Veganism is the new black. Or something. Certainly there has been an upswell of interest in cutting meat out of one’s diet – but dairy too? Is that a step too far?
Although fish is usually on the menu at the Edulis restaurant in VBG, Chef Brad Roe used his culinary skills to create a fabulous six-course plant-based evening meal, which we popped along to.
You’ve heard of food miles? At VBG food inches are counted (or should that be centimetres, while we’re still in the EU?). On each table was a little planter of radish leaves plus a pair of scissors with which to harvest this peppery garnish.
We started the meal proper with soft and pillowy balsamic onion cornbread, sweetcorn cream and tangy lime pickle kohlrabi.
Cat’s favourite dish was charred fennel and sweet potato served with a pea shoot coulis and a perm of VBG sage foam. There was a late delivery of a perfectly-shaped sunflower seed Madeleine – well executed, but this tasty dish had enough going on already.
Our experience of tasting menus usually means a smidge of this and a soupçon of that. At VBG there was no danger of needing to pop to the chippy on the way home. As with the previous dishes, there were home-grown ingredients; this time VBG lavender-smoked mushroom and IW smoked garlic, tarragon pearl barley and coffee-oil focaccia. As Brad explained each dish, it was clear that he was a chap who liked to experiment; filtering, smoking and foaming his hyper-local ingredients.
VBG plant-based lasagne was a clever layering of various root vegetables, pepped up with VBG piccalilli and onion marmalade.
Proving that meat-free food doesn’t have to be all lentils and textured vegetable protein, Brad rustled up some sexy street food in the form of beetroot and VBG kale tostada, with IW tomato salsa ranchero and guacamole.
Our dessert was a smooth rhubarb and lavender panna cotta with a swig of almond horchata and a sliver of maple syrup roasted pear – which we could have easily scoffed more of.
There are plenty of sound arguments for a plant-based diet, as was explained in the introduction to the meal. Environmental, social and health reasons all stack up. We figured that if 1,000 people eat vegan meals for just one day a year, that should have more impact than one person eating vegan food every day!
The team at the botanic garden is exploring the concept of ‘eating the garden’ and also celebrating its low food miles – and doing so in a remarkably delicious and appetising way.
Check out Ventnor Botanic Garden‘s website and social media for more special dining events.