Heritage Auckland extends its vegan options to a raw luncheon. Gary Steel makes a pig of himself at its launch.
Although it’s not a veg-only restaurant, Hector’s (located in the Heritage Hotel on Hobson St), with the guidance and exploration of head chef Jinu Abrams, has built up a reputation for serious attention to detail in its dedicated vegan menu, along with constant exploration, and happily for those who want to avoid cross contamination from meat products, there’s a vegan-dedicated area of the kitchen.
While the more-or-less raw food espoused by the Little Bird Unbakery (Kingsland and Ponsonby) has taken Auckland by storm, the food at the Heritage is quite different, partly by necessity. That’s because it’s created for a hotel restaurant, which needs absolute consistency, and ingredient availability, and can’t just go changing its menu willy-nilly like a Ponsonby Rd café can.
The award-winning Abrams creates dishes that look and taste amazing, with a little bit of science, fine dining expertise and design flair, but not ignoring the tenets of good health: as many of the ingredients as possible are sourced locally and organically, although the vagaries of supply and demand means there can be no guarantees of that.
Having had a raw-oriented vegan menu for some years now, in 2013 the Heritage started a Raw Bar Breakfast option, and it’s because of the success of that venture that they’re now instigating their Raw Luncheon.
And by God, it’s delicious. Part of Hector’s “square meal” offering, it’s a three-course tasting platter in which every morsel – and each tiny garnish or sauce – is worthy of slow enjoyment. While the raw luncheon could be demolished in a few minutes by a determined eater, that would be something of a waste of a platter that is worthy of appreciation, and certainly had my taste-buds dancing.
Okay, so what’s up? The luncheon includes a starter of chilled soup of tomato essence accompanied by an avocado asparagus salad with black garlic on cashew ‘parmesan’ toast; a main of blue agave glazed zucchini blossom with buckwheat cauliflower couscous and red pepper sauce; and a naughty dessert of carrot and apple cake with coconut ‘cream cheese’ and strawberries.
While more dedicated food writers than myself might come up with a well-articulated response to the above, having tried the luncheon menu, my considered response is: YUM! Admittedly, my response lacks sophistication and refinement, when the luncheon clearly has both in spades, but what the heck!
There’s so much that’s right about the new Heritage raw luncheon that I’m hesitant to mention what isn’t. Even though I’m a tomato fan, I didn’t really get the point of the ‘chilled soup of tomato essence’, but perhaps it just wasn’t to my taste. Certainly, the toast with ‘parmesan’ and avocado asparagus salad, though diminutive, was very tasty, and I couldn’t fault the main with its amazingly edible (from top to bottom) zucchini blossom… every corner, nook and cranny of this dish was delectable.
The carrot cake was quite rich, very filling and absolutely divine with its coconut and strawberries flavours, although personally, I think it would be great to have the option of substituting a third savoury dish for the dessert for those who don’t fancy devoting a third of their lunch to sweet treat naughtiness. I’m sure that the Heritage carrot cake is full of goodness, but I’m more inclined towards dessert as an add-on if I’m in the mood and have the time.
It’s worth adding that apart from being raw (which means that it’s not cooked above 41 degrees so that enzymes valuable for digestion are not destroyed), the luncheon is also dairy and gluten free. I love the fact that since 2010 the Heritage has been an exemplar of ‘conscious cuisine’, and rather than just being part of the industrial food machine, they even sprout and grow their own grains and seeds.
* The Heritage/Hector’s Raw Luncheon is available Fridays only and is $22.
Doctor Feelgood’s previous interview with chef Jinu Abram is here.