Here at Arbor, the 2-AA rosette restaurant at the eco-friendly Green House Hotel in Bournemouth, we have recently launched our new spring-summer 2016 menus. We do this twice a year, creating completely new dishes that make the most of the fantastic seasonal produce on our doorstep.
But this spring, we decided to go a step further, in order to deliver a better dining experience for customers with specific dietary requirements, be they vegan, vegetarian, gluten- or dairy-free, by introducing a greater range of dishes and better menu labelling.
This is partly in response to local trends – the evidence is that British restaurant-goers are becoming ever more sophisticated when it comes to their dietary choices, and nowhere, it seems, is this more true than in Bournemouth.
One recent survey found Bournemouth had the second-highest number of “vegan” internet searches of any city in the UK during 2015, beaten only by Brighton. And the Bournemouth vegan fair at the Bournemouth International Centre in June 25-26 looks set to be the biggest yet.
There has been a surge in people choosing to go vegetarian or vegan not just for ethical or environmental reasons but because they believe a balanced, diverse meat-free diet will be better for their health – increased energy, younger looking skin and eternal youth are just some of the claims made by enthusiastic plant eaters.
Up to 20 per cent of Brits, meanwhile, now say they have a food intolerance, the most common culprits being lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, and gluten, a protein found in cereals and grains.
This means we restaurateurs are having to think longer and harder than ever about how we can create a wide range of dishes that meet the more complex demands of our customers, to make sure dining out is as rewarding and hassle-free for those with specific dietary needs as it is for our “I eat anything” guests.
This season we have adopted a simple labelling system on all of Arbor’s menus – including the dessert menu – to highlight dishes that are Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free so that customers can see at a glance whether dishes are suitable for them.
This follows a recent survey by the organisation Ethical Consumer, which found that annoyingly, even restaurants that do offer alternative menu options such as vegetarian and vegan dishes often fail to point this out adequately to customers.
The menus at Arbor have long revolved around the best local vegetables and fruits, wild fungi, and gluten-free carbs such as quinoa and polenta.
Of course, our guests don’t necessarily choose Arbor’s numerous meat-, gluten- or dairy-free options just because of their dietary needs – many choose them just because they are delicious. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t make the cut on our menus!
For instance, our new gluten-free dessert which is suitable for vegans – a silky-smooth coconut-milk iced parfait served with a crumbly Lime and Polenta cake – is actually our best-selling pudding so far this spring.
Even so, better labelling will ensure that the dining experience for guests with specific dietary needs is no more hassle than it is for any other diner, allowing them to see at a glance what they can and can’t eat.
The move is a logical extension of our long-standing environmental ethos – the Green House Hotel is a TripAdvisor Platinum Green Leader and Arbor has been voted the most environmentally friendly restaurant in the UK for the past two years in a row.
This just fits really well with our values – serving the best quality, sustainably sourced food that is not only good for the planet, but good for our guests too.
To book a table at Arbor call us on 01202 498900 or email us here