EVEN THE GOOD Doctor Feelgood didn’t know that there wasn’t a single restaurant in Auckland that had met the Vegetarian Society’s stringent standards, and thenceforth been proclaimed safe to eat at.
But now we do.
The Vegetarian Society has approved Hector’s restaurant at the Heritage Hotel. That is, the Vegetarian Society has accepted Hector’s into the New Zealand Vegetarian Society Approval Programme.
What the heck’s that, we wondered? According to the Heritage, the Vegetarian Society puts a restaurant through a rigorous review of its plant based menu items and food preparation methods. The approval programme originated in the UK, and launched in 1998 in NZ, and is apparently an internationally recognised programme for producgts and restaurant meals suitable for consumption by vegetarians.
Doctor Feelgood can’t help but wonder why Hector’s is the only restaurant approved as vegetarian, when our restaurant listing shows close to 50 venues with either vegetarian or vegan food in Auckland alone.
“We applaud Heritage Auckland and its management and culinary team for the tireless commitment to listening to and providing for the vegan and vegetarian communities,” says Stephanie Lane of the New Zealand Vegetarian Society. “With over 80,000 New Zealanders following a vegetarian diet and rising interest in the vegetarian/vegan philosophy, it’s an achievement that is well deserved.”
“Being the first restaurant in New Zealand to secure a place in the New Zealand Vegetarian Society Approval Programme is a huge honour and a great endorsement of what our team have worked so hard to achieve,” says Heritage Auckland’s general manager, Graeme Back.
With grill and meat based restaurants lauded by celebrity chefs, why the decision by an international standard hotel to defy the mainstream hospitality industry and adopt a brave new direction embracing vegetarian and vegan dining?
According to the general manager of Heritage Auckland, Mr Graeme Back, there were a range of reasons.
“We had observed the international trend towards more conscious cuisine and saw a great fit with our own philosophies. As well as humane reasons, as an Enviro Gold hotel we saw the sustainability potential of plant based meals, and also saw a way to assist our guests and diners with their health goals with lower fat and nutritious meal choices,” says Graeme Back.
To develop the menu options, Heritage Auckland’s executive chef, Jinu Abraham, set about an extensive process of consultation with both vegetarian and vegan communities, food suppliers and dieticians.
“We wanted to create a delicious dining experience for vegetarians and vegans where they could be assured a top quality meal,” says Jinu Abraham. “So often a restaurant only pays lip service to this community with one token vegetarian dish on the menu. We wanted to completely embrace the concept and give total assurance our commitment begins from the kitchen right through to the plate,” says Jinu.
Jinu’s efforts have already been rewarded when he won the inaugural Best New Zealand Vegetarian Dish recipe competition 2012, winning over 200 chefs nationwide. “Being the first restaurant in the approval programme tops off a great year for our culinary team,” adds Jinu Abraham