Come September, Hillside Kitchen will make the move away from meat. Vegetarians and omnivores alike, rejoice; this new way of thinking will certainly be creative fire for the neighbourhood favourite on Tinakori Road, known for some of the most exciting and well-executed dishes in Wellington.
It's a thoughtful and delicious decision from Asher Boote, head chef of Hillside. In a world that would undoubtedly benefit environmentally from a reduction in meat production and consumption, chefs are taking assertive, inspired action by turning to plants to orchestrate their menus.
Rene Redzepi, head chef at Noma in Copenhagen in late June opened "vegetable season" at his restaurant with an entirely new menu composed of vegetables, fungi, seeds, fruits and other foraged delicacies of the plant world. Dan Barber, head chef at Blue Hill in New York's West Village is now known throughout the world for his work on new seed varieties designed for flavour, not commodification.
Closer to home, Root-to-Petal month is a nationwide initiative and conversation that celebrates vegetarian/vegan cooking, organic farming and aims to engage the general public and other restaurants around the joys and environmental impacts of a plant-based diet. Hillside joined Auckland's Orphans Kitchen and Christchurch's Gatherings earlier this year by dropping meat from its menu for an entire month.
The movement is certain to grow in relevance and importance as the world learns to produce food in innovative ways for our rapidly-growing population. But this move also allows the flavours of New Zealand's local produce to take a starring role in a national food culture that is still, by and large a protein-centric situation.
"While the ethical standpoint has had an influence on this decision, it is the drive to continue growing and further innovate the style of food Hillside is known for that has made this an easy choice," said Boote in a statement. The restaurant will be further expanding and utilising its kitchen garden, creating somewhat of a kitchen circular economy as they turn food scraps into compost for the beds of vegetables and herbs that will make up the new dishes. The eatery's socially conscious sense of our region's terroir is leading the charge in Wellington — we can't wait to taste the results when the menu drops in September.