Food & beverage

Hotel zero Established in Pitlochry among the rugged Perthshire farmland in 2018, Saorsa 1875 is the UK’s first exclusively vegan hotel. Housed within a 19th-century baronial edifice but decorated with bohemian flair, the venture is a sanctuary for vegans, vegetarians and the plant-curious. With a menu founded on local, ethical ingredients, and a mantra to prove that “delicious food doesn’t have to come at the expense of animals or the planet”, the flagship property might be unique within the UK, but it reflects a broader trend within the hospitality sphere to be more accommodating to alternative lifestyles and plant-based diets. Whereas European hotels have traditionally favoured a meat- and-potatoes approach to dining, many now provide vegan options in hotel restaurants and bars. There has also been a drive to keep the use of

Above: Saorsa 1875 is in a 19th-century mansion in Scotland.

Below: Saorsa’s head chef Deborah Fleck is proving daily that vegan fi ne dining only requires a little creativity.

Opening page: The hotel prides itself on cuisine before everything else.

After witnessing the ever-expanding array of plant-

based food and drink outlets, clothing brands and celebrity endorsers over the last half decade, a tailor- made vegan hospitality venture felt like a no-brainer for the McLaren-Stewarts, even if there was also a small sliver of trepidation about how a hotel selling itself as 100%-vegan in the cow-strewn pastures of Perthshire – a haven for hunting and fishing enthusiasts – would go down with the local community. “Actually, the support from people has been amazing, and I think there’s a couple of factors around that,” McLaren-Stewart explains. “One is that we do source everything as locally as we can. We are engaging with local farmers and buying local produce, and wanting to be part of that ecosystem. Just because we don’t buy beef and lamb doesn’t mean we’re not interacting with them and supporting them.”

animal hides and furs in hotel decor to a minimum, if not eradicate them altogether in some hotels. London’s Hilton Bankside made headlines in 2019 when it collaborated with interior designers to furnish a completely vegan room. With the core demographic at Saorsa aged 30–50 – despite the most passionate vegans being 20-somethings – and hailing from a diverse range of backgrounds, an integral part of the hotel’s allure is its food. The evolving menu has been specially designed to counter the narrative that veganism is all about monastic deprivation. Equally important is a drive to move past the mock meat approach made famous via outlets like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat to deliver something more unique. “That mock meat concept wasn’t an angle that we wanted to go down,” says McLaren-Stewart. “Actually, we just really wanted to showcase plants, and how incredibly vibrant and diverse they can be: there’s tens of 1,000s of edible plants on the planet. And most people restrict themselves to this tiny portion of them. “We want to introduce people to new

things. We want you to come and be like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what half the things are on that menu.’ It’s exciting and adventurous. And it’s throwing you out of your comfort zone.”

International class The kitchen is commanded by Australian- born chef Deborah Fleck, who has honed her vegan cooking skills across multiple continents, not least in Northern Europe where she trained under the watchful eye of plant-based restaurateur Neel Engholm. Engholm co-owns the vegan restaurant Plant Power Food in Copenhagen with Casper Bilton, a professional handball player and

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All: Saorsa

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