REVIEW: Vegan delights? Give Plant a chance

plant_2.jpg There’s a new vegan café-restaurant in town, and it’s attracting a steady troop of diners avoiding animal products, and those keen on healthier breakfasts or suppers.

Engineer Adien Aggenbach opened Plant as a tiny café early in 2014, but in December moved to its current, bigger Loop Street corner space. The entirely plant-based menu includes many raw food items.

Aggenbach’s partner Jacqueline Lahoud also introduced craft beer and a decent vegan wine list (Yes there is such a thing. Vegan wines means animal products such as egg whites aren’t used in the production). Labels include Vondeling, Reyneke and Springfield.

plant.jpg At lunch with a vegetarian visitor, a waitress showed off fermented-in-soya tempeh “bacon” and smeary vegan “cheese” based on soya, coconut oil and miso, all made in-house. I thought the vegetarian would be an easy sell, but neither of us were convinced.

plant_wraps.jpg A toddler’s parents tucked into a tortilla and black bean quesadilla as we sipped wholesome red and yellow fruit juices (R32), colour-coded ingredients juiced on site. Bare wood tables, crates fashioned into display shelves, and vertical garden walls added to Plant’s organic feel.

We shared three lunch dishes and liked elements in all. I quite enjoyed chewy tempeh “bacon” in our protein salad (R59), its smokiness giving bland quinoa, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, nuts, seeds and greens flavour direction.

plant_brownie.jpg The vegetarian preferred the vish burger (R55), a bun topped with salad, homemade “tartar sauce” with raw onion, and tastily textured patties of nori-encrusted potato flakes. Carb-heavy but different.

Two rice wraps stuffed with mushrooms (R63), avo, cashews, soba noodles and pickled ginger hits were tasty, if lacking without their salty Asian dipping sauce.

“There’s so much wholesome, raw food here, I feel too virtuous to order alcohol,” declared the vegetarian, stabbing carrot and cabbage in his spicy peanut quinoa side salad.

Fortunately a gluten-free brownie (R28) provided bittersweet relief. Crumbling under a silky cacao topping and walnuts, it tasted jolly good for a chocolate imposter.

PLANT, Corner of Buiten and Loop Streets, Cape Town. Open Monday to Saturday and Wed to Sat for dinner. Tel 021-422-2737, Plant

A version of this review appeared in The Times on 7 January 2015.