These Clever Hotels Are Finally Embracing Plant-based Menus

Long driven by a meat-and-potatoes approach to dining, European hotels are increasingly catering to more modern diets.

Assortment of vegan pastries at the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris
High tea, minus the dairy, at the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris. Photo: Alex Cretey-Systermans

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At the Shelbourne hotel in Dublin, high tea is served every afternoon under the crystal chandeliers of the Lord Mayor’s Lounge, which overlooks the historic St. Stephen’s Green. Traditional as the meal may sound, the finger sandwiches these days come with smashed avocado, and the mango mousse is dairy-free. This vegan spin on the old-school spread is one of many examples of how, at a time when roughly 10 million American adults identify as full-time vegetarians and another million eat vegan, according to a Harris Poll, even some of Europe’s most buttoned-up hotels are adapting to meatless diets.

In London, 26-year-old chef Tom Booton is helping to push the trend at the Dorchester’s newly renovated Grill. “Any modern restaurant should listen to the changing diets of diners,” Booton said. “Being vegan or vegetarian isn’t just a trend—it’s people making a conscious effort to think about what they’re eating and how that’s affecting the planet.” In western Ireland, the six-course tasting menu at the Dromoland Castle is now exclusively plant-based, with dishes like pickled-mushroom bruschetta and orange-and-Campari sorbet. At the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, England, chef Raymond Blanc has introduced five- and seven-course vegan tasting menus, with most of the produce sourced from the property’s own two-acre vegetable garden.

Meanwhile, Continental Europe, which has been behind the veg-friendly curve for years, is also stepping into the present. The Shangri-La Hotel, Paris has a monthly 100 Percent Green dinner series, featuring a five-course vegetarian menu accompanied by biodynamic wines. The 82-room Yeatman in Porto, Portugal, which overlooks the Douro River, now offers vegetarian (and gluten-free) options. Two hours outside Barcelona, the charming seven-room Casa Albets has its own vegan restaurant. And in Berlin, the Almodóvar Hotel has an in-house vegetarian restaurant that even does a vegan currywurst.

The new mindset is even spreading beyond hotels: the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train has gotten on board, adding vegan menus that include dishes like gnocchi with morels and almond milk, and sweet red peppers stuffed with galangal and artichoke, on trips between London and Venice.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline The Clever Hotels Finally (Thankfully) Embracing Plant-Based Menus.

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