Grazia's Zoe Beaty, a committed meat-eater, went vegan for one night only - and left pleasantly surprised...
It’s Vegetarian Week - but, on Wednesday, I went one better. At the Hyatt Regency - The Churchill Hotel’s Montagu restaurant, I sampled the all new, all vegan menu developed by LA chef Ali Parvinjah - and I was suitably impressed.
Veganism has recently taken Hollywood by storm, with celebs like Beyoncé, Victoria Beckham and Anne Hathaway leading the way when it comes to the ultimate diet for clean-living. In case it’s passed you by, unlike vegetarians, vegans don’t consume anything which was produced by an animal - including all dairy products.
“Vegan dishes guarantee serious health-boosting benefits - think glowing skin and higher energy levels,” says Ali told us. “Eating even a semi-vegan diet for 60-70% of the day can benefit overall health and weight loss, as well as allowing the body to absorb more goodness from non-vegan foods when eaten at other times.”
To put it to the test properly, I (a meat-eater) took my vegan housemate, Marika - who gave up meat and dairy 15 years ago - to sample the menu. She, like so many others, finds it difficult to eat out even in London, where vegan restaurants are few and far between.
Her eyes lit up when she saw the menu: ranging from aubergine caviar to hemp crusted teriyaki Portobello mushroom fillets… to ice cream, cheesecake, and a full vegan cheese board to finish. It was undoubtedly impressive, as was the setting: though it felt luxurious, it wasn’t intimidating. We were instantly relaxed as we took our window seat, and a live pianist created just enough background buzz to warm the night.
Our table at the Hyatt Regency's Montagu Restaurant
A cold butternut squash, coconut milk, thyme and nutmeg bisque served with ciabatta croutons was the perfect start - and the dishes which followed simply got better. The quinoa, red lentil and soyrizo stuffed pepper, with caramelized kale, sauce provencal, crispy shallot and flat leaf parsley was something that I would order in a non-vegan setting, and we were both incredibly impressed by the delectable vegan ‘cheese’ - soaked and blended walnuts - sent out as part of an extra beetroot-based dish by the chef.
And what could be better than guilt free ice cream to finish? Sweetened only with fresh berries, and garnished with almond biscotti, it was so delicious I could have eaten the whole tub. And still not felt guilty. Whilst the cheesecake - held together using extra-virgin coconut oil - wasn’t quite sweet enough for me, Marika’s raw pecan pie was very tasty. What’s more, it was served with more ice cream - baklava flavoured and espresso.
Raw Cashew Chocolate Ice Cream at The Montagu
Whereas, according to Marika, most vegan options are depressingly monotonous, each dish on this menu had been worked at and perfected. Every course delivered a fresh hit of flavours and textures and was extremely filling.
All in all, our dinner was priced at a very reasonable £50 - three courses for just £25 each. I might not be giving up the dairy just yet, but The Montagu’s new menu certainly has opened my eyes to eating more vegan-based dishes. But in contrast to Hollywood’s finest, for me, the health benefits are an added bonus - I’m in simply because of the taste. Are you?
The vegan menu at The Montagu, Hyatt Regency - London, The Churchill Hotel is available now.