Earlier this month, we said farewell to Grassroots Pantry, the plant-based restaurant — frequented by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike — that was instrumental to spurring Hong Kong’s eco-conscious, clean-eating movement. The good news is it’s not the end of the road for Peggy Chan‘s beloved neighbourhood restaurant, as the space has transformed into Nectar — the next stage of Chan’s health-conscious brand and a big step forward for her clean-eating crusade.
While loyal Grassroots Pantry patrons may find an unfamiliar dining room at 108 Hollywood Road, the DNA of the restaurant has notably remained intact. As light-filled and welcoming as ever, the red banquettes and four-tops have been removed to make way for circular tabletops set with brown wicker chairs, with subtle changes in the minimalist lighting and a more open layout making the overall effect slightly more stark than the original — driving diners’ focus increasingly towards the plate. Lush planters, reclaimed tree-trunk stools and rustic linen tabletops retain the homely feel downstairs; upstairs, a single-row tasting counter faces the kitchen.
Nectar is, in one sense, a bubbling over of the best ideas from the past few years of Chan’s rigorous research and experience with plant-based cooking, from learning how to isolate elements of deliciousness and amplify umami, to experimenting with methods such as fermentation and fashioning innovative new ways to cook ingredients such as teff and sorghum. At Nectar, all this work culminates in an all-vegan menu that stands as a sweeping vision of Chan’s proposed future for plant-based dining.
Before long-time fans of Chan’s best dishes mourn the death of signature dishes such as mushroom linguini and ‘popcorn’ chicken (the most delicious hedgehog mushrooms you’ll ever have) — rest assured, we got a first peek of the new menu at Nectar and a number of close variations have cropped up on the menu, in addition to new creations that are sure to become new favourites.
In place of à la carte dining, guests now have a choice of five-, eight-, or 12-course tasting menus deemed ‘Original Grassroots’, ‘Integrative’ and ‘Edible Solutions’, respectively. Nutrient-dense and packed with organic ingredients, the menus showcase Chan’s mastery of manipulating raw foods, starting with the Original Grassroots menu. Priced at HK$680 per person, the basic menu showcases locally sourced products in highlights such as the young coconut with sweet corn and aji amarillo pepper, meant to mimic the taste of the sea; and the signature mixed mushroom linguini, a GP-crossover with house-made vegan pasta tossed with maitake mushrooms and shaved summer truffles. For dessert, guests can enjoy the raw cashew, medjool date and Madagascan vanilla cream dish; with the option to add on the Nectar Cheese Course — a dairy-free selection of probiotic-rich, cultured and gently aged alternative ‘cheeses’.
One step up is the integrated eight-course Integrative Tasting Menu (HK$950), where gourmands can lean further into Chan’s brand of cooking, centred largely around the healing nature of plant-based foods. An amuse-bouche of cashew halloumi sigara borek (a type of Turkish pastry) tickles the senses; followed by the textural interplay of raw tomato tuna with jicama and nori temaki. Traditional healing Chinese ingredients ground Chan’s rendition of Malaysian bak kut teh made with truffle wontons in lieu of pork ribs — a calming elixir to counteract the hot summer days. Cooling refreshments arrive in the form of the young ginger ice cream, complemented by papaya and fermented ricotta; and a ‘zero-waste’ banana flour sponge with moringa cream and banana kefir syrup.
Diners can opt to take the full journey into the deep recesses of Chan’s culinary mind with the 12-course Edible Solutions menu (HK$1,380); inspired by Project Drawdown, the menu is driven by the global initiative to reduce carbon emissions and reverse global warning. Propelling Chan’s long-time mission of furthering the conversation around conscious eating, dishes encourage diners to think about their food footprint, with names referring to prominent themes in Project Drawdown. ‘Food Waste’ is a classic Thai snack of miang khan using the lesser-used parts of the banana plant; while ‘Clean Energy’ is composed of black corn, faux-butter and togarashi. Finally, ‘Plastic’ replicates slow-cooked lobster bisque with roasted Shimeji mushrooms, annatto seeds and saffron served with sous-vide eggplant.
“While Nectar provides an elevated and more sophisticated dining experience, we remain committed to educating and empowering diners on conscious eating, exploring ethical sourcing and how our decisions impact the environment,” explains Peggy. “Our experiential multi-course tasting menus feature nutrient-dense ingredients that nourish the mind and body, spark curiosity and protect the environment.”
Each tasting menu comes with an option for an elixir pairing or wine pairing. The seasonal tasting menus are available for dinner daily (excluding Tuesdays), while a three-course set menu is also offered during weekday lunches (HK$258 for starter, choice of main and dessert). On weekends and public holidays, a free-flow brunch (priced at HK$550 per person) features rotating dishes, from a take on Caesar salad with dehydrated shiitake ‘bacon’ and 14-day cultured ‘Cashew Parmesan’; to koji carrot crepes with pine nut custard. With Chan’s natural intuition for extracting maximum flavour from vegetables and her rigorously scientific approach to cooking, we can’t wait to see what unfolds in Nectar’s progressive tasting menus. Stay tuned as we bring you our full review.