WE’VE PREVIOUSLY COVERED the ongoing good work of Auckland’s Heritage Hotel and its bold efforts to bring high quality vegan cuisine to the denizens of our fine city. The latest masterstroke from the Heritage team and executive chef Jinu Abraham is the addition of a Raw Breakfast Bar alongside the breakfast buffet that’s served at Hectors Restaurant every morning. I had the opportunity to try the Raw Breakfast Bar at a media launch recently and it’s definitely an intriguing proposition.
Cunningly placed near all the other breakfast foods, the Raw Breakfast Bar grabs the attention because some of the options just look so tasty and exotic, especially when compared to the usual non-raw fare of cereals, muffins, toast and pastries. This has led to something of a stealth effect as guests who’d never contemplate raw vegan food try the raw choices and find that they really enjoy it. This feedback has then been reflected in the cards that guests fill in when they leave – it seems that the Raw Breakfast Bar is a hit.
The thinking behind the Raw Breakfast Bar ties in nicely with the hotel’s orientation towards healthy cuisine. Chef Jinu was looking for ways to provide a wider range of breakfast options and to offer unprocessed and unheated foods to guests. In a raw diet, nothing is cooked at more than 40 degrees celsius because this is thought to destroy the enzymes in food that are essential to digestion and absorption.
So the menu is based around fresh fruit, vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruit and seaweed. Instead of nuking the food, techniques such as preserving, pickling, compression, dehydration and sprouting are used in order to develop and enhance the flavours. The highest quality ingredients are used, for example raw virgin oils such as olive and coconut. Raw agave nectar, lucuma (Amazonian sweet fruit), coconut nectar and occasionally stevia are used for sweeteners, and when salt is used, it’s always Marlborough sea salt, with raw coconut aminos used instead of soy. Grains and seeds are grown and sprouted in-house – even the oats in the bircher muesli are entirely raw.
Examples of some of the more intricate parts of the preparation process include:
Sliced raw vegan bread
Linseed, raw almond flour, dehydrated pickled cabbage, parsley and rosemary are used to create a dough, which is then dehydrated for four hours at 40 degrees Celsius.
This is made with coconut cream and cultured with a non-dairy probiotic powder.
Smoked banana and chia seed butter
Dehydrated banana is induced with smoke. Chia seeds are rehydrated with a bit of water and then combined with the banana to create butter.
The morning’s tasting started off with two fresh juices, a bowl of coconut yoghurt and muesli, which was followed up by a platter of sliced raw fruit. The table was laden with a pot of compressed and poached pears in syrup, and one filled with compressed and poached pineapple with Szechuan peppercorns – which were both incredibly tasty. In fact everything from the juices to the fruit was a real treat – the freshness really accentuates the flavours. We were then led to the Raw Breakfast Bar proper, where I filled a plate with the aforementioned raw bread, a number of toppings and relishes, some chocolate squares and a lashing of agave syrup. The bread was a highpoint – yes it’s dry and tends to crumble but the taste was just so exotic that I had to have seconds, especially with the relish.
Time limitations forced me to leave without the second and third helpings that I’d planned but where there’s a will, there’s a way. So I dragged a couple of omnivorous colleagues to breakfast at Hectors the following week, where I spent an hour working through the choices. Highlights included the bircher muesli and coconut yoghurt, the raw bread (again), the little raw chocolate squares and of course the amazing compressed and poached pear slices, which are utterly delicious and make a brilliant addition to a bowl full of raw muesli with soy milk, coconut yoghurt, coconut syrup and raw fruit.
How did my companions fare? Very well indeed. Despite the fact that the Raw Breakfast Bar is part of the much bigger Continental Breakfast, they mostly chose to stick with the far more interesting raw vegan choices, and except for a few “what the heck is this stuff?” moments, they sampled and enjoyed a wide range of the raw options. This bodes well for the acceptance of the Raw Breakfast Bar among Heritage Hotel guests, and even among the wider population. The theory is that if you make it, they’ll try it. If they enjoy it, they might just reconsider their food choices, and that has to be a good thing for all of us.
The Raw Breakfast Bar is included as part of the continental ($19) and full buffet ($28) breakfasts in Heritage Auckland’s Hectors restaurant and is available between 06.30 and 10.30 Monday to Friday and 06.30 to 11.00 Saturday and Sunday. The Heritage can be found at 35 Hobson St, Auckland CBD. ASHLEY KRAMER