Michelin star vegan Tenerife – At the Ritz.

I am not a dressy person. Dressing up for me means brushing my hair. So when I remembered two kilometres away that I was heading to the Ritz for a two Michelin star dinner I panicked. I’d memorised my itinerary (very badly) apparently and I was now changing rapidly in the back of an empty minibus in a layby while the driver shielded her eyes.
I’d been invited to sample some of Tenerife’s gourmet food. Initially sceptical that I would be able to eat anything at all, time and time again, I was proved wrong.
There were five others in the group I was travelling with, all of whom were meat eaters. Not only do I not eat meat, fish, or dairy of any sort, my gluten intolerance had recently kicked back so I’d had to recut bread out of my diet AGAIN. And I looked like a tramp to boot.
But I was kinda surprised (and delighted, Obvs) when the chef (Basque chef Martin Berasategui) had prepared me a special menu. 

Yes, there were a lot of textures of tomato, but him and his team had gone to a lot of effort to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out.  It was two Michelin starred food, but meat free, which was super exciting. 
  
We started with breads. He brought me rice crackers with different flavours and the things that look like crayons on the table are in fact flavoured butter.

  
Strawberry daiquiri ice cubes arrived next, moulded into the shape of berries. They were incredible – an alcoholic sorbet to cleanse the palette before nine course tasting menu. In reality such a long menu is just an excuse for a chef to show off, but if he continued  showing off like this, fine by me.

  
A series of amuse bouches-esque things arrived next and this was the only bum note of the meal. Spherication had happened here, and it really shouldn’t have. A luminous blob of green didn’t look appetising. It did what it said on the tin – exploded with liquid as I bit into it – but the taste was like chewing on one of those berries from a tree that would kill you. 

It was bitter and left a lingering and hideous aftertaste. That said, it was the only bum note of the meal, but man, it was weird. After eating quite a lot of swish meals, I’ve realised that texture really is important to food. This is where nature excels and sometimes chefs should leave well alone. An example is an apple. It’s crunchy and soft at the same time. Genius. Don’t mess with that.

  
I was then served textures of tomato (which were delicous) while everyone else got slightly cooked oysters cooked in a broth that smelt of the sea. It was served in a dish that looked like a volcano and it smoked…

  
I was grateful for a respite as the chef was unable to come up with nine things that were vegan, so I sipped an amazing gin and tonic while everyone went mad for their next dish. After that, I was served a simple salad with vinaigrette. For anyone who has battled through a tasting menu, you’ll understand when I say that as delicious as everything else was on the table, everybody was envious of my salad.

  
The standout dish of the menu followed – white asparagus tips with a rich mushroom sauce. It was decadent and everyone else was served the same dish, which suggests just how good it was.

  
Then came an egg in broth with salty girolles. 

  
Then gorgeous artichoke hearts, wonderfully turned with a type of Palm syrup and more mushrooms.

Desert was Unphotographed because my phone died and British Airways doesn’t have charging points, even in business. (Gah). But it was lemony, zesty, with lots of sorbets, sugars, and an amazing lime and apple and mint granita sauce. Delish.

Alfred Prasad’s tasting menu at Sani Gourmet festival, Greece

The night started off as any other night as a vegan. With low sighs and frustration as I leafed through the delicious sounding tasting menu. Everything said it was coated with yoghurt, meat, or other non-vegan miscellany. So I asked the waitress behind me if it would be possible to order a salad from another restaurant on the resort while the press group I was travelling with tucked into to a sensory, delicious eating experience.

But she looked shocked at the suggestion. A second later a waiter came over and told me that Prasad and his team would make a vegan friendly menu for me, so I could enjoy everything. I was so bowled over by this generosity (considering how crazy the kitchen must be) that I must have just beamed. I had loved Atul Kochar’s Benares and I was excited to experience Prasad’s cooking too. Michelin star Indian cooking is just so interesting and exciting – it’s almost as good as a big bowl of curry and naan.

Each course was staggeringly good, and here, in pictures, is why you should go and eat at one of Prasad’s restaurants. It was exceptional. I want to thank his team for making me something spectacular that I could enjoy as much as my colleagues.

To start

Chickpea and tamarind

Chickpea and tamarind

This chickpea pate (almost) tasted like a swish version of Bhel Poori balls. Sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, wheat strains, and puffed bread, it was the most exceptional dish of the evening. It burst with flavour, and went from sweet, to sour, to bitter, to sweet again in seconds. An absolute joy to eat.

Next

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Sorry for the BLUR

While everyone else got a broth of mussels and a scallop (which smelled fragrant and delicious), I was served a spiced fruit salad (almost like a chaat) served with a potato cake. On the potato cake (which was gently spiced), there was a spread of pepper relish which lifted the potato. The only strange thing? Such a salad worked well with the mango that was in it – I don’t think I’m ready for spiced strawberries and potatoes.

Next

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While everyone else was eating something different (probs more fish), I was served a Greek classic – with an Indian twist. A softly baked tomato served with Indian spiced couscous and a circle of pickled red onion. It was warming and delicious, and I appreciated it very much, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the first chickpea course. MAN.

Palate cleanser

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This divided the table – a tamarind granita. I’m tired of gushing, but this was a grower. It was like a salty lassi – on first sip you’re not sure it’s really what you want. But the coldness cut through any strange salty undertones, went to a sweet granita and finished with fresh mint. It was the best palate cleanser I have ever had, hands down. I could probably have drunk an entire mugful, it was that good.

Main

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Butter Chicken is the classic Indian dish. And I think I got something better. Soft, fluffy rice topped with an incredible tomato vegetable sauce. How can I describe this without salivating? Impossible. The vegetables were cut and cooked to perfection and the sauce they were cooked in was rich and decadently spiced. But the highlight of the main? The tiny pot of coconut curry sauce which, if I’d been alone, I would have licked out to make sure none was wasted.

Dessert

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Dessert is a tough one to replicate for vegans with just 2 minutes notice, so I’ll forgive the kitchen for not going to town with this one. I got two scoops of sorbet – one, a beautiful, creamy mango, and the other, a tangy and quite harsh pomegranate. But, happily, they were decorated with shards of raspberry tuile which were TO DIE FOR.

Alfred Prasad, I salute you and your team. You made my week. Thank you for accommodating such a tricky eater. It was all wonderful. And to anyone else who fancies checking out this talented chef, he plans to open his own London eatery soon.

DISCLAIMER: I was on a press trip to Sani Resort, where the event was held, but my views on my blog are my own.