Story and photo by Vivienne Pearson
Ready for a word-association game? I say (okay, type) a word and you say the first word that comes into your mind. Here we go…
Me: Vegan food. You: …
Okay, let me guess. Salad? Veges? Lentils? Boring (that’s okay – we’re talking about the food here, not the people). Rabbit?
I probably would have gone with one of those words until recently. One factor that changed my mind was eating at The Beet Vegan Restaurant. I recently sat down with co-owner Heather Myers and head chef Sebastian Goldhorn to chat about words that The Beet associated with vegan food.
Healthy: This might have been a word that came to mind already. Vegan food is plant based, so is intrinsically healthy thanks to the goodness of mother nature. But while vegan food is easily high in vitamins, other necessities, such as protein and Vitamin B12, can be more of a challenge.
The Beet’s answer is to provide protein via legumes, quinoa (which is surprisingly high in protein) and nutritional yeast (which has a nutty flavour and is also a source of Vitamin B12). ‘We want our meals to be nourishing and nutritious,’ says Heather.
Dish to try: Beet’s Big Bowl – fresh greens, organic turmeric quinoa salad, roasted sweet potato, chickpeas, housemade sauerkraut, organic local tempeh, coconut bacon, raw beetroot dip, guacamole.
Comfort: Good for you but not food to really satisfy? Wrong; vegan food can be comfort food. ‘Gnocchi is great comfort food but one that you don’t often see veganised,’ says Heather.
‘As well as usually being made with eggs, you rarely see one in non-vegan restaurants that’s not covered in a creamy sauce.’ Of The Beet’s signature beetroot gnocchi, she says: ‘It’s one of our most popular dishes and has received rave reviews.’
Dish to try: Housemade beetroot gnocchi – pan-fried brussells sprouts, sundried tomato, vegan ricotta cheese.
Meat: Yes, you are still reading about a vegan restaurant so we’re not talking actual meat, but meat-like dishes. Some vegans genuinely don’t like anything about eating meat, but others yearn for the taste and texture of meat despite their conscious decision not to eat it. ‘I still like the taste of bacon, but choose not to eat it,’ says Sebastian.
Accordingly, some of The Beet’s dishes deliberately play on a meat theme, with names such as Chick’n Caesar Salad or Vegan Pulled Pork Crespelle. The Beet Burger has two options – an eggplant parmigiana or a Match Meat patty. ‘Match Meat is a brand,’ explains Heather. ‘It wasn’t available in Australia when we first opened so this is a new option.’
Sebastian explains further: ‘Match Meat is a soy protein that is tasteless in its basic form, so I can cook it the same way I used to cook meat burgers. We add quinoa rather than egg to help bind the patty.’
This is definitely a case of: looks like meat, smells like meat, has mouth-feel like meat… but isn’t meat. You could serve this up to a hardened carnivore and they wouldn’t pick that it was vegan.
Dish to try: The Beet burger – Match Meat pattie, organic beetroot-infused bun, tomato relish, avocado, whitlof, vegan parmesan cheese, housemade sauerkraut, served with sweet potato chips.
Sweet: It’s not all about main course. The Beet’s dessert menu is small but divine, offering beautifully presented raw cakes, which are either made on the premises or sourced locally.
Dish to try: Whichever raw cake is available on the day – assuming you’ve got room left!
Kids: Maybe you would consider a vegan restaurant for yourself but would leave the kids at home? The Beet’s kid menu has a range of small-people-friendly basics such as nachos with baked beans, and pasta in tomato sauce, as well as small serves of more adventurous offerings such as tofu skewers and a tempura zucchini stack. Or you could simply order them Vegan Chick’n Nuggets (made from a soy protein isolate and fried like nuggets) or the Vegan Fish ’n’ Chips. ‘How can that not be real fish?’ is a common question posed by kids who are in on the vegan knowhow.
Dish to try: any of the above
Home delivery: Finding vegan food can be difficult full stop. To find it available for home delivery is surely a vegan dream. The Beet have recently teamed up with Menulog to offer any of their dishes at home (evenings only, Ewingsdale to Suffolk Park).
Dish to try: anything from the menu – via www.menulog.com.au/the-beet
Final note: Just because vegan food can be healthy, comforting and home delivered doesn’t mean that it’s all things to all people. Some of The Beet’s dishes are raw. Some fit with a low-calorie diet. Many are gluten free (or can be easily adapted to become so) but people with food allergies or other intolerances or needs should practise the usual caution and chat to Sebastian and his team before ordering.
The Beet Vegan Restaurant: Woolworths Plaza, Byron Bay. 7 days, 11am–9.30pm @thebeetbyronbay
Sebastian and Heather at The Beet