Review: How Does The City's First Meat-Free Hotel Restaurant Fare?
Hong Kong is witnessing the ever-growing interest in vegetarianism and, as a result, an increasing demand for plant-based meat products, a surge of social media promoting a “healthy” lifestyle. Riding the waves of the recent trend is Ovolo Central, which has just opened Veda, its flagship vegetarian restaurant, in early 2019.
Located adjacent to Lan Kwai Fong and Tai Kwun, the restaurant takes up a petite space within the boutique hotel. The room is small and modest, with an abundance of earth tones throughout the square room, and the walls are embellished with wooden panels and wallpaper depicting forest botany. Seating in the restaurant, however, is less flattering, as tables tend to be very small and are very close to each other paired with chairs that are also petite.
As the only restaurant within Ovolo Central, the all-day dining establishment serves a wholesome selection of breakfast and smoothies in the morning, followed by an a la carte selection throughout lunch and dinner, all meat-free. Guests can be assured by the abundance of South Asian influences in vegetarian dishes that are best for sharing; a handful of dishes are available in both small or large portions depending on party size.
We began our meal with pani puri, a popular Indian street food item where deep-fried puffs are filled with a potato-lentil salad and a spicy water blending tamarind, coriander and salt. We enjoyed the exciting blend of spices from the potatoes, and ate each of these puffs in one-bite, allowing the elixir to soften the thin, crisp shells slightly.
Za’atar roasted carrots with kale, quinoa, and blood orange with maple dressing was wonderfully autumnal, where thick fingers of carrots were beautifully roasted, shaved, and seasoned with the Middle Eastern spice blend, which added earthiness from the abundance of coriander seeds and cumin, while sweet blood orange offers a zesty accompaniment to the salad.
Cashew cheese, halloumi, confit cherry tomatoes and honey naan tartine is a flatbread with a crisp base, while a honey-tinted cashew cheese spread enriches the simple alternative to pizza. The cherry tomatoes, blistered in high heat, enhances the sweetness of the tartine.
We opted for a small portion of baked version of aloo gobi, Indian cauliflower with potatoes. The lighter portion saw half a head of cauliflower roasted until sweet and tender, served alongside crisp cubes of potatoes and a turmeric-coconut sauce, bringing a lighter feeling to the original.
Homemade semolina potato gnocchi with sautéed spinach, Grana Padano cheese and crispy kale is a winner. The gnocchi were shaped into tiny cocoons of dough, simmered and tossed in a bright green cheese-laden sauce and topped with kale chips. We do however, recommend sharing the gnocchi as the portion can be rather large.
While most of Veda’s offerings are impressive, Veda’s new world congee, prepared with brown rice, tricolor quinoa, and shiitake mushroom was a blasphemous attempt to revamp the rice porridge. Its failure was trying too hard to incorporate more, when a congee, in its purest form, is the epitome of minimalism to begin with. The addition of kale chips (which quickly turned soggy) and Sichuan spicy oil turned the porridge into a savoury mess.
The dessert of kheer with saffron milk and cardamom did not fare well either. The overloading with the infusion of saffron gave a slight bitterness and pungency, when combined with a generous punch of cardamom, felt very much like chewing a handful of cardamom pods on end. The traditional rice pudding was chilled until set and unmolded on a bed of pistachio crumbs—it became dry and crumbly as a result.
Veda did its beverage offerings right with a humble selection of whites and reds, available by-the-glass or bottle, with an extensive wine collection categoried by grape varieties. Classic cocktails are also on offer, as are beers and spirits.
The service is impressive at Veda, as the members of the service team are well-versed in everything on offer from the food and wine menus available throughout the day. Service is mostly attentive and friendly at best, particularly when the servers offer menu food recommendations, although they can benefit from sound suggestions on portion control, as guests tend to underestimate the portion size, especially for first-time guests.
Veda offers a sanctuary to those who seeks healthier eating options in Central, and one of the best assets about the establishment is that the restaurant’s offerings are not only meat-free but also of a fine quality that does not necessarily constantly remind you there is no meat involved. The establishment is casual and its options approachable to many despite being a hotel restaurant with a mission to encourage healthy eating without getting preachy on the subject. It reassures visiting guests that healthy option is as much about being mindful as it is about eating.
A meal for two including drinks and service amounts to HK$850.
How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.