I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with a vegan breakfast sandwich.
Depending on your culinary leanings this might infuriate you, but I usually judge how good a plant-based dish is on whether it’s appealing regardless of the diner’s dietary requirements. And, as an omnivore, the breakfast sandwiches I’d normally order come filled with eggs, maybe some cheese and – if I’m feeling indulgent – bacon.
But Forest’s breakfast sandwich – part of the new morning menu that’s started since it moved to Mount Eden – needs none of that to hit all the right savoury, creamy and salty notes.
Chef Plabita Florence’s plant-based, low-waste restaurant used to be in a 16-seat space on Symonds Street and recently shifted to 243 Dominion Road, where it can now feed 30 people at a time. It’s also ditched the former set menus in favour of an à la carte offering. Florence has brought on baker Ashleigh Payne, who’s overseeing the new daytime menu and whose hands made my meal the Saturday morning I visited.
“Often think of that breakfast sammy we had,” my friend and dining partner texted me over a week after we ate there together. She’s vegan, so I’m not surprised she liked it so much, but I had to admit I hadn’t been able to get it off my mind either.
Firstly, the bun. It was perfectly crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside with a generous sprinkle of coarse salt on the crust. The buns are handmade by Payne each morning, using their hand-reared rēwena bug – a traditional Māori sourdough starter made with potato.
It’s then lashed with Forest’s “toasted chilli goop”, which the restaurant also serves with seaweed-dusted fries on the dinner menu. This “goop” tastes like the best aioli you’ve ever had, a creamy, tangy sauce that I was licking off my fingertips.
“Toasted chilli goop is a mayo-type emulsion, made with a chilli oil where we basically burn the contents slightly to give it its smoky, toasty flavour,” Florence explains. “The chilli goop always has plenty of mustard and lemon juice too. Acid is a crucial balancer in this sauce, especially because it's for dipping fries into, or for smothering a savoury sandwich.” The name began during lockdown and stuck, and it seems very apt to me.
Then, the silken tofu and chickpea flour crepe that manages to perfectly capture the eggy component of any breakfast sandwich worth its crumb. “The vegan ‘egg’ for the sandwich was the last thing I did at the end of a 10-hour day of testing,” Payne tells Broadsheet. Folded won out over slab-style for texture. “The secret is cooking the crepe until it’s just lightly golden on the bottom, then folding it as soon as you can do so safely, so that the top side stays soft,” says Payne.
Adding more wholesome texture, crunch and nutrients, there’s a layer of cooked greens in between the crepe and the lid of the bun. I detected silverbeet in mine, and Florence says it fluctuates depending on what’s affordable and readily available. “Lately it's cavolo nero or silverbeet. Both come with their stalks, which Ashleigh trims out and cooks down separately.”
Florence’s inventive approach shines throughout Forest’s dinner menus – but if there’s anything that’ll get me out of bed in the morning, this breakfast sandwich will do it.
Wed to Fri 7:30am-1:30pm & 6pm-10pm
Sat 8am-1pm & 6pm-10pm