Since it opened in 2015 I have had a low-key obsession with Benedicts, yet until this year I hadn’t set foot inside the place. This is partly because it is fancy as hell and not your average night out but mostly because I (incorrectly) assumed that they would not cater for vegans. My love of good food and irritatingly high standards for what constitutes that means I am sometimes disappointed by the vegan offerings in mainstream restaurants. My hopes were high and my excitement to finally see this amazing food on the plate in front of me (instead of stalking their Instagram) was intense (food gives me all the feelings)
So on the night of June 8th in a bid to avoid all the crazy election crap on TV I embarked on a food adventure at Benedicts. My companion for the evening chose the vegetarian menu whilst I settled in for six courses of vegan food heaven. Somewhat ambitiously we decided to get the wine pairing for our meal (this was a strong choice considering the Prosecco at home and the pre-dinner cocktail at Frank’s Bar).
The start of the menu mysteriously listed ‘snacks’ as the preamble to the main event but considering ‘snacks’ are basically my primary food group I was on board. I had planned to take nice, well thought out pictures of each course, however, the combination of wine and public picture taking inhibition limited the quality of my shots. I’m not sure which impacted my surreptitious iPhone photography more but I can emphatically state my photos don’t do the food justice.
The friendly and knowledgeable staff gave eloquent descriptions of each course which I promptly forgot as I got lost in the pleasure of eating. Despite not remembering quite what everything is I can tell you what the highlights of the meal were for me. And let me tell you these tiny snack items blew my mind. Also, they serve crisps inserted into a pine cone at the beginning of the meal which is possibly the fanciest/most ridiculous way to eat crisps.
After the series of snacks was complete next came the pea sorbet which was as tasty as it was aesthetically pleasing. I have never been 100% sold on savoury sorbets but any doubts I had were quickly quashed by the delicately balanced flavours and perfect texture.
The chamomile roasted carrot was presented beautifully and although it might not have been my favourite course of the night it was cooked to perfection and the flavours were earthy and rich. The enjoyment of this course might have been limited by the fact my companion was served an amazing asparagus course served with shaved frozen apple and dreamy sauces. I love asparagus and apparently (once I have had wine) I don’t like missing out on nice things! Once my jealousy subsided I settled for a detailed description of my companions course so I could live vicariously through his experience. His experience was evidently enjoyable and he asked: “why we don’t eat more shaved frozen apple?!” (this may have been the wine talking).
Due to my lack of experience with wine and no clue how to match wine to the food we opted for the wine pairing so someone with skills could do the work for us. I was especially pleased that the staff had spent some time researching which wines were suitable for vegans and had changed my wine offering accordingly. A total of four glasses throughout the meal which were all amazing but nearing the end I began to think that this much wine and food might have been a strong choice. My Thursday nights are not usually so decadent or boozy but in the spirit of pure food indulgence, I went with it, damn the inevitable fuzzy head the next day.
The main course was new territory for me as I have never had kohlrabi before, turns out like pretty much all vegetables I love it. I’m entirely sure I don’t have the skills to recreate the main course in my kitchen but I will be attempting something including kohlrabi in the near future.
After what felt like endless delicious savoury plates next came a sweet little raspberry sorbet surrounded by frozen raspberry ‘pearls’. Perfectly balanced in terms of sweetness with the fresh raspberry taste shining through, the tiny pieces of frozen raspberry provided a different texture and fresh sharp taste. Sorbet is often the go-to vegan dessert in restaurants so I was excited to see this as the preview to my real dessert.
When I saw the words panna cotta on the menu I was reminded of the worst dessert I have ever eaten. An unnamed restaurant in this fine city, some time ago, had listed a vegan panna cotta on their menu which I was excited to try. Once it arrived, my excitement died when I saw a strangely translucent grey blob masquerading as panna cotta topped with nuts and sorbet. Not one to let the aesthetics of a dish put me off entirely I tried it only to find out its looks were a warning for the weirdness on the plate. Rubbery, tasteless and a texture which made me shudder. Needless to say, vegan panna cotta has not been high on my list of things to eat since.
These bad food memories became a distant afterthought once I caught sight of the beautifully presented dessert in front of me.
Glitter and candyfloss added a whimsical vibe to the dish and nestled underneath was a proper looking panna cotta! Whilst it is still not a 100% replica of the velvety smooth, just firm texture of a traditional panna cotta it was so much closer than any I have tasted before. The whole dish was just sweet enough which is surprising considering the mound of candy floss on top, but the subtle sweetness of the panna cotta and the freshness of the other toppings balanced it out nicely.
It is clear that this menu wasn’t an afterthought or token gesture to appease any potential vegan guests. Taste was the number one priority on the menus regardless of who they were aimed at and I for one am happy about this. The staff create a wonderful environment and are attentive without being intrusive, their knowledge of what they are serving adds to the well thought out feel of the whole place. This small but perfectly formed restaurant is overall a pretty damn special dining experience.