Belgium is about to get its first-ever vegan fine-dining restaurant.
The country is known for its meat- and seafood-heavy cuisine. Take cannibale, for example. And no, despite the name, this traditional dish has nothing to do with eating humans. (It’s actually a twist on steak tartare.)
There’s also anguilles au vert, which is a plate of eel, and carbonnades flamandes (a thick stew with beef). But Amaranth, which will open in Merelbeke this weekend, will be serving none of these dishes.
Instead, diners will find starters and entrees filled with fresh herbs, seasonal vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms. For example, one appetizer, developed by co-owner and chef Pieter-Jan Lint, is called Roots & Cheese and features carrot & ginger, vegan cheese, and bergamot.
Considering the menu, you’d be surprised to learn that one of the owners, Carmen Duytschaever, comes from a family of butchers. But they told De Standaard that they were put off an omnivorous diet after realizing the amount of suffering that goes into making animal products.
“I come from a family of butchers. Meat, potatoes, and some vegetables: that was what a regular meal looked like,” Duytschaever said. “But behind that piece of meat, there is also suffering.”
They added: “Even a slice of cheese conceals a sad story. While milk production requires a lot of water and is environmentally harmful, the cows also have to put up with a lot.”
The vegan fine-dining scene
While Amaranth might be the first of its kind in Belgium, elsewhere in the world, the vegan fine-dining scene is growing.
Last year, Michelin star New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park announced it was going to reopen with a new meat- and seafood-free menu. The resulting waitlist for a table at the restaurant exceeded 15,000.
Also in 2021, Alexis Gauthier, a Michelin-starred French chef, decided to turn his London restaurant, Gauthier Soho, completely vegan. At the time of the announcement, he told Big Hospitality: “There are no animal products in the restaurant whatsoever, not even in the chef’s pocket. I’m vegan myself; it would be unethical for me to profit from selling dead animals.”