The Dish: Vegan duck salad
The Place: Bill’s
The Chef: Chris Benians
What? Bill’s has developed a set menu for Veganuary, offering two courses for £12.95 and three courses for £15.95.
Dishes combine both meat alternatives and protein-rich vegetables. The vegan duck salad starter, for example, is made using textured soy and wheat protein, tossed together with chilli, coriander, spring onion, cucumber, carrots, cabbage and baby gem, topped with miso dressing, sesame seeds and lime.
For mains, on the other hand, it’s all about pure veg, especially in the pulse-raising lentil, chickpea and aubergine dal with cherry tomatoes, coriander, toasted almonds and grilled flat bread. The other option is a butternut squash, turmeric and coconut stew with chargrilled red peppers and onions, mixed grains, kale and seeds.
To finish it all up, there’s coconut ice cream with mango sauce and coconut flakes.
While this alone would be a fairly limited offering, a number of other standalone starters, mains and desserts are also entering the picture, chief among them the Moving Mountains burger, Britain’s very own ‘bleeding’ burger made from a mixture of mushrooms, pea and soy protein, and beetroot.
Bill’s Wellington offers a nut-based meat-free version of the classic British dish, while the black bean chilli comes with freekeh, spinach, smashed avocado and red chilli – but no beef, utilising instead a mince alternative.
The restaurant chain is also taking advantage of the great strides being made in vegan baking to offer a chocolate fondant.
Where? The vegan menu will be on offer across all of Bill’s 80-plus estate from tomorrow (January 10) until the end of February. The set is solely available Monday to Friday until 7pm, though a la carte plant-based dishes can be ordered throughout the day.
Bill’s is only one of a number of brands experimenting with meat-free meals. Food Spark has previously pointed out some of the trending launches on social media – including the Greggs vegan sausage roll – but there are many others getting in on the action. Costa Coffee recently announced it will be adding Lactofree milk and almond drink to its existing coconut beverage, while Itsu has launched two new permanent options – a beechwood-smoked tofu ‘steak’ and a vegetable gyoza (dumpling) salad – on a menu that the Japanese grab-and-go chain claims is already 40% vegan.
Why? For many in the food industry, Veganuary provides the perfect opportunity to test out meat-free menus to see how they play with consumers. Healthy-eating chain Crussh, for example, has turned its Soho outlet completely vegan for the month, with an eye to seeing whether having vegan-only locations is viable long term. This is being accompanied by eight new products, including a butternut, harissa and vegan 'feta' wrap – allegedly the first item to incorporate vegan feta on the high street.
“We’re really excited to be turning our Soho store vegan for the month of January,” said Helen Harrison, head of marketing at Crussh. “It’s something we’ve talked about for a while and it felt like the right time to give it a go. One of the biggest trends we’ve seen this year is the growth in veganism and we know that moving to a more plant-based diet can have such a positive impact on both the health of individuals and the planet.”
The move mimics that of Pret A Manger, which opened a Veggie Pret in 2016 as a marketing ploy, expecting sales to fall. A couple of years on and the company has just added a location in Manchester, following on from the three in London.
According to BMG Research released last year, almost one in eight British meat eaters would consider going vegan. Mintel, meanwhile, claimed in November that a third of meat-eating Brits had already begun limiting their meat intake in the first half of 2018, resulting in an estimated value of £740m for the meat-free market last year.