Hot in the City: Monster goes veggie for a year

Michelle Rowe 17 November 2020 35
Monster vegie menu

Monster Kitchen & Bar’s parmesan churros with ‘truff’ and cheddar fondue. Photo: Supplied.

Going fully vegetarian for a year is a risky move for any restaurant.

But if the dishes being served at Monster Kitchen & Bar this evening are any guide, the staff won’t need to polish their CVs for a while.

From tonight and for the next year, the NewActon restaurant will ditch meat and fish and offer a plant-based menu only, after owner Ovolo Group committed to 365 days of vegetarian dining across all of its hotel restaurants and bars in Australia and Hong Kong.

The key to getting it right is very much the person behind the burners, Monster’s new executive chef Paul Wilson.

His pedigree made him the perfect choice to steer the restaurant in this unexpected new direction.

Paul spent two-and-a-half years as a sous chef at Denmark’s Geranium restaurant, the three-Michelin-starred diner incongruously housed in a Copenhagen football stadium which has consistently scored goals for its seasonal, produce-driven menus.

Rated one of the top five restaurants in the world in 2019, Geranium’s executive chef Rasmus Kofoed is himself vegetarian.

“I’m very used to cooking this way having worked alongside Rasmus for so long,” says Paul of his culinary hero.

Paul also spent two years at the ultra-exclusive Laucala Island Resort owned by Red Bull billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. In the remote Fijian archipelago, this playground of the rich and famous had all the accoutrements befitting any self-respecting billionaire – private plane, speedboat, championship golf course, state-of-the-art submarine …

But getting hold of fresh produce proved elusive. The chef spent considerable time building up the onsite gardens and organic farms that supplied not just the 1,400 ha island’s restaurants but fed the large contingent of Fijian staff who serviced the resort.

Monster interior

Monster’s eclectic interiors. Photo: Michelle Rowe.

Cooking sustainably and seasonally – as and when the produce became available – became an essential part of the job.

Local, sustainable and seasonal will also be the ethos behind Monster’s vegetarian offer, says Ovolo Hotel Canberra General Manager Nathan Dean, who believes the new veggie menu will benefit not just the environment, but the business, despite being “a massive sceptic” when the vegetarian concept was initially floated. He was quickly won over by Paul’s innovative and creative approach.

“I’m not a vegetarian. Give me a steak or fish every time. But as soon as I started trying Paul’s dishes, I thought ‘Wow. If I can eat this, and be excited about the food, and feel full at the end of the meal and not like I’ve been pushing salad and carrot around a plate, then other people are going to love it too’,” says Nathan.

“It forces us to reinvent what we are doing and nothing is wasted. There won’t be the food miles on a dish that you have with getting daily deliveries of fish or steak.”

Nathan adds that Monster has installed new food waste technology called ORCA that converts every scrap of plant waste to water, which is used on the hotel’s gardens and the restaurant’s burgeoning veggie patch.

Chilli, capsicum, cucumbers, herbs and more are grown on-site to keep Monster in good supply and relationships have been forged with providore Pialligo Estate and local farmers to supply fresh fruit and veg. The kitchen team has also launched a pickling program so the bounty can be used year-round.

Monster vegie menu

Handcrafted spaetzle with gruyere, soubise, 63-degree hen’s egg and truffle. Photo: Supplied.

The new vegetarian menu will change according to what produce is available on the day, and be available as bar snacks, a shared meal or individual serves – whatever you fancy, says Nathan, who has become slightly addicted to the parmesan churros with ‘truff’ and cheddar fondue and also tips the spaetzle as a ‘must-try’.

Spaetzle is a German egg noodle dish and is course number three on tonight’s five-course menu. Smothered in a gruyere sauce with truffle oil and topped with a perfectly poached 63-degree egg, it is rich and satisfying. A perfectly crafted, flower-shaped parmesan biscuit crowns the dish.

We also try heirloom tomatoes, fennel lavosh, feta snow, olive crumb and preserved lemon (the tomatoes are full of flavour, the consommé poured over the dish leaving a refreshing and flavoursome soup to scoop up at the end), as well carrots slow roasted for three hours with smoked kelp, sauerkraut, white bean cassoulet and furikake (Japanese seasoning).

A tofu-based blueberry cheesecake with coconut sorbet, lemon thyme and coconut meringue rounds off a perfectly balanced meal.

Monster vegie menu

The smoked beetroot tartare is the dish of the day. Photo: Supplied.

My favourite dish of the evening is our first course – a hay-smoked beetroot tartare with horseradish emulsion, tapioca cracker and sorrel. The flavour combination in this delicate and pretty dish is amazing. I’m tipping it to be a hot favourite on a summer’s evening with a crisp glass of white, or a perfectly balanced precursor to a larger meal.

