If I had to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life, I would happily eat Peggy Chan’s cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The first time I visited Grassroots Pantry, back when it was a cosy little restaurant in Sai Ying Pun, I realised that vegetarian food needn’t always be boring. The fact that three years later and Grassroots Pantry has now taken over the huge old Pressroom space on Hollywood Road is a true testament to the fact that at Grassroots, Peggy makes the most exciting vegetarian food you could ever taste.
The new space is obviously a lot larger than the old one, not only in terms of square footage, but it also has tremendously high ceilings. Inevitably, therefore, a little bit of the charm and cosiness that was associated with the old GP has disappeared, yet there is still a feeling of calm and tranquillity in the new space, helping you feel a million miles from hectic Central. The new space is a lot more minimalist, with clean lines and neutral tones, yet rows of potted plants and ceramic spoons, as well as mismatched chairs and tables still give it that rustic, homely feel that we know and love.
In line with the smarter space, the menu has also been taken up a level to include a wider selection of some rather more impressive dishes, as well as bar snacks. I visited with a group of girlfriends during soft opening and we tried Peggy’s six-course tasting menu.
Before starting our meal, we were served a cold-pressed juice flight of three colourful shots of juice – AM Elixir, Liveraid and The Glow – designed to cleanse and detox us. All three were absolutely delicious and a refreshing start to the meal.
A tasty amuse bouche of gazpacho followed, alongside a super tasty and healthy bread basket, served with a gorgeous selection of dips to nibble on while we awaited our first starter: Raw spicy sprouted seed handroll. Although it didn’t have quite the same fishy taste, the sprouted seeds definitely did resemble the texture of tinned tuna, whilst the jicama and cauliflower “rice” carried a similar sticky consistency to real sushi rice. A couple of us made the mistake of spreading the whole dollop of wasabi on it, thinking it wouldn’t be straight wasabi; it was and it definitely cleared our sinuses!
I remember being fascinated by the ‘hedgehog’ mushroom on my first visit to GP, having never known it existed. On this visit, the charred Yunnan mushroom that followed introduced me to another four varieties of mushroom: Yunnan, termite, cordyceps and chaga, all of which created yet another impressive dish.
One of my favourite dishes of the night was the raw Lebanese kofta, which could so easily have been spiced lamb kofta! The babaganoush and cashew tzatziki were also fantastic and complemented the kofta perfectly.
I rarely order risotto in a restaurant, as I often find it very filling and heavy. GP’s version of organic sweet corn brown rice risotto wasn’t heavy at all. Despite not being made with Arborio rice, it still had a beautifully creamy texture with that all-important al dente bite. For me, the sunflower seed ‘Parm’ tuile didn’t really add much and did admittedly leave me longing for some crispy Parma ham to give it a little bit of saltiness.
I am always very excited when it comes to desserts, and even more so when they’re from Grassroots Pantry (or Prune Organic Deli), as I don’t feel so guilty about eating them! The raw brownies with passion fruit mousse, separately, were both very good. Chocolate and fruit together, however, for me, is like curry and bolognaise; both are excellent on their own, but they should never be mixed! I therefore chowed down my nutty, delicious brownies before tucking into the tart and refreshing mousse.
The winning dessert, in my opinion, was the pistachio sponge and brown rice kheer. I loved all the different textures and interesting flavours at play here, brought together by the lovely spiced Chai tea ice cream from Happy Cow.
No good tasting menu is complete without some petits fours, and Grassroots’ raw chocolate truffles and pralines are excellent – and almost guilt-free! I loved the goji berry truffle, whilst I still cannot understand how it is possible to recreate ‘salted caramel’ and make it taste so good without any nasties!
The tasting menu is priced at $680 per person. This may initially sound expensive for an entirely vegetarian menu, yet, given the creativity and attention to detail in every dish, not to mention the quality of ingredients and beautiful flavours, it is definitely worth it. There’s also an a la carte menu with most dishes around the $100-$180 mark. Staff are all very friendly and attentive. Service was a little bit slow on the night we went, but given it was soft opening, the restaurant was absolutely packed and we had good company and wine, we were happy to have a long, leisurely dinner and were actually the last to leave! Yet again Peggy and her team have proved that vegetarian food can be quite the opposite of boring.
108 Hollywood Road
Tel: +852 2873 3353