Springtime is the perfect time to rejuvenate the palate with something fresh from the garden. This month, W London – Leicester Square plays host to the hotel’s latest Dining Series collaboration with Ravinder Bhogal. The British chef, author, and stylist is one of the hottest names in London’s culinary scene, and a perfect creative match with The Perception bar’s pop-up restaurant at W London.
The fully plant-based menu was crafted by Bhogal after her niece began eating vegan, inspiring the chef to challenge the ways she approaches a dish. “Whether you consider veganism an ethical movement, belief system, or fad diet, there’s no denying we have reached a critical moment in its evolution,” says Bhogal. “All that aside, my reasons for creating this menu are more personal. My niece and I have a very tight bond, she is a best friend and a sister.”
At The Perception, the new Dining Series vegan menu offers hearty treats like besan fritters, coconut yogurt and curry leaf, and Asian mushroom ragout with sweet potato gnocchi. Plus, you can try Bhogal’s little niece’s favorite, caramel tofu with garlic confit rice and chilli smacked cucumbers.
We caught up with Bhogal to hear all about the process behind creating the new menu and what she learned along the way.
Has your upbringing and culture played an integral part in your culinary style?
Ravinder Bhogal: Yes, definitely. I was lucky enough to grow up in a kitchen where spices were the backbone to every dish. My mother taught me to cook, but just being in a kitchen where spices were used so nonchalantly, it was impossible not to learn inherently how to use them to the best of their ability. Our senses were attuned to the spices and their properties. My food without spices would be like elevator music.
When creating this vegan menu, what were some of the biggest surprises you encountered solely sticking to vegan ingredients?
RB: I think the surprise really came when we were tasting the food and even the most hardened carnivores did not miss meat. That was incredibly satisfying.
Is there a particular ingredient or flavor that you really loved working with when creating the menu for The Perception?
RB: I just loved working with tofu. Compressing it to squeeze out most of the liquid gives it a really wonderful and interesting texture.
What were you most excited about when given the opportunity to create this menu?
RB: The challenge to create a deeply flavoursome experience without meat or dairy.
Where did your inspiration for the various dishes on the menu come from?
RB: My tastes are very global given my own heritage and love of travel so there are lots of Asian nods across the menu.
What sort of research or exploration did you do to prepare for creating the menu?
RB: It was based mainly on dishes I had created for my niece when she turned vegan a couple of years ago. I always thought about what she’d enjoy eating.
Do you have a favorite go-to vegan dish?
RB: Definitely the caramel tofu! I could eat it daily!
What are some ways non-vegans can start incorporating vegan dishes into their diet?
RB: I think sometimes people are not fully literate when it comes to the versatility of vegetables. I would suggest to really explore how vegetables can be stretched and elevated. Take for example a cauliflower. The florets can be fried to a crisp tempura, you can cut it into meaty steaks, marinate and roast it whole like a joint of meat, grate it and mimic the texture of rice or couscous. Every fruit or vegetable comes with a world of opportunity.