What happens when someone with the word ‘meat’ in their nickname, writing for a blog entitled the same and clearly a genuine lover of meat with a penchant for cynicism, goes to a vegetarian restaurant? I’ll give you one guess…
Extra mile- 8 (cooking lessons, recipe book etc. Could have made a 10 if they served me meat, you know… see below)
Budget – Medium
*Scores are out of 10
Harvest Vegetarian rating – 30/50 on a medium budget
No, I’m not that bad. Well, I think I’m better these days anyway. Certainly open minded, enough to visit Harvest Vegetarian in Rozelle in the first place.
The thing is, I am by no means only a meat eater, which many people assume- “You must eat a whole lot of meat!”. Sure, I eat plenty of meat, but I would easily eat more vegetables (and fruit) than I would meat, by a long shot. So facing a vegetarian restaurant isn’t daunting, and I’m more than happy to have meat free meals.
It’s the confusing contradictions that most non-meat eateries seem to exhibit.
Don’t get me wrong, Harvest Vegetarian was a great restaurant, full of beautiful vegetable rich dishes, some pasta, risotto and a lot of cheese. I really enjoyed it. But I’ll let NN talk about the specifics, because this wouldn’t be a post about vegetarianism by me – Meat Mike Campbell – without a considered rant about some gaping holes…
So… here we go…
I have nothing wrong with vegetarians themselves. I know each and every person who chooses not to eat meat does so for different reasons, logic and ethics, thus creating a beautiful array of individual expression. I’m all for that.
What I don’t get is the often – not always, as with Harvest Vegetarian – contradiction that is a vegetarian menu.
What’s with faux meat?!
You must have seen this before, either on a menu or certainly on TV, at the supermarket, a rally for the banning of dihydrogen monoxide use in harvesting our produce (think about it…). Faux meat products confuse the absolute crap out of me. Why?! Why do they exist?
If you don’t like meat, if you ethically don’t approve of killing and eating animals, even if you simply don’t like the taste, why on earth are you naming your food after meat?!
Seriously, someone who leans that way please answer me that question.
I’ll leave the mass market production of such products out and focus on the restaurant here for a brief moment. I have been to a vegan eatery that essentially only did faux meat dishes. Again- why?! They were awful, seriously not good food. I was baffled. Where were all the beautiful vegetable dishes, pasta, rice, salads, legumes- some fucking imagination?!
And vegans are the more hard out, ethically orientated anti-meat proponents, the whole place was a contradiction in terms.
It’s the same as a Brazilian meat fest BBQ using something other than meat to make dishes that resemble vegetables- contradictory and ludicrously pointless- just do meat. And vice versa for the vegetarian joint- show us your vegetables.
It’s ‘vegetarian’, not ‘faux-meatarian’- you get me?
Now this sounds incredibly anal, geeky and perhaps mean, but I had a right mind (I had to express it like that really…) to call the owner and pick his brain. Simply ask- “Dude, what. The. Fuck?! Where’s the vegetables?!”
Of course I didn’t, and saved it until this very expression you read…
However, after visiting Harvest Vegetarian, I am somewhat encouraged about the perhaps burgeoning vegetarian scene out there. Because I know it can’t be easy- essentially being restricted to salads, pasta and risottos at most non-vegetarian eateries, who also don’t have a wide selection, but then they don’t really have the same buy in, do they? And why should/would they?
Of course, it leads me to ponder the thought- why would you bother? Nevertheless, I know that’s just me being ignorant really- to each, his own, which I understand.
Anyway, before I bore you all too much with my somewhat self righteous spiel, I’ll wrap up and pass on…
Harvest Vegetarian itself was a delight. Admittedly, I left pretty stuffed, as we happened to order some overly cheesy dishes, and I didn’t really put the brakes on as I perhaps should have- it was tasty after all.
I would happily return, and I applaud them for celebrating the vast array of vegetables, and using some imagination, and skill, in their dishes.
However, I couldn’t help but want to utilise the ‘If you have any dietary requirements- please let us know’ and say- “Yeah, ah, my diet requires that I eat meat- can you help me out?”, of course in the end I didn’t, and nor would I. I’m not that much of a prick.
Well I’m sure you could’ve imagined all the smart ass comments coming out of MC’s mouth that night – he was particularly taken by his ‘dad-joke’ comment and was dying to ask the waiter for a side of meat with his dish – he really was like a dog with a bone, and didn’t want to let it go. Going into this restaurant I knew that I would have to put on my ‘smile and nod’ face as the more cynical side of MC was out in full force (clearly, as you can tell by his writing).
I was actually really looking forward to this restaurant, as of late I have been flirting with more vegetarian options; skirting on the edges of vegetarian exploration you may say. I’m not going to get into a pro or anti vegetarian rant, as I truly believe that you should be intuitive with your eating, and eat only what feels right for your body provided you hit all your required macronutrients that enable you to maintain a high quality of health. There are loads of vegetarians (and all their sub-groups) out there so it seems like a logical, and good idea to have specific vegetarian restaurants, however, in order for them to survive they need to be done well (just as any other restaurant).
I too, like MC, don’t understand the concept of ‘faux-meat’, so I was particularly pleased to see on Harvest Vegetarian’s menu things involving real vegetables. The dishes ranged from risottos, to mushrooms stacks, to leek and nut pie – all celebrating and highlighting the particular vegetables. On paper the dishes sounded fab, but in reality I was left a little disappointed.
It seemed that every dish we chose (coincidence perhaps?) seemed to be swimming in cheese – so if you were a vegan you would be eliminating those options. I love cheese, but I can only tolerate small amounts, and by the time I got to my main course, the leek and nut pie (with cheese), I was done and dusted. A shame really, as I’m sure sans cheese, the dish would’ve been amazing. This got me to thinking, why use so much cheese? Is this the only way they could get flavour into their dishes? The dishes were ok, (and certainly a step up from our last vegetarian ‘faux-meat’ experience) but in my opinion certainly NOT worth the twenty-something price tag that accompanied them.
If you are ever in the mood for vegetarian dishes I would actually recommend going to a really nice restaurant, and picking a vegetarian dish off the menu, or find something on there that you like the look of and ask them to make it without the meat. A perfect example of this was when we went out for dinner last night – we went to Hugos Manly, and I ordered the Tuna and angel hair pasta – ask to remove the tuna and it would be suitable for a vegetarian (as a side note this is one of the BEST dishes at Hugos manly!).
So whilst I applaud Harvest Vegetarian for a good effort I wouldn’t recommend it – Hugos on the other hand is a completely different story…..
And there you have it- a fence sitter… (MC’s comment. And I will pay for that)