From the humble beginnings of a Bo-Kaap Café to a gourmet vegan restaurant in Cape Town CBD, Plant offers delicious vegan food, promoting compassionate choices without sacrificing taste. Their objective is to supply clean, healthy nutrition optimised for today’s fast-paced life style.
Maverick is the word that best describes owner-chef extraordinaire, Pierre Lambret. His Plant restaurant in Cape Town’s Loop Street – a vegan gourmet oasis – is where his legendary kitchen alchemy materialises. Several lesser known key ingredients are used to create authentic, original dish flavours. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diners can even buy the ever-popular vegan biltong and their range of vegan cheeses by the kilogram for home.
What is Plant’s signature dish?
We have no real signature dish. But some popular dishes are the meze platter, mushroom burger and dim sum. We invent and create a lot and are always bringing new dishes to the menu.
What dish or ingredient are you currently experimenting with?
It’s the vegan ‘bacon’, developed by cook Anita Abasi in her off time. She’s one of Plant’s shareholders. The ‘bacon’ is made from rice paper rolls, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika. Other new items are chick pea ‘steaks’ we also use for our ‘rib’ dishes.
Do you follow vegan food trends?
I see what the trends are, but I don’t jump on them. We like to develop our own trends here.
What sets you apart from other vegan restaurants?
I think I’m the only one doing both dim sum and bobotie, as well as the German Flammekuche and French dishes. I also like cooking with the talent we have here which leads our restaurant.
Do you have a favourite cookbook or special dish you enjoy cooking?
I don’t follow cookbooks – I want to be unique. But I do love cooking the typically-French Bourgignon, a ‘meaty’ dish with seared seitan (made from gluten), cooked in a red wine and herb marinade with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and onions.
What are some fridge or cupboard Plant essentials for you?
Mushrooms, red and black beans, beetroot and avocado pears. Apart from nutritional yeast, tempeh (made from soya beans) and maple syrup.
Who would your best dinner table guests be and why?
A family table enjoying their dishes and who don’t know Plant’s a vegan restaurant. Even when I tell them, they’re still convinced they’re eating meat.
What cooking tip can you share that helps make your famous-tasting cuisine so inimitable?
An easy trick is using gluten powder to make seitan – it helps patties stick together. Also, nutritional yeast changes a lot regarding taste.
What’s your genre of veganism at Plant specifically?
We try to be a ‘normal’ restaurant with the full offerings. We’re the only ones doing breakfast through to dinner. We also sell wine and beer. I still enjoy and drink beer, as I did before I was vegan. I’m vegan for animal, health and environmental reasons.
What’s your recipe for success as a business, particularly with the current recession and industry downturn?
It’s my great stable team who grow with me and whom I look after, promote and empower. Two of my staff are now co-shareholders with me. We even did better this year on sales and profitability than last year.
Pierre shares one of his favourite recipes
For four people
150g marinated tempeh
150g brown mushrooms
100g small onions
2 garlic cloves
1 large spoon wheat flour
½ litre dry red wine
½ litre water
Bouquet garni: Thyme and rosemary
Seitan: Mix together gluten powder, tomato paste, tahini, lemon juice, onion powder, thyme and rosemary. Bake for 20 min.
Tempeh: Marinate tempeh with maple syrup, oil, smoked paprika and cumin.
Cook the carrots, onions and mushrooms together with olive oil. When it gets coloured, add the seitan and tempeh, the flour and the garlic. Let it cook a bit and add the wine, then the water. Let it simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve with some toasted baguette.