Restaurants such as Paperbark, Peppe’s and Alibi have raised the benchmark for plant-based meals in Sydney. No longer are eateries serving token vegan dishes – risotto, veggie stacks, red-sauce pasta – but are instead playing with textures and flavours, and making vegetables the focus. That is exactly what owners Simon Hill and Tanya Smart are trying to do at Bondi’s Eden.
“Before, people’s food decisions were based on what was instilled in them in their early years, and you didn’t really think much about what you were eating,” Hill says. “But … the everyday person now understands that meat no longer has to be the star of the plate and you can get an enormous amount of nutrition out of plants, without having to sacrifice on flavour.”
To help execute their vision for the all-vegan menu is Claudia Pantoja, who joins from Alibi, the restaurant in Woolloomooloo’s Ovolo hotel that last year went with a 100 per cent vegan menu with the assistance of Matthew Kenney, a renowned vegan chef from the US.
Here she’s dishing up popcorn cauliflower, mushroom spaghetti bolognese, watermelon poke and “fysh” tacos using banana blossom. The bases for the pizzas are made in-house and come with toppings such as barbequed pulled jackfruit, potato and truffle oil. There are also outrageously lime-green sliders with plant-based patties, “cheddar” lettuce and a pickled jalapeño (the colour comes from matcha food colouring).
“What I learned from Alibi and Matthew Kenney’s cuisine is to not just keep it simple, but to focus on flavour. I want to make people realise how great plants can be and just how amazing they will look on a plate,” Pantoja says.
The 80-seater space, realised by interior designer Edward De Simone, is spread mostly across a garden courtyard lit up by fairy lights and sheltered by oversized white umbrellas. It’s within The Pacific complex, which also houses QT hotel, Panama House and clothing store Saturdays NYC, among others. Inside you’ll find a Beverly Hills-inspired space with tropical coloured walls and oversized foliage.
Either seating option makes Eden an oasis for cocktail drinking. There’s a pretty purple concoction, the Butterfly Colada, made with white rum, coconut ice-cream, pineapple, sweet-pea powder, blueberries, coconut flakes and dried pineapple. Alternatively there’s a short vino list.
Eden is currently only open for dinner, but there already plans for brunch and lunch in coming weeks.