Cauliflower wings? Cauliflower burger? Oh yes, these are two of the new vegetarian offerings at the Hard Rock Café in Piccadilly.
When Was It the Last Time You Went to the Hard Rock Café?
I am talking to you, Londoners: do you walk past the Hard Rock Café in Piccadilly and think it’s just for tourists? Actually, you might be surprised, as the restaurant has kept its finger on the pulse to cater for an ever-evolving clientele.
When was it the last time I went to the Hard Rock Café? I have a confession: I did the so-called “touristy stuff” back in 1996 when I first moved to London and then life took over (you know, work and all that). I was pleased to see all the lovely rock memorabilia and a vibrant atmosphere.
Did you know that the Hard Rock Café London is celebrating its 45th year this year? The chain started in London and expanded internationally, and it was the London restaurant that introduced displaying rock memorabilia on the walls from 1979. In 1973 Paul McCartney and his band Wings played the first live gig at the Hard Rock Café.
The chain operates a first-come, first-served policy so everybody is treated the same (but expect queues at the entrance and a waiting list). However, OpenTable and Virgin Experience Days allow you to book a set menu so you don’t have to queue.
I was kindly invited to try the new vegetarian menu at the Hard Rock Café and curiosity got the better of me: I couldn’t resist the cauliflower burger!
From October 2016 the Hard Rock Café introduced a new vegetarian menu which includes:
- Cauliflower “wings”, ie, crispy cauliflower served Buffalo style with a blue cheese dip
- Cauliflower burger, served with salad and vegetables and garlic aioli
- Grilled ratatouille wrap with grilled aubergines and vegetables with Sriracha mayonnaise
- Fennel, beet and orange salad
- Pico de gallo quinoa arugula salad, a Mexican-inspired rocket and quinoa salad made with chopped tomatoes, onion, coriander leaves and fresh Serrano chillies.
With a rising demand for vegetarian dishes from customers, the Hard Rock Café put its chef’s hat on and got on with the job of creating a new meatless menu.
Alongside the food, the new menu also includes two new cocktails (one alcoholic, one non-alcoholic): the Very Veggie ‘Tini with cucumber, red onion, mint and lime juice shaken with Greek yogurt and Absolut Vodka; and the Wascally Wabbit with juiced carrot, apple, orange and ginger and Orgeat, garnished with mint.
Not all the dishes in the October 2016 vegetarian menu will stay but at least two will become permanent based on how popular they are with customers through sales in national and international Hard Rock Café establishments.
From talking to senior marketing manager Sarah Handy and operations manager Davide Russo it seems that so far the cauliflower wings and the quinoa salad are winning in the popularity contest…
The Background: How the New Hard Rock Café Vegetarian Menu Was Developed
From 2016 onwards the Hard Rock Café will celebrate October vegetarian month every year after receiving many requests from customers for vegetarian and vegan dishes and also to give people more options.
Creating the new recipes was the result of extensive testing of various dishes that stayed true to the Hard Rock taste and tradition: informal American dining.
So far the Cobb and the chicken salads are very popular among customers so the Hard Rock Café is looking forward to introducing new salads and see how customers respond. Talking of which, the challenge when creating the new menu was to appeal to the restaurant’s global audience and particularly to long term fans, so dishes must be recognisable in every part of the world. To develop new dishes the executive chefs in Europe, US and Asia have worked with kitchen managers getting their input on what might appeal to customers.
In terms of vegetarian options, the Hard Rock Café already has a Linda McCartney veggie burger (made from soya). The restaurant has developed a strong partnership with the McCartneys over the years.
I asked why choosing cauliflower for the new vegetarian menu. Cauliflower is very popular on social media and is a versatile vegetable to make “steak” (thick cauliflower slices that can be grilled), pizza bases and grain-free cous cous and rice.
Cauliflower Burger: The Taste Test
The cauliflower burger comes with a generous portion of thick fries and mayo: the cauli pattie is made by mixing crumbed cauliflower with goat’s cheese (therefore this dish is not vegan) and topped with tomato and grilled courgettes (the courgettes were absolutely scrummy!). The burger itself is very filling and satisfying. I also tried the new cocktails and the Very Veggie ‘Tini is like a tzatziki on steroids, strong with vodka, onion and Greek yoghurt (I thought the flavour of the cocktail combined very well with the burger because of the goat’s cheese, and I’m not even a fan of cheese!).
Overall, I had a very pleasant dining experience and I enjoyed taking endless pictures of the extravagant stage outfits of music legends like Prince, Madonna and Elton John.
Vegetarian Awareness Month
From the Hard Rock Café press release: “The new menu items celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month, which was designed to spread awareness of vegetarianism and the benefits of a meat-free diet. The International Vegetarian Union encourages individuals worldwide to spread the word and experience the vegetarian lifestyle. What began as World Vegetarian Day has blossomed into a month-long celebration of vegetarianism that involves educational events and festivities.”
Do you want to get involved in the social media conversation? Use the hashtag #beedgygoveggie.