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!


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