Ubuntu: World’s Only Michelin-Starred Veggie Restaurant

16 05 2011

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By John O’Ceallaigh

They’re besotted with food at Ubuntu.

Perhaps that should be expected, given that Ubuntu is the first vegetarian restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star – ever, anywhere – but it’s nice to benefit from their infatuation. As I made my way through their menu, the waitress enthused, extolled and elaborated about the respective merits of my choices.

“How’s the artichoke and lime vichyssoise?” I wondered. “Well, it’s been a particularly good artichoke harvest this year so it’s especially full flavored and refreshing at the moment.” “Can you recommend something non-alcoholic to drink?” I queried. “Try the lemonade. Lemons are right in season so it’d be a shame to pass that up.”

Her recommendations were excellent, of course, but so was pretty much everything else we tried. My companion and I ordered the six-course chef’s menu and were wowed by course after course of beautifully presented, delectable vegetarian dishes. At $65 it was good value too, another benefit to vegetarian dining. Not that we noticed the absence of meat. Ubuntu isn’t one of those militant advocates of vegetarianism force feeding customers plates of tofu. (We were surprised to learn that only two of the servers are vegetarian.) Instead it focuses on creating exceptional dishes that simply focus on the tastes and textures of plants.

There are some nods to alternative practices, though. Food from the Ubuntu gardens is farmed according to biodynamic principles and the restaurant itself also has its own yoga studio. Whether biodynamic practices are superior to organic or regular farming methods it’s hard to say, and it’s unlikely you’ll have time to fit in a spot of Ashtanga before your appetizers, but we left Ubuntu feeling its owners really do care about food, and their contribution to the local community. It’s an impression reinforced by the staff’s attire. The back of their t-shirts reminds diners to ‘practice humanity towards others.’

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