A few months back, I ventured to the Kingston foreshore for the Rum Bar’s Rum…
It’s a bold move for an established restaurant to cut meat from its menu for a year.
But that’s exactly what Ovolo’s Monster Kitchen and Bar has committed to from Wednesday 28 October when its menu will be transformed as part of a world-first ‘Year of the Veg’ for the hotel group across its Australian and Hong Kong operations.
The move to a fully vegetarian menu at Monster will be overseen by new Executive Chef Paul Wilson who plans to challenge carnivores with a menu which satisfies their tastebuds as well as expectations of what vegetables are capable of.
Paul has previously worked for two and half years as Sous Chef at Denmark’s acclaimed Geranium, a three Michelin-starred restaurant and ranked number 5 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019.
Having worked most recently as Executive Chef at Orpheus Island Lodge’s renowned restaurant on the Great Barrier Reef, he brings a deep respect for locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients and techniques which reflect conscious consumption.
“Indulgent, rich, refined, isn’t often the association with sustainable, conscious, even vegetarian dining! That’s what we’re doing at Monster. We’re pushing the boundaries with vegetarian, from Hay Smoked Beetroot to Slow Roasted Carrot Terrine.”
Paul notes that while there will be some vegan dishes, those golden ingredients of butter, cheese and eggs will be used to their best advantage on the new menu. For instance, the hand-crafted spaetzle with wild mushroom, gruyere, soubise, and 63° hens egg, or the ancient grains ragu with black cabbage, wakame chilli oil, and mushroom dashi.
“The food has got to be satisfying and I just want people to give it a chance. When I was at Orpheus I had footballers hug me over the carrots and the celeriac. I know how to make it taste brilliant.”
The move to the ‘Year of the Veg’ is part of a response to consumer interest and a greater understanding of the benefits of plant-based and vegetarian cuisine.
Paul is proud that Monster will be backing its move by growing hyperlocal produce for the kitchen and bar—through a dedicated garden named Nishi Botanica.
The garden will have an array of aromatic herbs and young vegetables to edible flowers for the chefs and the bar team to pick on a daily basis.
“Our biggest opportunity to drive positive impact for the planet and health lies within producing our own supply chain. Nishi Botanica creates an environment where everyone thrives,” said Paul.
Having established large kitchen gardens and greenhouses while working in Fiji, Paul is keen to get his hands dirty as the Nishi plantings take hold.
“Yes I love time in the garden, I have done a lot of research.”
Ovolo’s Australian venues which will go vegetarian for a full year include ZA ZA TA at Ovolo The Valley in Brisbane, and Mister Percy at Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour in Sydney. Alibi Bar & Kitchen at Ovolo Woolloomooloo, became Australia and New Zealand’s first vegan hotel restaurant in 2018 in collaboration with US-based celebrity chef and plant-based pioneer, Matthew Kenney.
Ovolo Group’s Founder and CEO, Girish Jhunjhnuwala says of the bold initiative, “Dining out and enjoying tasty food and wine with great company is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Good times and good intentions is how we’re evolving. We want to be conscious about what we are consuming and practice environmental sustainability as best as we can, as this leads to a larger impact on humanity, not just the environment.”
The new menu runs for 365 days from October 28.