Layers of complex and complementary flavours build up to bring a wholly vegan menu to life
Former self-confessed carnivore Rishim Sachdeva gave the Veganuary challenge a go four years ago and never looked back.
His new-found love for plant-based food saw the chef dabble in supper clubs and pop-ups, including a 39-week residency at the Sun & 13 Cantons pub in London's Soho, as well as meal kits and home deliveries during the pandemic. He gained a dedicated fan base along the way, which helped him crowdfund £238,000 to fund the growth of Tendril Kitchen. While its current home just off Regent Street is technically a pop-up, this residency has already lasted eight months and conversations are being had to secure the venue permanently.
Eight chefs work on the extensive plant-based menu, with each dish carefully considered after a lot of what Sachdeva calls "trial and error". "Cooking meat is very technical and it could go wrong in so many places, but compared to vegetables, meat is somewhat simpler. If you cook a roast chicken, you know that is the centre of the dish and you build things around it, but with vegan food it's hard to find the start and build on it," explains Sachdeva.
The chef held a number of senior positions at some of the UK's top restaurants, including the Fat Duck, Almeida, the Dairy and Chiltern Firehouse before setting out on his plant-based journey. The only thing he freely admits he couldn't live without is cheese – "I would get dreams of eating it" – hence why Tendril is dubbed a ‘(mostly) vegan kitchen', with 90% of the dishes plant-based and a couple of cheesy additions, such as his take on cheese on toast created from house-made Brie. That said, for the month of January, Sachdeva has created a completely vegan menu across his brunch, lunch, à la carte and a discovery tasting menu, the latter being offered for £42.
A dish that kicks this off to much flavour fanfare is the smoked aubergine, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate, served with warm wedges of Coombeshead farm bread. Sachdeva smokes aubergine over the chargrill until smoky and gooey. "We pickle chillies and add a pop of sweetness from pomegranate. And to finish we create a bright green crumb from pumpkin seeds with mint and parsley for freshness, drizzled with a little oil made from rose and za'atar, which gives a ras el hanout-like flavour and adds a little fat."
This punchy start is followed by citrus and spice from a second snack of baked polenta with sea buckthorn, massaman dressing and coconut salsa, while a couple of plates later a salt and pepper celeriac terrine with a mustard dressing is a deeply wintery and wholesome dish, lightened by a chive aioli.
"With vegetables what is usually missing is the fat and salt content and incorporating those layers is a challenge. In a lot of cultures and cuisines this is done with spices, seasoning and herbs, but it masks the vegetable," explains Sachdeva.
The terrine is made from 30 slices of celeriac which are baked, cut, crumbed and fried and sit on a caramelised celeriac purée. A rémoulade made from julienne of celeriac is lightly fermented and mixed with mustard, while the aioli provides tang and fat and the nigella seeds add freshness.
The intricate dishes all lead up to Sachdeva's hearty main of grilled oyster mushroom, spiced beetroot, onion gravy and citrus gremolata. "For this we create an intense sauce from chipotle chillies, onions, tomato, garlic and apple which we cook down and caramelise for nearly a day and a half," he says. Sachdeva then mixes the oyster mushrooms with the sauce, and adds oil to confit, before draining the fat and grilling the mushrooms over a high heat to give a smokiness and meaty texture.
"The red wine jus is made from nutritional yeast and Marmite, while the spiced beetroot stops the mushrooms from becoming overwhelming, and there's acid from the gremolata made from raw garlic, capers and fresh herbs."
Tendril, Sachdeva says, means the start of something new, but something with strong roots – like the new shoot of a herb. "It's a thought that defines us as a team, trying out something new, while being part of a foundation that has its own identity."
Here's hoping Tendril puts down its roots in a permanent site very soon so Sachdeva can keep making veg the hero of the plate.
5 Princes Street, London W1B 2LQ www.tendrilkitchen.co.uk
From the menu
- Smoked aubergine, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, Coombeshead farm bread
- Crispy spiced polenta, citrus, cucumber
- Stuffed cabbage, grilled swede, house ferments, apple salad
- Salt and pepper celeriac terrine, mustard dressing, chive aioli
- Grilled oyster mushroom, spiced beetroot, onion gravy, citrus gremolata
- Crispy potatoes, grilled carrot, smoked paprika sprouts (+£4)
- Sticky toffee pudding, bay leaf custard, miso toffee sauce
Veganuary Discovery Tasting Menu, £42
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