From architecture-inspired dishes to part-time vegetarianism, BAZAAR bites into summer’s palate of indulgence.
A new wave of vegetarianism is invading some of Australia’s best menus. By Eliza O’Hare. When Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s celebrated Sydney restaurant Yellow switched its menu to a completely vegetarian one earlier this year, it signalled a shift in fine dining; the elegant art of eating all of your greens—with matched wines, of course. Gone are gritty veggie dishes in grimy surrounds; this movement is all about pairing heirloom baby endive with Veuve Clicquot in chic interiors. Green appreciation has been a long time coming, with chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi leading the way with his bestselling vegetarian cookbooks Plenty, released back in 2010, and Plenty More, from 2014. But you know it’s a real thing when Alain Ducasse’s Paris restaurant in the Hôtel Plaza Athénée sidesteps meat dishes for a greater focus on grains, fish, and vegetables. While not everyone wants to commit to offering a fully green menu, there’s a greater percentage of serious restaurants introducing big-flavoured vegetarian dishes. After all, the new (part-time) vegetarian is also a flavour seeker. It could be a controversial move, but Chef Savage says Yellow has always had a focus on vegetables. “Our vegetarian and vegan menus have grown increasingly popular at all three restaurants [Yellow, Bentley, and Monopole, all in Sydney], so it felt like a natural progression,” he explains. “The response to the new menu has been really positive, but the parsnip ‘pappardelle’ is definitely a contender for our bestseller.” For his new Sydney restaurant, No. 1 Bent Street, Chef Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike is committing to more green dishes. “I love vegetables; if I was only allowed to eat one food group for the rest of my life, it would be vegetables,” he says. “There’s so much diversity and great flavour. They formed the bulk of my dishes at KBM [Kitchen by Mike] and will certainly feature heavily at No 1. Bent Street.” Adding kick to the green dining experience is juice pairing. At Silvereye in Sydney, manager/sommelier James Audas says diners are embracing bespoke matched fruit-and-vegetable juices. “There are definitely favourites, like the rose kombucha and raspberry matched with beetroot dishes, or the apple, beetroot, and dried lemon myrtle matched with oxtail.” Sounds like the time is
ripe to celebrate your vegetarian leanings.
Li Ying Lim speaks to Emmanuel Eger, head chef of The Magazine at Seckler Serpentine Gallery, about his ever-creative menus. How does the restaurant and surrounding architecture influence the menu? We have an open kitchen with a robata charcoal grill, and the menu is assembled around it, with guests walking around the kitchen to see the cooking in action. The food is contemporary in style, presenting bold yet balanced flavours. Together with Zaha Hadid Architects, we selected Kahla curved plates to complement the room’s lineations and bring the food to life. Located at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, one can’t help but be inspired. Exhibitions change four times per year, and we also collaborate with artists on our menus. We also recently received sculptures and murals for display purposes. This creates an immersive experience for guests. When creating a menu, how do you get to the moment where you just know, “this is it”? I usually try to understand what our customers like to eat. Popular dishes say a lot about how they would like our menus structured. I always visualise new dishes in my head, then I jot down my ideas and test the recipes with the team—it engages them and helps their creative development. I have a “this is it” moment when I follow my instinct even when a recipe does not sound perfect on paper. Persistence is key and the reward is in the final dish. What makes you a happy chef? Honesty, teamwork, and a happy customer! www.magazine-restaurant.co.uk
Kitchen by Mike’s watermelon, tomato, and haloumi salad
Sam Miller’s sunflower and geranium crispbread
Silvereye executive chef, Sam Miller
Head chef, Emmanuel Eger