In the world of fine dining, there is a tendency to lean towards dishes which are heavy on meat and fish and so, vegetarian diners can often feel a little left out.
I was keen to experience what vegetarian fine dining was like, and it turns out my timing was perfect as The Rabbit (formerly known as Rabbit in the Moon) has just launched their 100% vegetarian, seven-course tasting menu.
I knew I would have to give it a go and see if the removal of meat and fish had an impact on the quality, flavours and all-round finesse of the restaurant. So I popped down last week, ordered two very large glasses of wine and prepared myself to consume a casual seven courses on a Wednesday evening.
We kicked things off with a plate of various snacks which were perfectly designed to whet the whistle and give us a small glimpse of things to come.
Tiny, perfectly formed Salt and Pepper Crisps were up first – served in an oyster shell and sat on a bed of wakame emulation which had intense umami flavour from the seaweed. It was just delightful, and I appreciate that the team at The Rabbit understood that nobody wants a crisp without something to dip it in.
The Rabbit is pretty famous for their tiny kawaii looking boa buns which are all appropriately stamped with a teeny rabbit motif. As a meat eater who is always happy to go veggie on occasion, I was afraid I was going to miss out on the bao – so you can imagine my excitement when I saw one coming towards me on the snacks plate.
The delectable little Tempura Avocado and Hoisin Bao was the perfect combination of salty, creamy and crisp.
Finally, there was the adorable Samba Gyoza. This was a fried dumpling stuffed with sweet chargrilled pineapple, and it was much sweeter than I ever expected. Despite my missing sweet tooth, it was much enjoyed, and after we had gobbled these three morsels, I was indeed hungry for more.
Moving on to the more serious stuff, the first course was a lovely coco-nutty Tom Kha Soup paired with a buttery brioche toast topped with white onion, miso and sesame. Both elements were delicious in their own right, but the real experience came from a mouthful of the toast followed by a swig of soup which became more addictive with every sip.
Sticking with the Thai flavours, the next course was a little Tofu Risotto which was the kind of fusion food I can fully get on board with. It had a bit of a kick to it, but the kind that lures you into a false sense of security before hitting the back of your throat and making you look like a chump. I liked it.
I think the next course was my favourite. It took Daikon, which is an Asian radish, and cooked it Kung Pao style which gave it a fantastic savoury flavour and a texture with managed to retain its bite. It was served with crispy bits of puffed rice and a delicious sauce made from pickled mustard leaf which brought a welcome bit of tang. I didn’t want it to stop.
I suppose when it comes to a seven-course tasting menu, it is hard to call something a ‘main course’, but the Miso Roasted Aubergine was certainly the main event. It was the biggest dish in size by far, and certainly the most eye-catching.
It consisted of tender-but-crisp aubergine flavoured with lovely sweet miso on a bed on Singapore noodles, crispy shitake mushrooms and with tart plum sauce to tie it all together.
Now, this is the only dish which I feel could do with some work. It was very salty, which just wasn’t to my taste. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t inedible. Far from it actually – it was borderline addictive, but I found myself guzzling tonnes of water afterwards to stop myself from wrinkling up into a little prune. I could eat those crispy mushrooms from now until forever though, so don’t let it put you off.
On to dessert, of which there were two. First a palate cleanser of Strawberry Jelly (made with agar over gelatine) with compressed cucumber and mint. Lovely, fresh flavours that are welcome in a glass on a hot summers day.
Next was the Raspberry Cheesecake with tarragon ice cream which I absolutely loved. 0.0012 seconds into my first mouthful and all was forgotten about the slightly salty course before. The textures were fabulous too, with a crisp base, soft filling, tart raspberries and cool ice cream to bring it all together. Oh, also tarragon ice cream is my new favourite.
Just in case that wasn’t enough for us, we were presented with a plate of petit fours to round the evening off. There was a strange green thing which looked like a snippet of Grinch fluff with flavours of coconut and coffee, and a little banana and mango mousse ball which exploded in the mouth.
They were all delicious, but the Juniper Doughnut really stole the show. Slightly warm, freshly cooked and coated in sugar, this little guy was packed with bags of flavour. Unsurprisingly, it tasted just like gin, and it coated my mouth with delicious floral notes that I was tasting all the way home. Honestly, it was the best doughnut I have ever tried.
We left sufficiently stuffed and without a longing for meat or fish as I had anticipated. The Rabbit vegetarian menu is smart, and it does not leave vegetarian food as a mere afterthought. It is well thought out, substantial, artistic and packed with the all the delicious fusion flavours you would expect.
If I was to go again, I would seriously consider ordering one of each to share and double the dining experience. If you are vegetarian however, I can guarantee this menu will have you leaving with a smile on your face.