and a range of unusual teas.
Reasons to Rejoice
The menu is varied and inspiring, and breakfast is available all day long – the first of many reasons to rejoice. Not every dish is clearly described, so you may need to rely on the staff for details (especially if you have an allergy or special requirement). This shouldn’t be a problem: the waiters speak good English and are extremely friendly, to the extent that once or twice we have trouble attracting their attention as they chat to other diners. The service is efficient, however; once we’ve ordered, our food arrives in under ten minutes.
A Whole Philosophy
Vegans and veggies will feel spoilt for choice, but Fenkhel isn’t only preaching to the converted. They also want omnivores to know that vegan cuisine doesn’t mean nibbling on salad leaves with a rumbling stomach: it can be diverse, creative and satisfying. The founders are passionate disciples of the mantra ‘you are what you eat’: everything on the menu is 100% free from animal products and artificial flavourings. This is no obstacle to the chefs, who rustle up shawarma and even ‘steak’ made of oyster mushrooms, as well as traditional Ukrainian dishes like green borshch and syrnyky, complete with dairy-free smetana.
First we share a green and generous salad, including broccoli, spinach, and perfectly-ripe avocado, with a tasty dressing and a sprinkle of seeds. It’s simple and understated: the ingredients speak for themselves. We also sample an Asian bowl, with soba noodles surrounded by an artful array of vegetables both pickled and fresh, and two kinds of mock caviar. Laced with a fine cashew-based sauce, it’s a delicate balance of flavours and textures (umami mushrooms, sharp ginger, earthy noodles, and refreshing cucumber) and would make an ideal light lunch.
Bring on the pizza. Vegan cheese can be hit-and-miss, but this ‘mozzarella’ melts like the real thing and fuses deliciously with the tomato, red onion, and meat-free meat, on a thin, crispy malt base. The rocket salad adds freshness and bite, while the smoked seitan (aka vegan pepperoni) gives me a taste of what I’ve been missing all these years as a vegetarian. The pizza is wonderful, but the real judge is my friend, a self-confessed meat aficionado. So? It passes her test with flying colours: she says if she hadn’t known it was vegan, she might not have guessed.
For dessert I opt for the mango-bilberry euphoria, and the name isn’t far off the mark: three cubes of cool, dense pleasure, accompanied by fresh berries and mango caviar produced by molecular gastronomy. My friend chooses the chocolate and raspberry tart: a softer pudding on a biscuit base, with a chia coulis. Neither dish suffers in the slightest from being dairy-free.
Fenkhel is perhaps a bit quiet for those who prefer their restaurants cheerful and crowded, but considering that the place is only two months old, and it’s a Tuesday night after a torrential rainstorm, this is completely excusable. Besides, what is lacking in atmosphere is more than made up for by the quality of the food and the warmth of the service.
The verdict? Definitely worth braving the rain for. I hope they are destined for great things.
Turmeric Latte – 75 UAH
Latte – 85 UAH
Fresh spinach and avocado salad – 140 UAH
Asian bowl with bamboo and hamadari sauce – 180 UAH
Malt dough pizza with smoked seitan, vegan sausages and vegetables – 180 UAH
Mango-Bilberry Euphoria – 90 UAH
Chocolate & Raspberry Pie – 130 UAH
TOTAL 880 UAH
Make Sure You Try
Green borshch with tofu and egg flavour – 100 UAH
Oyster mushroom steak – 150 UAH
Vegan syrnyky – 148 UAH
Opening Hours: 10.00-23.00
Phone: +380 98 328 8552
The What’s On Checklist
English menu: ✔︎
English-speaking staff: ✔︎