22/07/2021 - 10:00

Plant-based dining options growing

22/07/2021 - 10:00

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Perth’s hospitality scene is embracing plant-based eating.

Plant-based dining options growing
Alejandro Saravia (left) and Gianni Moretto are behind the menu at Ten Acre Block. Photo: David Henry

Perth is not immune from foodies’ growing enthusiasm for non-meat options, as plant-based restaurants take root in sophisticated dining markets.

Overseas, three-star Michelin restaurant Eleven Madison Park has reopened after New York City emerged from COVID-19 lockdown as a plant-based restaurant, under chef Daniel Humm.

Vegan chef Alexis Gauthier is opening his second vegan restaurant in London called 123V, after the success of his first restaurant, Gauthier Soho, which slowly transitioned to serving plant-based fare over several years.

In inner Sydney, South King Street has been dubbed ‘Newtown’s vegan mile’, with restaurants and shops offering vegan pizza, Mexican, Vietnamese, an alternative meats butcher and a vegan cheese store, La Petite Fauxmagerie.

In Perth, it’s Pan Pacific’s restaurant Ten Acre Block that’s creating most buzz.

Ten Acre Block, which opened as a pop-up vegan degustation last year, has become a permanent fixture and recently released an a la carte menu.

Pan Pacific Perth general manager Rob Weeden previously worked with the Shangri La in Paris when one of the chefs at the Michelin two-star restaurant La Bauhinia wanted to start a vegan promotion.

Initially, Mr Weeden said, he was unsure if people coming to a high-end French restaurant would be interested in a plant-based menu, so he was surprised by its success.

“He launched this promotion in the middle of winter and people were catching the Eurostar from all over Europe to have dinner in this restaurant because it was a first,” Mr Weeden told Business News.

“It was truly successful, probably the most successful promotion that I have been involved in.”

After he joined the Pan Pacific in Perth in 2018, Mr Weeden recognised an opportunity to fill a gap in the market and create a plant-based fine-dining offering.

“There is a movement with plant-based food, and I wanted to try it,” he said.

Ten Acre Block opened a pop-up offering a vegan degustation in July 2020 for six weeks, complete with vegan cocktails and wine.

“The first six weeks it was received very, very well, so we pushed it for another six weeks, and another six weeks and it’s become a permanent fixture,” Mr Weedon said.

Last month, the venue unveiled its a la carte menu. Ten Acre Block executive chef Alejandro Saravia, who is also the executive chef at Peruvian restaurant Uma and Farmer’s Daughters, and Pastuso, in Melbourne, is the brains behind the menu, along with head chef Gianni Moretto.

Mr Saravia said the decision to move from a seven-course degustation to an a la carte menu was due to demand.

“We wanted more customers to come back,” Mr Saravia told Business News.

“We wanted to offer a little bit more variety than just the seven courses … and for them to be able to enjoy, have a snack, have a couple of cocktails, a glass of wine, maybe not a complete dinner but to keep coming twice a week or every two weeks.

“The a la carte menu opens that option to customers.”

Another Perth plant-based offering has recently rebranded and moved into the restaurant space. The Raw Kitchen opened in 2009 in Fremantle serving only raw food.

It shifted to plant-based food offerings four years later, and more recently changed its name to Mother.

“We needed the name to better reflect what we did; we weren’t doing raw cuisine anymore, we are doing plant based,” co-founder and director Emma Daly told Business News.

The new name brought with it a new menu and dining style.

Moving away from cafe dining, the restaurant now offers a more refined experience.

“There’s quite a lot of vegan options when it comes to cafes: breaky options, casual lunch, that sort of thing, but not a lot when it comes to an elevated restaurant experience,” Ms Daly said.

“We love pushing those boundaries, we love staying progressive and doing things that other people aren’t doing and being able to blow people’s minds and showcase the forefront of how incredible plant-based [food] can be.”

She said attitudes towards plant-based foods had changed over the past decade, particularly the past five years.

“In the early days, for us, it was quite new,” Ms Daly said.

“Green smoothies and almond milk were not normal for anyone, whereas now they certainly are.”

She said only serving plant-based food could be more challenging than operating a regular restaurant because the customer pool was immediately reduced, but changing attitudes meant the audience for Mother’s offering was growing.

Mother was frequented by people who were vegan but also, increasingly, those consciously trying to eat plant-based foods more often.

“A really big proportion of our customer base isn’t vegetarian or vegan and wouldn’t identify that way,” Ms Daly said.

“We get a lot of people who come here because they are more attracted to clean wholefoods eating, and they know that we only use clean wholefoods in our cooking.

“There is certainly that barrier for people when they think of an exclusively plant-based venue, but I think that is shifting as well.

“I think, certainly people are more open to experiencing that now, having understood that it’s come a long way from what it used to be.”

Ms Daly said she welcomed competition as plant-based restaurant offerings in Perth grew.

“The more the industry expands, that’s great for everyone and it’s great for the planet,” she said.

Emma Daly runs plant-based restaurant Mother. Photo: David Henry

During the past couple of years, many restaurants with meat on their menus have adapted to include substantial vegan options.

The Rechabite’s Double Rainbow has a large selection of vegan options, and C Restaurant has created a separate vegan and vegetarian menu.

Cape Lodge Lakeside Restaurant in Yallingup, run by executive chef Tony Howell, has a changing daily menu that caters to guests’ individual dining requirements.

“We ask guests at the time of booking if they have dietary requirements and create a menu for them,” Mr Howell said.

“Just last week, we had a vegan couple who were staying at the lodge, and we did a three-course vegan menu just for them.”

Among the menu’s recent offering have been beetroot carpaccio, roasted eggplant, and avocado and chocolate mousse.

Also in the South West, some more casual dining settings have adapted their menus.

Shelter Brewing Company in Busselton, which opened last year, offers vegan entrees, sides, pizzas, and a burger.

“When you are opening a venue in 2020 or 2021, ensuring you have options for all tastes is really important,” Shelter Brewing Co general manager Paul Maley told Business News.

“We put a lot of effort into making sure the vegan options on the menu are clearly highlighted, but also delicious and not an afterthought.

“When we constructed it, we took all the non-vegan things off the menu and looked at it as a person choosing to eat that diet would look at it, just to ensure the menu looked complete and looked like there were options on there for people choosing to eat that way.”

Mr Maley said the hospitality industry had changed over the past few years and offering food to meet punters’ dietary requirements was now a given.

“A majority of great hospitality venues take the vegetarian options, the gluten-free options, the dairy-free options really seriously and want to ensure those items are delicious, healthy, and are going to sell,” he said.

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