Veganism and vegetarianism are both becoming far more prominent as time goes on, and thankfully so. But there’s something about a fine dining establishment developing a specialised vegan tasting menu that really affirms the notion entirely.
Azure at the Twelve Apostles has done just that, allowing vegans, or those reducing their consumption of animal products, the opportunity to enjoy fancy food overlooking the twinkling ocean.
Many of us associate fine dining with a substantial dose of meat or dairy. This isn’t wrong. Historically the French (inventors of the classics), called the shots when it came to fine food – with dishes like foie grass, Duck à l’orange and Escargots de Bourgogne. As we know fine dining is not nearly as limited anymore with restaurants embracing a myriad of cuisines, as is now not only trendy but customary.
Any avid restaurant lover will have noticed an integrated focus in vegetarian dishes, and now Azure has taken this further, offering a menu where a lack of meat, eggs and dairy goes totally unnoticed, proving both food groups to be nonessential for dishes to excel in flavour and innovation.
The amuse bouche set things off on a high note. A miniature pot with a layer of creamy polenta topped with charred corn, a sprinkling of popcorn, truffle and radish cress. This could have been a main. It is superb, so comforting and embodying various textures to keep things entertaining. This is Chef Christo Pretorius’ method throughout the menu, always making sure that where there’s softness, there is also crunch.
Barbecued beetroot followed, showing his affinity for colourful plating, made up of a salt baked beetroot puree, burnt orange, barbecue dressing and chopped pickled beetroots. This was then followed by mushrooms in a shallow consomme, with shiitake and pickled shimeji, which had a lovely light vinegary taste, countered by fresh pea shoots and radishes.
A surprise cauliflower dish appeared which stole the show. Despite cauliflower’s excessive usage these days, done right, it simply cannot get old, and Christo performed a bit of Brassica magic with a curry-coated cauliflower on a creamy coconut base with lemon rind, radishes and radish cress.
The main course performs a bit of trickery on the senses as it is a roasted butternut tofu with corn succotash, slow-cooked white beans, yellow baby carrots, wilted spinach, with splashes of a chunky herb oil. This dish will no doubt please any vegan or vegetarian, with its reinvention of tofu, and taking the much-loved butternut to new heights.
Again, dessert embodied much colour with a caramelised pineapple salad, Piña colada sorbet and caramelised nuts, continuing the light and delicate theme embodied in the entire menu.
Azure’s approach to the vegan menu, as well as their other tasting menus, is very carefully thought out and considerate to diners. All their tasting menus have little symbols next to dishes indicating dietary requirements, making the process of ordering and customising dishes that much easier. This also allows a group of diners to choose a menu that suits them, whether it is fish focused or vegetarian, a group doesn’t have to stick to the same menu.
The vegan menu is a triumph for such a restaurant, as it proves Christo’s capabilities, and in turn, serves as a message that veganism should not be without choice or culinary luxury.
The 4-course vegan tasting menu is priced at R475 per person.
Click HERE for Food24’s delicious collection of vegan recipes to try at home!