A Good Restaurant Will Serve More Veg and Better Meat

When it comes to vegetables, as a chef it’s so much fun bringing together different flavours and textures into something that looks really beautiful and appetising — making it look what it’s worth on the plate. Over the past five years I’ve added to my repertoire of skills and techniques to make the very most of the veg we source.

I spend most of my life considering how I can make our food the most sustainable there is — more so than any other restaurant. Putting loads of fantastic veg dishes on the menu alongside some really good quality meat dishes, using the whole animal, is a big part of that. We discovered pretty early on that people really did have an appetite for eating veg and so we’ve tried to match that demand in the best way we can ever since.

When it comes to vegetables, as a chef it’s so much fun bringing together different flavours and textures into something that looks really beautiful and appetising — making it look what it’s worth on the plate. Over the past five years I’ve added to my repertoire of skills and techniques to make the very most of the veg we source.

There are some stand-out vegetables that have already become real stars for us and people get excited as the season approaches. Asparagus in May and June is fantastic for that. Our purple sprouting tempura is another dish that is incredibly popular and we’ve made its arrival into an event. Plain boiled sprouting wouldn’t excite many people, but the tempura element gives it that gastronomic feel and it lives up to the name.

This year we’ve been sourcing some incredible lettuce from Sussex. The quality is really amazing. With great veg like this it really can be a star of the menu.

For the last few years we’ve been doing this gorgeous spaghetti squash with a crumb stuffing every September. We send out new dish alerts on social media and it creates a real buzz — about vegetables!

Having a seasonal calendar means we can champion different veg pretty much all year round and that also helps make our purchasing become simpler and more dynamic. I also love to forage and this adds an extra dimension of flavour, nutrition and excitement to the menus. Wild food is full of nutrients. I mean we could easily survive without meat but not without all these vegetables.

I’ve created a menu that has six veg dishes, one offal, three fish, two fast cooked meat and one slow cooked meat. They are all small plates and the veg dishes are listed first, that helps encourage people to choose veg dishes initially and then maybe some meat and fish. Unlike most restaurants, our main fridge is full of veg rather than meat — in fact we purchase far more veg than meat.

It’s also really important to me that I know the meat we do serve is ‘good’ meat. Pretty much all of it comes from my brother Gregory’s farm and we use every last bit of it, focusing on quality not quantity.

In fact this month is a really good example. We sell a lot of game. So from the 12th we’ll be serving grouse — including a lovely dish with burnt butter, rosehip jam and reindeer moss — sweet cured, hot smoked and sliced thinly.

Throughout August we’re going to have a couple of veg dishes which we’ll give customers the option to order some additional protein that we think would complement it well.

From a chef’s point of view one of the biggest skills of cooking veg is capturing that umami flavour that people normally just expect with meat. Something like braised fennel is a really good example. I love combining two ingredients to create something special — transmodification I call it — like tomato and geranium. Having these marriages of flavour up your sleeve makes a real difference.

Oliver Gladwin, Head Chef, The Shed and Rabbit

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