In a week which saw militant vegans storm into a Brighton steakhouse and seranade diners with the pre-recorded sounds of animal slaughter, it was nice to be part of a slightly more gentle approach to championing a plant-based diet.
Just a few days before the aforementioned protest, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream invited super cool and trendy young YouTube vegan chef Gaz Oakley to prepare a vegan meal in the equally super cool and trendy surroundings of Pike and Pine restaurant on St Jame’s Street.
Our whistles were well and truly whet with some non-dairy cocktails, including a Brew Good to be True, a punchy twist on Espresso Martini with Absolut vodka, Tia Maria, Redroaster coffee, caramel, and chocolate bitters,
The food was inspired (naturally) by the three new non-dairy flavours created by the ice cream giants.
At first glance Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Peanut Butter and Cookies, might not seem like the ideal bedrock for a slap-up vegan meal, but the talented social media whizz (500,000 YouTube followers can’t be wrong) was well up for the task.
The much-travelled professional chef and writer explained that he had once hung up his whites before an overnight conversion to veganism, led to a new-found passion for plant-based grub and a hugely successful online life with the Avant-Garde Veganism brand.
First up the chirpy Cardiffian created a Plantain-Tastic Taco.
The soft mini tortilla was laden with a black bean chilli stew which was notable for its rich, almost creamy, consistency created by the addition of some high cocoa dark chocolate, and a good chunk of plantain, both a Simian-styled nod to the Chunky Monkey.
Part of Gaz’s/The Avant-Garde Vegan’s credo is conjuring up big tastes and colours into vegan dishes without compromise, and this was in evidence in the next course - Punchy Peanut. A great wholesome and hearty peanut and pumpkin curry (remember the Peanut Butter and Cookies?).
It wasn’t an especially fiery affair but erupted with flavours from a base of lemongrass, ginger and chilli. The pumpkins broke down beautifully in the coconut milk and made for a satisfying thick sauce, and some candied peanuts which went brilliantly with the spices, and added extra zip and crunch.
After a sneak taste of a forthcoming secret flavour from Ben & Jerry’s (spoiler alert: it’s good), it was time for a final course which put the sweet into sweet
A near half-pint of the trio of non-dairy ice creams, with bowls of berries, nuts, sweets, cookies, brownies and chocolate sauce.
All vegan of course.
It was as indulgent and as it sounds and proof that vegans can have plenty fun on a plate, a sundae dish, or in a cocktail glass...
By Steve Holloway