Whether vegan, gluten-free, Halal or anything in-between, adhering to one’s dietary requirements and goals while at the same time enjoying the best culinary experiences in life can be a challenge. Fine dining has traditionally involved meat-centric menus and rich ingredients. And yet, the tide is changing; and Café Gray Deluxe at The Upper House is leading the way.
“What we are doing here is going to be for the long run. It’s not a fad,” says Chef Gray Kunz, discussing the Revitalising Menu recently launched at Café Gray Deluxe. “We observed and listened carefully to our customers,” says Gray, “and found we were constantly confronted with dietary restrictions—from those with lactose intolerance to diabetics, gluten-free diners, vegans, vegetarians, Halal observers and those that have medical restrictions after surgery.”
He and his team were inspired to create the all-new vegan, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO and sustainably sourced menu that is available for lunch and dinner. And boy, is it delicious.
Using only the freshest ingredients, striving for locally grown, organic and seasonal produce wherever possible, Café Gray have succeeded in creating exciting dishes that have an intensity of flavour and a finesse that complements their general philosophy and style of cooking.
From Organic Tomato Crudo and Candied Kelp, to Kasundi and Fresh Seasonal Herbs and Whole-Roasted Cauliflower with Spiced Dukkah, Lemon Coulis and Buckwheat, all the dishes are packed full of flavour and fresh ingredients. These are beautifully presented plates of veggies and pulses capable of putting a smile on even the most die hard of carnivore’s faces.
While desserts such as Organic Bitter Chocolate, Coconut and Seasonal Berries and Apricot Crumble with Almond ice cream feel just as indulgent as sweet options on the main menu.
“We have to deal with dietary restrictions very precisely and professionally and make the best out of it so that our customers can have great food whilst respecting these constraints,” says Chef Gray.
“What we are doing here is going to be for the long run. It’s not a fad.” – Chef Gray
It’s perhaps worth noting at this point that this is not the first time Café Gray have catered for those with dietary needs, but rather the first time they have created an entire menu especially dedicated to those who are particularly mindful of what they eat. The restaurant has a longstanding philosophy of only using sustainably sourced ingredients, and they made a commitment back in 2012 to only serve fish from the WWF list of recommended fisheries.
When creating the Revitalising Menu, Chef Gray was similarly focussed on finding good quality, sustainable ingredients.
“I decided to dive deep with the kitchen team into researching products that meet our criteria, which was one of our biggest concerns,” says Gray. “We’ve had success in finding great suppliers.”
The feedback on the menu has been so positive that Upper House has already extended it to their in-room dining offering, and eventually hope to offer the dishes on the à la carte evening menu. When the latest hotel in the boutique group—The Middle House—opens in Shanghai in December, Chef Gray hopes to serve the dishes at the second Café Gray outpost that will open there.
Dining is however not the only aspect of the hotel’s offering that’s health-focused. Marcel Thoma, General Manager at The Upper House, very much regards the Revitalising Menu as part of a wider initiative.
Dishes like the radishes with arugula aren’t just delicious but perfectly Instagrammable
“In the last five years we have definitely seen travellers become more knowledgeable in terms of wellness,” he says. “We have always catered to guests’ dietary requirements at Café Gray Deluxe and the Revitalising Menu further emphasises our commitment to our guests’ wellbeing.”
He notes that guests of The Upper House can enjoy complimentary yoga on weekdays, jetlag-combatting massage treatments and are even encouraged to join the hotel’s running club on Bowen Road.
“At a group level, we are continuing to enhance our guests’ experiences as we open more hotels across the region that incorporate wellness facilities,” says Thoma. “Our sister properties, The Temple House in Chengdu and soon-to-open The Middle House in Shanghai—which will have a 10,000 sq.ft. spa—are good examples of this.”
The launch of the Revitalising Menu at The Upper House is a great indicator that luxury is becoming increasingly synonymous with health and wellbeing. Still unconvinced carrots can replace caviar? And figs substitute foie gras? You best go and try it for yourself. The proof with this one is in more than just the pudding.
The Revitalising Menu, which is available on weekday lunchtimes and for early suppers, changes on a weekly basis to ensure the use of the freshest seasonal ingredients. The four-course menu is priced at around HK$680, plus 10% service charge.