Sunday, 11 December 2011

Possibly The Worst Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Ever?

I'm not one to complain.  I'm always very grateful for anything I receive and I actually feel guilty for writing this post, such is my lack of a complaining gene!!  But as a food loving vegetarian I felt compelled to rant in order to raise awareness for something that truly bothers me!

This weekend we had a lovely weekend away at Butlins Bognor Regis for the Tots 100 Christmas party.  Included was a three course Christmas meal at Turner's, Butlins' flagship restaurant endorsed by celebrity chef Brian Turner.  The head chef previously worked at The Ivy and with the menu boasting 'fine dining' I was suitably excited by the prospect of an imaginatively prepared vegetarian meal that would kick off my gastronomic festive feasting!

The meal started off well with a deliciously creamy and richly flavoured parsnip soup served with roasted hazelnuts which definitely pleased my palate and raised my expectations of the courses to come.  As the main courses were brought out, the traditional roast turkey meals looked impressive with a big pile of Roasted  Turkey, Chestnut Stuffing and Sausage wrapped in Bacon, served with  roast potato, green beans, braised cabbage and sprouts.  Being a vegetarian is my choice as I personally don't want to eat meat.  However, this does not mean that I do not appreciate the trimmings, colour and variety that comes with a roast dinner.  I love vegetables, roast spuds, gravy and stuffing as much as the next man!  Roast dinners are synonymous with Christmas, and a well conceived vegetarian option nestled amidst the seasonal trimmings is unbeatable. I expected a chef with the celebrity and reputation of Brian Turner would appreciate this.

When my plate arrived I saw two large wedges of indiscernible origin accompanied by a handful of salad leaves. I immediately felt my heart sink.  If there was Lollo Rosso and Endive (or whatever leaves they were) that meant they were an alternative to my spuds and veg!  Salad is for summer not winter! This is Christmas!

Pushing my initial disappointment to the back of my mind, I started to investigate my main.  I don't know what I expected this stand alone foodstuff to be, but I wasn't expecting it to be a patty of compacted rice.  There was a pleasant enough flavour, but the heavy texture and starchiness was so claggy it was difficult to eat.  Maybe if served with an accompanying rich, wintry stew it would have made a nice accompaniment.  But as the main course with nothing but a splash of sauce and some foliage it was seriously lacking.  It just didn't work at all.  It was a wedge of carbohydrate, on a plate crying out for so much more.  Maybe if one of the wedges was served alongside the roast dinner trimmings with gravy, it would have worked.  But on its own?  Brian what were you thinking!!!  This is meant to be the meal of the year.

I later found out that the patties were in fact Roasted Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Rice Cakes, but I found no discernible pieces of either chestnut or mushroom in my rice to break up the texture and improve the mouth feel.  In fact, the only way to swallow it was to eat each bit with a few salad leaves and a swig of water.  Food should not be difficult to eat.  It should be a well conceived joy...especially if it is your annual Christmas treat that you have been looking forward to.

Us veggies, are often treated as second class citizens, especially in Christmas menus.  I have previously had pasta while my work colleagues have had a full monty roast.  How hard is it to make a tasty nut roast?   I had an amazing one at a little local Shropshire pub layered with leek and mushroom, served instead of the meat in a Sunday roast.  If they can do it, surely a top chef can?

This was such a disappointment to me.  It felt like a punishment from someone who hates vegetarians...."if you aren't going to eat meat then you can lump this". *evil laughs*

Thank goodness for great company, good humour and fellow bloggers willing to donate a Brussell Sprout or two in my time of need.

This is the option available on the Butlin's Christmas Day Menu at Turner's.  The price for four courses (a salad, the soup, the rice cake and a pudding) with a glass of Buck's Fizz, coffee and mince pies costs £65. I can only imagine how I'd feel if I was served this meal up on Christmas Day after forking out sixty five notes for each of my five veggie family members.  My advice...go and get a veggie wrap meal from Burger King instead!


  1. That's just atrocious and there's no excuse for it. I am not a veggie, but my sister was and my mum used to make the most delicious festive veggie lasagne, and long after my sister decided not be vegetarian anymore, we all demanded it for Christmas. There are a million wonderful veggie mains you can do, and serve the Christmas trimmings along side. I love what Nigella says in her Feast book, to just serve up a plate laden with veggie friendly trimmings and sides, and you don't need anything else.

  2. oh poor you - thpugh sounds like the rest of the weekend was great fun from all the tweets I have seen. I used to be veggie and on Northwest airlines (never will I fly them again) I was offered for breakfast.... a banana.... on a paper plate,.... covered in cling film. The main breakfast was muffins, chocolate and some bread rolls with cheese....

  3. If was a fabulous weekend...this was the only negative. There was such a fuss made of Turner's and to see such an unimaginative Xmas offering was a shock! There is no excuse in this day and age!!

  4. I love all the trimmings...I'd much rather have a meat-free plate of roast dinner than an unimaginative alternative!

  5. Oh dear, what a shame. Like you, I'd rather have a plate of roasted spuds, veg and veggie gravy (and maybe a Yorkshire pud) than a poor attempt at a vegetarian main course.

  6. ...And the price adds insult to injury!

  7. I was quite surprised when I saw that the veggie option was served with a salad instead of all the festive trimmings. I'm not a vegetarian but have often opted for veggie options in the past as I sometimes prefer them, especially nut roast. I would always expect the veggie optionto be served with traditional veg at Xmas and this veggie dinner did look very sparse and could've done with roasted veg. I can't believe that a chef such as Brian turner who clearly enjoys his food could serve up a meal such as this as an alternative Christmas dinner.

  8. Oh my, that should have been £65??? ouch!!

    Lovely to see you again by the way, sorry we didn't get chance to chat. xx

  9. I always imagined that anything cooked by Brian Turner would be delicious - how wrong I was,.From the sound of it, your apology for a Christmas meal sounds horrendous. I can well imagine your disappointment - I wonder why it is that vegetarian meals in some restaurants lack that certain something You have often cooked a gorgeous veggie meal that not only tastes delicious but looks delicious - shame on you Brian Turner.

  10. I looked at the plate when it came out and had no idea what it was. It wasn't until I'd cut in, examined it and tasted a bit that I realised it was a risotto cake. While it tasted nice, it was not a particularly warming to have in the depths of Winter and from such an acclaimed chef! Thank goodness for the cranberry sauce on the table because I did put the two together as it was so dry! A Summer meal, not a Winter Christmas dinner!

  11. I also added the cranberry sauce to moisten the 'veggie delight' but the lovely Concierge offered me some cauliflower cheese as an accompaniment as I asked if there was anything to go with the wedges - then I was mortified to be asked who had the item as it was to be paid for as an additional !!!

    Not the best meal but the company made up for it. Oh and Butlins Daniel said I didn't have to pay the £2.70 for the C.Cheese so please don't send in the bailiffs!! :)

  12. Gosh that sounds awful - this is really my pet hate especially at christmas. Pasta, rice, Risotto, salad etc is not a suitable alternative vegetarian meal. I would have sent it back and asked for the potatoes and veg! I just cannot believe in this day and age when chefs are able to come up with lovely dairy free, wheat free, gluten free alternatives that chefs are still unable to cook a decent vegetarian meal. In fact, I just wrote a post about this over on my blog. Having looked at the christmas main menu offerings for most of the big pub food chains, they are all pasta and risotto - how hard is it to make a veggie christmas dinner with all the trimmings and add something else rather than the turkey. Being me, I would have definitely sent the dish back and told them to find me something else decent!!



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