It seems de rigeur to pepper your menus with Vs (vegetarian), VGNs (vegan), GFs (glutan-free) and other puzzling acronyms. We sent CityMag’s intrepid eater Tom Williamson forth to find out if food that is defined by what’s not in it can still contain high levels of delicious.
More than what it’s not
Full blown carnivores can be puzzled by the vegan approach to eating – some would consider it not eating at all – but vegans will cite everything from ethics, to the health of the environment, to personal health as good reasons to eschew all foods creature-related.
Regardless of your thoughts on veganism, it is undoubtedly gaining ground in Adelaide. Restaurants of all styles are putting well-thought-out vegan dishes on the menu, no longer forcing the vegetabley-inclined among us to order the roast chicken without the chicken and other similar ridiculous adaptations.
Let Them Eat, located in the previously- dull arcade parallel to Angelakis fishmongers in the Central Market, is a 100 per cent vegetarian eatery with many vegan options. Attracting those who eat with their eyes on initial purchase and return when it tastes as good as it looks, they have a passion for producing excellent food. It seems almost incidental that all of it contains no meat, and much of it no animal products at all.
A South Australian business owned by chef Tanya Agius, Let Them Eat not only produces healthy food but is also environmentally aware. Using South Australian produce (mostly sourced from small businesses) reduces food miles and supports the local economy. Additionally, both of Let Them Eat’s cafès – there’s another at Croydon – and the kitchen located in Rosewater subscribe to clean energy. Almost all packaging used is compostable and food scraps are donated for compost, not landfill.
Kelly Gower is the manager of the Central Market cafè and says there are usually about five vegan options on offer daily. Many vegans have added Let Them Eat to their usual lunchtime roster and Kelly says they are very complimentary: “they love it!… I’m continuously told how tasty it is”.
One of Let Them Eat’s most popular dishes also happens to be one of their regular vegan items. The Cauliflower Fritters are made using fresh cauliflower, beansprouts, onion and chickpeas served on a bed of up to three salads and topped with a healthy-size scoop of hummus.
“Some people say they taste a little bit like a chiko roll – which everyone loves,” says Kelly. “They’re vegan, they’re gluten free and a really good size and they’re delicious!”
Talking about Adelaide food trends, Kelly says she can see a definite shift towards eating vegan. “It’s not so much a trend – like eating out of jars and off chopping boards,” she says. “When you eat food that makes you feel good afterwards, you’re going to keep eating it and you’re not going to get bored of it. Vegan food is here to stay.”
Vegan sweets are also a thing. Argo on the Square already has a good range, and Let Them Eat plan to start serving animal product- free desserts from the Central Markets site as of next winter.
While Adelaide dwellers are not quite as fanatical as Americans about the vegan diet yet, we’d be happy to bet that you’ll be seeing our first raw food restaurant by mid- 2014.
Other cafès and restaurants seem to agree with Kelly’s sentiments. The team at nearby Argo on the Square have recently employed a vegan consultant to help with the development of their menu, which should mean their current offering of a few vegan options will soon expand. Meanwhile, the mere existence of a grocery store called Everything Vegan just around the corner on Waymouth Street speaks volumes for how mainstream the diet has become.
So, even if you’re not actually a vegan, perhaps next time you see a VGN on the menu you shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity to try something new – because what’s not in your food is not important. How food tastes is what matters.