How to make your plant-based menu stand out

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Plant-based goodness: How to elevate your veggie and vegan dishes pop (Getty/ Yagi Studio)
Plant-based goodness: How to elevate your veggie and vegan dishes pop (Getty/ Yagi Studio)

Related tags Food Gastropub Estrella Damm Top50 Gastropubs

Award-winning chefs have shared their top tips for creating a vegetarian and vegan menu, after research revealed almost half of UK adults were considering cutting down their intake of animal products.

The survey, which was carried out by Ipsos earlier this year, also revealed 48% of adults now use plant-based milk alternatives, and 58% now use plant-based meat substitutes in their diet.  

Operators from the UK’s Top 50 Gastropubs agreed that that more pubs should invest in their plant-based offering. One chef claimed it was no longer something for a specialist restaurant, but was something for all and was the way forward. 

Don’t overcomplicate dishes,​ was the advice from the Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax, West Yorkshire, head chef Will Webster. “When I first started at the inn, I was trying too hard to make the dishes really fine dining with a lot of elements and it just didn’t work,” he said. “Now we just keep it simple and focus on getting the best flavour possible.” 

Former head chef of the Duncombe Arms, Ashbourne, Derbyshire Jake Boyce, agreed. “Keep [the dish] simple, delicious and seasonal; let mother nature sort the combination out and treat it with love,” he said. 

Size, seasonality and spark

Be wary of portion sizes:​ Webster also advised chefs ensure plant-based dishes were a substantial amount. He always tested dishes out on vegetarian staff members and used vegetables with a high protein content like potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms and kale to accomplish this.  

For instance, his favourite veggie dish from the menu was the vegan shitake mushroom hotdog – served with onion jam, shitake ketchup and vegan mozzarella, ticking the protein boxes. 

Seasonality is key:​ The Greyhound, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, head chef James Askew took exactly the same approach to veggie dishes as he did to any other dish. This meant looking at in-season flavour combinations as well as new or current techniques and products and use those as a foundation. 

Make it interesting:​ “Veggie and vegan dishes are too often an afterthought,” added Askew, and focused on making plant-based meals that would sit with pride alongside any of his other dishes. 

Variety is the spice of life

Don’t reduce things to the lowest common denominator, ​said the Unruly Pig, Bromeswell, Suffolk co-owner Brendan Padfield. “Many chain operators have caused annoyance to many vegetarians by reducing all “veggie’ options to vegan dishes to keep things simple and thus reduce labour cost and also wastage,” he said.  

“However, almost always this path leads to a reduction in quality for vegetarian dishes. Wastage permitting, therefore try whenever possible (and most importantly economic) to construct vegetarian dishes separately and if an easy vegan derivative is still then possible, then so much the better,” he added. 

Variety of taste:​ When creating a vegetarian or vegan menu, it is important to have a point of difference or interest in each dish, according to Warwickshire-based gastropub the Cross at Kenilworth chef director Adam Bennett.  

“I also like to incorporate umami – ‘the fifth taste’ – into dishes,” he continued. “This gives that indispensable savoury and moreish character to our dishes.” 

Related topics Menu Ideas

Related news

Show more