21st January 2018
After a largely frustrating week of vegan eating which included a lowlight of my stomach grumbles violating East Coast Train’s quiet carriage policies due there being literally nothing on their menu that I could eat and 2 ‘walk outs’ from Pret A Manger, I was looking forward to proper meal last night. Celebrity chef and fellow silver fox, Marcus Wareing has jumped on the plant-based bandwagon by offering a vegan tasting menu and his restaurant Tredwell’s. The thought of some fine dining food has kept me going during a week where the smell of bacon from a newly opened cafe on my commuter route has been taunting me daily. It’s hard to describe the effect the smell of bacon has on a man starved of meat but when/if I start eating meat again a bacon and egg sandwich on thick, white bread drenched in real butter and ketchup (NOT brown sauce), will be one of the first things I feast on. Given I’m unlikely to get a book deal from this blog I could perhaps look at writing an erotic-style novel based around eating meat when I’m done with this ridiculous diet.
Anyway, back to my vegan tasting menu at Tredwell’s. The last time I ate a Marcus Wareing menu I tasted the finest lamb I’ve ever eaten, a cheese and truffle dish that I can still taste if I close my eyes and concentrate, and some mackerel thing that made me realise I actually like mackerel. I was therefore really excited to see what MW could do with a turnip. We opted for adding on the vegan wine pairing too – who wouldn’t?!
The menu kicked off with a parsnip and coconut soup. I’m not usually a fan of soup it has to be said. This was delicious though, all three spoonfuls of it. The wine was dry and surprisingly decent – something called Dao from Portugal.
After seeing steak after steak being fired out of the kitchen for ‘normal’ people to tuck into I was really looking forward to my salt baked carrots… really I was. Again a tiny dish and also had the benefit of looking like a perfectly cooked piece of beef. Despite my growing meat cravings this was really good, the carrots themselves were tasty and the pine nut crumb and aioli worked really well with it. The wine was ok at best – a German Riesling.
Tiny, tasty starters out of the way I was completely ready for a ‘proper’ plate of food. Artichoke, puy lentils, spiced prune and tempura calçots(?!) wouldn’t traditionally qualify as ‘proper’ food to me but being a millennial (much to my delight I am young enough to be considered in this category) my mind should be open to such things. Unfortunately this was one of the most disappointing plates of food I’ve eaten, possibly ever. It was so one dimensional, everything tasted earthy and nothing had texture, except the random tempura veg, clearly served on the side as it has no place with this dish and the grit/soil that was still present. This was perhaps a desperate effort to add the otherwise textureless meal. To top all that the Sangiovese it was served with was predictably crap. I’ve seen Mr Wareing enough on Masterchef to know he dishes out plenty of criticism so I won’t feel bad for saying how rubbish this was.
Not to be too deterred we thought we would add the vegan cheese board to our meal. We shouldn’t have. Each of the three cheese-but-not-cheeses were unpleasant in their own unique way. Vegan cheese is quickly becoming one of the least pleasant things in the world.
Next up was an apple meringue pie. No idea how they managed to make meringue without egg but they did and it was perfectly scoffable.
Lastly we had poached pear with ginger cake and pine nut cream. Poached pear – great, ginger cake – great, pine nut cream – offensively disgusting. Two out of three ain’t too bad I guess. The dessert wine, apparently Hungary’s finest, was real tasty too.
I really admire restaurants for putting in the effort to cater to emerging food trends, I think it’s hugely arrogant to ignore people’s eating preferences so fair play to a chef as successful a Marcus Wareing for embracing veganism. What I take from this though, is that it would be unlikely I’d be able to continue to enjoy eating out in the same way I used to if I were to continue with this diet. If Marcus can’t whip up a decent fine dining vegan meal I’m not sure who can. I love eating out, I like trying new food too, maybe that means I’m a foodie, I don’t know, mainly because I’m not sure how you define this. But if I were a foodie could I maintain this on a vegan diet? Excluding 90% of food available to me and limiting myself to, at best, one choice on a typical menu feels like the opposite of being a foodie. Could you consider yourself a film buff if you only ever watch Rom-Coms? Could I claim to be a sports fan if I only ever watch and play golf? Probably not I’d say.
As I said it’s been a tough week and I’ve been missing meat for the first time. With that an inspiring quote to remind me why people go vegan is much needed. There are clearly some really profound reasons why people go vegan, today I’ll hand over to Natalie Portman who said the following in an interview with Hello magazine:
“If I have dairy, I immediately break out.”
It’s hard for me to picture anything other than Natalie incarcerated and looking for a way out of prison. Desperate looking around for a way out Portman sees some cheddar, she’s takes a nibble and some kind of Popeye-esque transformation occurs allows her to bend the bars and wander out, freedom. Either that or she gets spots if she has milk. I think the former is more likely though.