There aren’t many vegan restaurants a non-believer would dare approach, and for many, the term ‘vegan’ carries a stigma, conjuring up images of bizarre nut-cheeses that are dry and uninviting. You’re certainly be unlikely to associate the term with ‘elegance’, ‘flavour’ and ‘pleasure’. But you’d be wrong. Recently, I was invited along to The Montagu at the Hyatt Churchill, In London’s Portman Square, just opposite Selfridges ‘Food Halls’. It’s part ‘in-house hotel restaurant’, part ‘piano bar’, but upon request, can dispatch an intricate 5-course vegan degustation menu, deisgned by the celebrated LA vegan chef, Ali Parvinjah! I was asked to sample the fare and share my reflections, which I’m more than happy to do because I was quite blown away! Click below to read the full review…
COURSE 1: TOMATO SOUP (Pictured below)
First up is the tomato soup; served cold, it’s not sharp in the slightest, but is beautifully balanced, light, and feels as if it’s cleansing the palate. Surprisingly full in taste for something that you’ve probably had a million times in the past, and the ‘not-red’ colour surprises. It’s simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar in flavour and texture, so the taste buds take a while to think. Also, the crunch of the naturally dried Kale complements the smooth creaminess of the soup. A winner.
COURSE 2: ASPARAGUS (Pictured below)
The plate arrives, accompanied by the rich odour of truffle. The asparagus is cooked to perfection, both crunchy and soft, whilst totally fresh. Their almond ricotta is fascinating with the texture of tahini and the flavour of a cheese tinged with almond. It totally glorifies the humble asparagus by embellishing it with these indulgent and raw, nutritious touches, and it really works. Usually vegetables are the accompaniment to a dish, but here, the chef successfully makes them the focal point they deserve to be.
COURSE 3: BLACKENED TOFU (Pictured below)
The description in the menu makes it sound like a rainbow orgasm of flavours, which is odd given that Tofu is one of the most bland foodstuffs in the world, but they’ve done an incredible job of imbuing it with personality and life. A vibrant coconut mustard sauce frames the delicately charred tofu parcel, whilst the cardamom carrots and dainty ‘grilled exotic broccoli’ play off against each other; presided over by a very subtle parsley, and a chilli kick from within the tofu! Boiled, grilled and fresh; It is a balanced, light yet fulfilling dish.
COURSE 4: RISOTTO (Pictured below)
Combining a candied lemon slice, semi dried tomato, foraged mushrooms, coconut butter and cashew cream, this risotto is simply one of the best I’ve eaten. It is even verging on a dessert when a the ingredients are sampled simultaneously. The lemon cuts through the richness of the coconut & cashew and neutralises any heaviness whatsoever.
COURSE 5: DESSERT ASSORTMENT (Pictured below)
This was always going to be the hardest for them to pull off as vegan ingredients definitely lend themselves best to savoury interpretations. The simulation Hazlenut-and-Espresso ice cream (which contains no dairy) could be considered merely ‘a valiant attempt’, but I think it’s more than that; don’t look at it as ice cream, but rather a whole new texture, which boasts strong flavours of its constituents. The ‘Raw Cacao Vanilla-bean crusted Cheesecake’ is the standout for me.
It’s a mere £26 for 2 courses, £30 for 3. I consider that to be exceptional value for the innovation, quality of ingredients, effort and delicacy of execution they achieve here. And you feel full. It’s not trying to prove anything about the vegan ethos here, it’s just being what it is. It’s not a pretentious gastro-environment, it’s not a hippy vegan commune; it just happens to have some seriously creative vegan food. I would comfortably recommend a try!
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