If you’re one of the nearly half of the population that describe themselves as flexitarian and among the vast majority of people who no longer believe that meat is an essential ingredient of a good restaurant meal, are you happy with what’s on the menu at most of the restaurants you’re eating out in?

Goat’s cheese tart, mushroom risotto, pasta with some kind of indeterminate sauce. That’s as far as many restaurants go when it comes to promoting plant-based dishes. Not only is it not good enough, given the environmental and health imperatives, but their outdated adherence to solidly meat based menus means they’re missing out on the biggest food trend since sliced bread.

Throughout August the Sustainable Restaurant Association is urging restaurants to Serve More Veg and Better Meat. This is not a vegetarian charter. Far from it. But it most certainly is a vote for veg. We reckon there’s so much more chefs can be doing to create luscious legume dishes.

Already, we’re seeing some chefs are responding in style – some by really mixing things up, others with just some subtle tweaks that customers are responding to really positively.

Josh Eggleton, whose Pony & Trap restaurant in Chew Magna is graced with a Michelin Star, has taken the campaign’s #FlipTheMenu hashtag to heart. In the centre of Bristol he’s opened Root, offering ten main dishes – all vegetable – and then a changing list of five meat and fish side dishes all cheaper than the veggie mains. Josh is adamant that Root is a chef’s dream as it opens up so many creative opportunities. He’s equally keen to point out that it’s a restaurant for vegetable lovers not vegetarians. What it definitely is offering is choice and a break from the norm.

It might not come as a huge surprise for those looking for other eating out spots that will tantalise with their veggie options that River Cottage Canteen menus are exactly 50% veg. That doesn’t mean a plateful of boiled broccoli. River Cottage HQ Head Chef Gelf Anderson is a massive advocate of using the same techniques used in cooking meat to enhance the flavour of vegetables, sautéing and roasting for example. He’s also a big fan of enhancing the flavour of the meat, all organic, that they do use so that only a few mouthfuls will sate the appetite of even the keenest carnivore.

You’d think that as it’s celebrating its 20th birthday this year, Moro, a north London legend, serving North African and Spanish dishes, must have the winning formula sussed. Well chef/owners, husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark are still learning. Following a dinner organised by the SRA to get chefs’ creative juices flowing when thinking about making veg the stars of the plate, Samuel, decided on an experiment. He moved one of Moro’s evergreen dishes, the Vegetable Mezze Platter, to the top of the list of mains. Hey presto – customers took the bait and sales have been up 25% ever since.

These are just some of the ideas buzzing around the kitchens of some of the UK’s best known and loved restaurants. What the SRA is hoping to achieve through its More Veg and Better Meat campaign is the seeding of these ideas across menus all over the country, giving diners the panoply of plant-based choices they crave.

Check out the campaign at www.foodmadegood.org and join the conversation @FoodMadeGood #FlipTheMenu and nudge your favourite restaurant to get involved.

Guest Blog by Tom Tanner of the Sustainable Restaurants Association

Photo Credit: River Cottage