Food & beverage

committed vegan trainer and dietician. For Fleck, while vegan cooking might require greater creativity or flexibility on the part of the chef, the notion that it leads to dull restrictive dining experiences couldn’t be further from the truth. “That’s massively wrong. Vegan food doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to be monochrome,” Fleck says. “It’s just about thinking about what combines well.” By way of an example, she explains that there are six or seven different alternatives that can be used to replace an egg during cooking. “If you’re using it to bind, then you can use aquafaba or husks, but if you want something to colour it you can use turmeric. If you want to bake, you use different milks or oils or vinegars,” she advises. “It’s just about thinking outside the box.”

The menu at Saorsa epitomises this creative approach. Lunch options include curried chickpea sandwiches and banana blossom ‘fish’ with triple- cooked chips, minted peas, hummus and tartare sauce. Meanwhile, dinner guests can enjoy wild mushroom agnolotti del plin with hazelnuts, walnut pesto and rocket, or butternut squash risotto with curry oil and sage crisps. Deserts come in the form of raspberry bavarois with lemon shortbread, or black cherry panna cotta with rum-soaked chocolate figs and orange ice cream.

This desire to deliver innovative, great-tasting vegan food continues elsewhere. At The Dorchester, London, long-renowned for its staple classics, head chef Tom Booton sees guests of all ages opting for vegan or vegetarian food. Although not strictly vegan, Yotam Ottolenghi is a constant source of inspiration for Booton when it comes to vegetarian dishes. “There is no doubt that the attitudes towards meat, fish and dairy are changing, and everyone is becoming much more knowledgeable about the impact their diet has on their health and the planet,” Booton says. “We are no longer a nation of ‘meat and two veg’. We are really developing our way of thinking when it comes to cooking at home, and the shift seems to be going towards more plant-based options.” Others have made vegan food a key facet of the luxury experience. At the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, Raymond Blanc has introduced five and seven-course vegan tasting menus, with produce sourced from the property’s vegetable garden. Meanwhile in Paris, The Shangri-La hotel has a monthly green dinner series, featuring a five-course vegetarian menu. Data suggests that this turn towards plant-based cuisine is a smart one, good for the planet but also business as interest in vegan food continues to grow. According to The Guardian, a record 500,000 people signed up to the ‘Veganuary challenge’ to eat only plant-based foods for a month this January, double the number of 2019. Meanwhile, a report published

Hotel Management International /

by media outlet Chef’s Pencil, using data gleaned from Google Trends to assess the popularity of vegan internet searches, supports the notion that interest in veganism is surging across the globe.

At the vanguard

The explosion of specialist cookbooks and the success of chefs like Gaz Oakley – known as Avant-Garde Vegan to his thousands of followers on social media – have all helped turn a lifestyle choice once seen as cooky and cult-like into a trendy and ethical stance born from concerns around animal welfare, environmentalism and personal health. In January 2021, ONA in Bordeaux – an acronym, in French, for “animal-free origin” – was awarded a coveted Michelin star. The first of its kind in a country famed for its infatuation with meat and dairy dishes. Meanwhile, with Covid-19 forcing us to re-examine our relationship with food production and the risks posed by zoonotic diseases, further moves to cut meat consumption feel inevitable – even if they are going to be more minimal for some than others. Hotels will need to keep abreast of these changes or risk falling behind as the needs of guests continue to evolve, and as customers crave authentic experiences that fit with their own virtues and values. “Every time someone gets a good vegan meal, they go a little bit further,” Fleck says. “I think the awareness of climate change and the impact of produce and raising animals, and then the damage that we’re doing to the animals as well as the environment, [are] helping [to promote veganism].”

McLaren-Stewart concurs. “I think without a doubt veganism is here to stay, and I think we will only see it continue to gain more and more traction. I’m really interested to see it playing out beyond food as well because I think food has kind of been the main battleground for it. But seeing the innovation in the fashion industries and design and textiles is just awesome, and watching that come to the forefront of everyday life is going to be really exciting.” ●


The bar at Saorsa remains just as free of dairy and meat as everything else.

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