And, yes, there is a lot of pomegranate.
Set in the hills of leafy Lamma Island is Olive Leaf, a private kitchen in Pak Kok, accessible by 20-minute ferry ride from Aberdeen. A five-minute walk from the pier will have you sitting comfortably in the atmospheric exterior of a charming garden in the jungle, surrounded by fruit trees.
A cup of hibiscus juice provides instant refreshment while you take in the papaya trees, roselle plants and vine-covered canopy that extends over a long dining table designed for hours spent languorously discovering new dishes that redefine plant-based cuisine. By that, we simply mean that we just didn’t notice that there wasn’t any meat, cheese or eggs. In the past, two things have tended to happen when we’ve gone out to eat plant-based cuisine: either the restaurant or product is trying to replicate the taste or texture of a meat-based dish or the focus is heavily on the meal being plant based, so you are hyper aware of eating a very vegetable-flavoured meal. This was neither.
We had several meat lovers at the table who hadn’t been made aware that the meal was to be a vegan one, and somewhat surprisingly, they were amongst the most effusive about how great the food was. There were no mock meats to be seen here. Olive Leaf showcases exotic, flavourful dishes passed down through Chef Ayelet Idan’s family.
The vegan aspect wasn’t mentioned until we asked about it later and the absence of anything meaty, cheesy or eggy wasn’t felt – and the reason for this is simple: Ayelet has always cooked this way. It is the way she was taught to cook, so, to her, it’s just food. It’s not missing anything, attempting to replicate anything or trying to be anything other than a delicious dining experience. And we can’t tell you how refreshing that felt. This was a dining adventure rooted in an innate sense of hosting and sharing the food of her background, which Ayelet is wonderfully adept at churning out.
There was also plenty of booze that provided that proper, and uniquely Hong Kong, brunching experience, which is included in the price of the brunch ($450/person to include all food, welcome drinks, sparkling wine, tea, and Turkish coffee). Along with this you’ll also be served drinks like mint water, lemongrass tea and different types of coffee. We were always being topped up and offered something new, which we felt was incredible value for the price.
The assortment of dishes included cold aubergine rolls with basil pesto and walnut pesto, stuffed vine-leaf rice cake, hummus with home-baked bread, roasted cauliflower salad, hot smoked aubergine and a range of pomegranate-topped salads. The pomegranate added a satisfying crunch and burst of complementary juiciness to the fresh vegetables beneath, also providing a pretty pop of colour, elevating any salad into an easy, eye-pleasing photograph for the ‘gram.
The meal was followed by several dessert platters of coconut pudding and mini Middle Eastern pastries, which were beautifully presented and just as delicious as the savouries. Turkish coffee nicely rounded off everything as we finished up our sparkling wine and lamentingly prepared for the trip home.
Ayelet also teaches cooking classes, and for anyone trying to eat less meat, these classes would be a huge benefit. With Ayelet’s dishes, you don’t feel like there’s a major protein missing, which is tough for most of us who have become accustomed to having meat as the keystone to every dish.
We want to return to Olive Leaf, and frequently, because it was an exceptionally delectable brunch experience that we enjoyed immensely – vegan or not. And that, for us, is the key.
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