Cat’s a bit of a vegan-dabbler, although it will take a lot to turn Matt’s head away from sausages. Talking of which, we were delighted to have it further confirmed that vegan food needn’t be sawdusty fauxages. When in the supremely talented hands of Quay Arts chef Dave Holley, even the most humble vegetable can make our tastebuds sing. In a collaboration with local illustrator Lilly Louise Allen, the Quay produced a twelve course tasting menu and the food was all plant-based.
Each dish was warmly introduced by Quay Arts general manager, Paul Armfield, who explained that with twelve dishes to enjoy, we’d have to keep to time! That was easy enough with the first course – nettle tea with edible flowers.
Each course had a seasonal theme and June’s dish was an extremely strong opener, with asparagus and fennel on a stunning disc of pickled kohlrabi – hints of juniper, clove and other spices danced on our tongues.
For July, Dave Holley created a superb refreshing salad of rocket and strawberries, with little dobs of (vegan) soft cheese.
Before you get all finger-pointing about salad, check out this rich gazpacho soup. Served with oak-smoked tomatoes and sweet micro-basil, it was another dish with layered flavours.
That may look like smoked salmon, but it was a zingy grapefruit puree, served on corn salsa and avocado purée.
If you’ve never eaten mushroom paper, you need to rectify that by whatever means. One of Cat’s favourite ingredients given an unusual treatment, which brought out its distinctive flavour.. And, when served with figs and blue ‘cheese’, October was another great month.
Well into autumn vegetables with delightful roasted squash and cherry tomatoes, served with lime pickle. The squash were baked rind-on, which – according to Matt – gave them a hint of porky scratching texture. He may have just been wishful thinking.
Any non-meat eater who has had to suffer the ignomy of Christmas dinner with parents who imagine that a bowl of sprouts will do, should hire chef Dave to teach their old folks a lesson. This pistachio and mushroom pie with cranberries and port jus, was so succulent it was hard to believe it was not meaty!
Into January and beetroot is still on-trend and, in this dish, it was also on top of puréed celeriac. An earthy combo.
Frankly, we were still recovering from our December pie, when rhubarb crumble and cashew ice cream hoved into view. The crumble was particularly note-worthy, or should that be nut-worthy, as it was mostly made of chopped roasted hazelnuts. Fab.
Any suggestion that a vegan diet might not be sufficiently calorific, was swept away with these delicious buckwheat pancakes, served with banana and orange sauce.
The last dish, April, was the motherlode! A vast intensely-chocolatey egg, filled with chocolate, hazelnut mousse and rich malt cream.
As mentioned, this meal was a collaboration between Dave and Lilly Allen, whose lovely illustrations not only adorned the menu, but were also framed around the cafe wall – a true art and food collaborative showcase.