It’s all the rage, don’t you know…
Monday 20th May sees the start of National Vegetarian Week and to celebrate, a number of the nation’s restaurants will be shunning steaks, banishing burgers and allowing even the most carnivorous diners the chance to curb their meaty cravings. According to many a top chef, green is the new black, and if you want to be bang-on trend, you ought to join the green brigade next month. Fried chicken fans, beef buffs, lamb lovers and the like need not fear though, because what these restaurants have lined up is so delicious that the thought of meat won’t even cross your mind.
First up with their take on the many fruits of nature’s larder, is Michelin-starred London hang-out, Seven Park Place. An award-winning four-course feast costing £40 is on the cards here, for those who choose to accept the meat-free challenge, and it includes pea mousse with spring veg and lemon butter sauce; warm salad of roasted vegetables with creamy asparagus purée, light potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms and freshly picked broad beans; and fragrant raspberry soufflé delicately coated with a smooth, dark chocolate sauce. National Vegetarian Week falls on the same week of the Chelsea Flower Show, and so the St James Hotel and Club, where Seven Park Place is located, will be putting on a veritable spectacular for the senses with gorgeous flower displays as well as the food. There will also be three fragrant floral cocktails available – the Jasmine Buttercup, Elderflower and Basil Spray and Flower of Scotland – from top designer Jane Packer.
Mark Poynton, of Michelin-starred Alimentum, based in Cambridge, should find the meat-free week something of a doddle, as he designs every one of his dishes around the veggie element anyway. The restaurant’s seven-course, £65 tasting menu could convert even the most committed carnivore (or see them swap the ribs for runner beans for a day at least). Delicious morsels to look forward to here include Cambridgeshire asparagus, goats’ curd and pickled morels with smoked hazelnut praline, as well as the likes of barbecued celeriac with apple, truffle and onion broth, and desserts of apricot and almond Battenberg with apricot sorbet and amaretto. Divine!
Another stellar line-up is set to come from Alyn Williams at The Westbury in the capital. The Michelin-starred chef is no stranger to the all-veggie menu, as meat-free tasting menus are always available at the restaurant. It sounds like Mr Williams is really pushing the boat out for vegetarian week though, with delights such as smoked egg with crème fraiche, celeriac and truffle soldiers; spiced nettle tortellini with Roscoff onion and dead nettle salsa; and Jersey Royals with peas, wild fennel, ricotta and beurre noisette. The seven-course tasting menu is just £60, and the three-course à la carte is available for £50. Alyn will also be hosting a masterclass on vegetarian cooking on Saturday 27th April – great for those looking to make more of their veg in the kitchen. Married to a vegetarian himself, this National Chef of the Year certainly knows how to do that.
For some gourmet Gallic-style greens, go to Clos Maggiore – where head chef Marcellin Marc will be whipping up the very best of fresh local produce. From grilled Kentish green asparagus and summer truffle pesto to herb-smoked Provençal vegetable bayaldi and chilled burlat cherry giboulée, there are some very special guests making their way onto the menu. Voted the most romantic restaurant in London (and the UK by some), Clos Maggiore’s blossom-filled conservatory is the ideal spot in which to sample the six-course veggie tasting menu for £59 (£89 with paired wines).
Restaurant group Drake & Morgan is also jumping on the veggie wagon, with a range of vitamin-rich cocktails, including the Beatnik Hemingway, made from beetroot, rum and maraschino, The Green Grocer – a heady concoction of celery, rum, lime and mint – and the dizzying blend of carrot, agave and tequila that makes up a Bunny’s Margarita. Get your fix at The Folly, the parlour, the drift, the refinery or The Anthologist. The group has introduced an interactive twist to proceedings too – tweet your own favourite veg-based dish to @drakeandmorgan and you might just see it on the specials board! The winner and a pal will also be entitled to try it as part of a complimentary three-course meal with wine. So why not get working on your homage to the horseradish, or your tribute to the tomato?