A NEW CHAPTER
Kirk’s lifestyle change soon influenced the rest of the family, who were inspired by its positive results. “Plant-based eating has dramatically changed our lives,” explains Keeley. “It completely makes sense to eat this way – it’s helping Kirk feel better and it’s interesting for us to embark on this journey together. It’s a new way of eating, cooking and living that has made us both more healthy and energetic.” Kirk’s Michelin-starred background provided a new perspective from which to approach plant-based dining – not just as a way to nourish the body, but also as an exciting way of eating in its own right, rich with natural flavours.
From this Plates London was born - a groundbreaking, seasonal dining experience, free from the foods Kirk no longer eats, but still of a standard to rival any high-end restaurant. “We want to demonstrate that plant-based cooking is exciting, highly creative and incredibly delicious,” explains Keeley. This means finding innovative ways to bring to life the diverse flavours of (mostly organic) fruits, vegetables and herbs, enhancing dishes with locally foraged ingredients and serving them alongside natural, sulphate-free wines.
While creating nutritious food is key, delicious tastes remain paramount. The menu features flawless dishes, from steaming plates of organic carrot curry with yuzu and coriander, to creamy dollops of coconut yogurt dessert with sour apple and meadowsweet. Cooking within set parameters could seem restrictive, but it has instead unleashed a new wave of creativity. “Adjusting to the restrictions has been a lot to rethink,” explains Kirk. “But since launching Plates I have had to be more creative, resourceful and determined than ever. I relish the challenge of creating something new, that brings the true essence of the ingredient to the forefront.”
As a result, Kirk has pioneered innovative recipes that delight vegans and non-vegans alike. “We serve a butter replacement to accompany our homemade sourdough bread, made from butterbean hummus, pumpkin seed pesto, lemon zest and organic oil,” says Kirk. “People can’t believe there’s no dairy in it.” For the siblings, surprising diners with a journey in plant-based dishes is a unique thrill. “Our most common feedback is that people feel energised after their meal,” explains Kirk. “Both by the food and also by the fact that they have experienced something new.”
Elsewhere in west London, another hothouse of culinary innovation is leading the way in this type of ‘green’ cuisine. Drawing together Japanese, Korean and Scandinavian influences, Flat Three serves a range of vegan dishes, alongside regular offerings, that celebrate fresh, often foraged ingredients, delicately prepared to showcase their diverse qualities.
“The main challenge with producing a vegan or plant-based menu is the stigmas that are attached to dishes made solely from vegetables,” explains general manager Merlin Ramos. “We focus on producing purely delicious dishes that embrace the vast flavour profiles you can create with vegetables.” Like Plates, seasonality is key – “we only use the best produce, when it’s at its best,” says Ramos – with the menu changing weekly, sometimes daily, depending on what is freshest at the time. “We only use suppliers who share the same philosophy of putting quality first,” explains Ramos. “NamaYasai, a vegetable producer in Lewes, East Sussex, supplies us with Japanese kabocha (pumpkins), meaning they travel 70 miles instead of more than 5,000. We also work with Miles Irving’s company Forager to source little-known wild British ingredients, and we keep our eyes out for anything that we can forage ourselves from the local area – chestnuts and sloe berries, for example.”
The result is a fantastically diverse tasting menu that includes a mix of meat-based
dishes (the tender morsels of Wagyu short rib with dollops of corn miso are a heavenly mouthful), and solely vegetable-based offerings, both of which have a common theme of placing plants at the heart of each dish, using minimal processes in order to preserve what sous chef Joseph Timarchi describes as the “purity and directness” of the ingredients he uses. “We aim to serve dishes that you’ll remember,” he adds. “We won’t just serve a carrot, but the epitome of a sweet and succulent sand carrot that has been brined and smoked.”
Flat Three’s take on a carrot is, indeed, remarkable – packed with intense flavour (a result of being grown in sand, which increases the sweetness) and garnished with sprinkles of wild carrot, which hit the palate with a thrilling punch. From tender sashimi of eryngii mushroom (layered on puréed smoked pumpkin) to slivers of roasted white kimchee cabbage, Flat Three provides an outstanding showcase for the versatility of plant-based dining.
Notting Hill’s Farmacy, meanwhile, also offers another perspective on plant-based cuisine. Founder Camilla Fayed overhauled her diet after the birth of her daughter, and the results inspired a love of natural produce. “I had heard that plant-based eating could lead to increased energy levels and improved digestion, and since changing my diet, I feel like a new person,” she explains.
Inspired by her revelation, Fayed opened Farmacy in 2016, as a sugar-free, dairy-free, additive-free outpost for what she describes as her “conscious eating revolution”. She hopes to engage her diners with an innovative use of plants, creating ‘cheeses’ from pulsed macadamia nuts and making meringues with chickpea water. “We have a Michelin star-trained chef who is very experimental, so there is always something new to explore,” explains Fayed.
The restaurant’s afternoon tea, in particular, demonstrates how exciting plant-based dining can be. Three tiers of delicate fancies include a dome of deliciously rich chocolate and praline ganache, as well as sumptuous tahini and dark chocolate truffles enriched with Cannabidiol (a non-psychoactive extract from the cannabis plant and powerful antioxidant, beneficial for reducing inflammation and enhancing cognitive function). Everything from scones (with thick coconut clotted ‘cream’) and quiche (raw, topped with creamed spinach and a dollop of sweet fig) are given a plant-based spin, rich with natural flavours that are allowed to shine without being overpowered by artificial flavourings. Under Farmacy’s touch, the remarkable versatility of nature’s produce is brought to the fore, demonstrating how chickpeas can be blended to form blinis, or the natural syrupy sweetness of pineapple and apricot can be transformed into jam. It seems that working with what nature provides can unlock a whole host of innovative culinary experiences.