Will this new concept at Monster take off? As we begin to think more about sustainability and provenance, the timing is certainly right.

Monster is offering a very real alternative for those ‘flexitarians’ among us who are keen to reduce our intake of meat, but not quite ready to take the full leap to vegetarianism. The menu is an innovative and sophisticated collection of flavours that show the depth and variety that can be derived from plant-based cuisine, with creativity, care and skill.

Monster vegie menu

The blueberry cheesecake with coconut sorbet and meringue completes an excellent meal. Photo: Supplied.

Vegetarians will love it because, for once, they are front and centre – what a novelty not having to scan a carnivore-focussed menu looking for those scant offerings suitable to their preferences.

Organisers of group dinners, too, may find themselves smugly satisfied at the prospect of having pretty much something to suit everyone in one perfectly formed menu.

You’ve got 365 days to check it out. I’d strongly recommend getting in quick to make your booking.

Monster Kitchen & Bar’s Year of the Veg menu is available from today.


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35 Responses to Hot in the City: Monster goes veggie for a year
Charee O'Riley Charee O'Riley 4:55 pm 01 Nov 20

Tayliah Johnston let’s go with Nat to CELEBRATE.

    Tayliah Johnston Tayliah Johnston 5:49 pm 01 Nov 20

    Charee O'Riley yes!!!! That’s a great idea

Ashlea Drysdale Ashlea Drysdale 4:16 pm 01 Nov 20

Bekah Heron I can’t see if there’s any exact vegan items, but you could possibly give here a try??

Annette Milroy Annette Milroy 11:47 am 01 Nov 20

Veronica Milroy somewhere else for you and AJ to eat?

Jess Pagett Jess Pagett 7:38 pm 31 Oct 20

Claire Osborne Jade McClelland Tristan McClelland ... we need to book for a few months time.

Rachael Hardy Rachael Hardy 7:23 pm 31 Oct 20

Karen Fitzgerald I’m excited to go!!

Heather Cotching Heather Cotching 10:57 am 31 Oct 20

Jean Cotching while you are here?

Robyn Eml Robyn Eml 12:10 am 31 Oct 20

Imogen well happy days!

Tegan Mulquiney Tegan Mulquiney 6:46 pm 30 Oct 20

Shannon Thomson Jones we can now take Chelsea Hawken out for dinner 😉

Phoebe Reeve Phoebe Reeve 5:11 pm 30 Oct 20

How exciting!!! Christine Webster

    Christine Webster Christine Webster 9:11 pm 30 Oct 20

    Phoebe Reeve when you're here, I'm there!!!! P. S. Miss you so much!!! 0

    Phoebe Reeve Phoebe Reeve 11:18 pm 30 Oct 20

    Squeeeeee miss you tooo!!! Back v. Soon!

Allyson Jane Allyson Jane 2:49 pm 30 Oct 20

Alec oooohhhh

Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 1:50 pm 30 Oct 20

Laura Stott have a read about the new head chef. It will be amazeballs

Elisa Gordon Elisa Gordon 11:40 am 30 Oct 20

Nick we and the pestatarian David need to go back

Ellen Stewart Ellen Stewart 10:51 am 30 Oct 20

Sarah Stewart let's go

Zoya Jasmin Zoya Jasmin 10:12 am 30 Oct 20

Amanda Clark it's a sign!!

Marina Mito Marina Mito 9:37 am 30 Oct 20

Amani whaaaat!

Sue MacLeod Sue MacLeod 8:34 am 30 Oct 20

Matt Katie 😊 Probs some vegan dishes too 😊

Sarah O'Rourke Sarah O'Rourke 10:33 pm 29 Oct 20

Naomi Merritt? Chris tells me he is out for the year!!

    Naomi Merritt Naomi Merritt 10:53 pm 29 Oct 20

    Sarah O'Rourke Parmesan churros with truff & cheddar fondue??! Shut up & take my money!

    Sarah O'Rourke Sarah O'Rourke 6:54 am 30 Oct 20

    Naomi Merritt Chris says kids can stay over and you and I can have a Christmas work party!!!

    Naomi Merritt Naomi Merritt 7:28 am 30 Oct 20

    Sarah your husband is the best!

Samantha Leahy Samantha Leahy 9:33 pm 29 Oct 20

Mary Hodge dinner date?

    Mary Hodge Mary Hodge 11:21 pm 29 Oct 20

    Samantha Leahy yes please! This development is a nice surprise!

Gillian Unger Gillian Unger 7:17 pm 29 Oct 20

Robyn Kahonde I would love to try this place

Christine Evans Christine Evans 5:35 pm 29 Oct 20

Fantastic news. This is the one type of restaurant missing in Canberra.

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