In celebration of National Vegetarian Week and as a great kick off to our week of all things veggie, our restaurant reviewer, Mrs Robinson, has an incredible exclusive for you!
Our esteemed leader, Tessa Shreeve, Managing Director and Owner of Design Restaurants has chosen this week to ‘come out’ as a vegetarian and tell us a little about her own food ethics – and she also reveals her own top 10 favourite restaurants!
Tessa, when did you become a vegetarian and why?
Up until twenty five I adored meat – in fact I was a rare steak girl! But, I always felt I was being somewhat hypocritical in finding some animals abhorrent to consume yet others acceptable. I could never watch an animal be slaughtered and I selectively ignored how meat found its way to the supermarket or butchers. If more people saw that process there would be more vegetarians. It began as that typical step-process of giving up red meat and eventually taking the full leap to no meat at all.
What type of Vegetarian are you?
I’m an ‘Ovo-lacto Vegetarian’. I still eat dairy– but no meat, fish or shell food.
Are you open about your Vegetarianism?
No, in the sense that I have not broadcast it before this article. Besides it is not really something I would bring up unless you noticed it when ordering a meal with me.
Why not be more open?
Well it is still rather a taboo in the restaurant industry as a whole I have found. As much as the industry tries to be more inclusive, when the majority of chefs themselves are not vegetarian and are classically trained, admitting to being a vegetarian in my work line is counterproductive, a handicap if you like, where many still think you are being a ‘subversive’! Frankly I just want to order my food and not have a Spanish inquisition or feel the need for justification each time.
Do you like to dine out or do you see that as work to you?
Actually given that I don’t really cook myself it is more a necessity than either work or lifestyle!
Where are your favourite places to eat out?
For me, food is only part of the journey. Being a bit of an aesthetic, a great restaurant to me is where food, décor, service and ambience all play their part equally and you feel totally comfortable – somewhere you can enjoy without effort.
Places like Toto’s, but unfortunately now closed, off Walton Street, SW3 which I adored for its musicality of service, delicious cuisine and somewhere you couldn’t help but have fun. Having said that I generally choose Asian cooking as meat free dishes lend themselves to spicy and interesting flavours. I think chefs such as Atul Kochhar, who was the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star at the great Tamarind, understand the meat free palate intuitively and his dishes never feel contrived.
I still love Tamarind, Rasoi, Painted Heron, Mr Chow, Ascot Oriental and Tom Aikens. Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, The Bingham and The Pass at South Lodge have wonderful vegetarian tasting menus. I recently enjoyed the veggie burgers in the Muddy Duck in Hethe, Oxfordshire and wish more gourmet brasseries would put them on the menu – everyone loves a burger now and then, even if it is meat free!
Tessa’s Top 10 Favourite Restaurants (Caveat – it changes weekly…!)
1. Rasoi, SW3
2. Nobu, W1
3. Petersham Nurseries, Richmond
4. Bingham, Richmond
5. South Lodge, Horsham
6. Fengsushi, SW10
7. Terre a Terre, Brighton
8. Tom Aiken, SW3
9. Hakkasan, W1
10. Painted Heron, SW10
Interview by Mrs Robinson
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