FAVOURITE: Tomato and feta tortellini with dehydrated mushrooms, sweet potato and rooibos purée with pickled beetroot, broccolini and mushroom sauce. Picture: Nathan Adams
Whenever I heard the word vegetarian, I always thought boring, tasteless and why on earth would anyone do that to themselves? Problematic, I know.

But this was before I was invited to try the new vegetarian menu at Catharina’s Restaurant on Steenberg Estate.

I have never gone to a restaurant and not ordered something meaty, but I am always open to trying new things. My only expectation was to leave the restaurant without missing any meat.

Besides October being Vegetarian Month and his wife going vegetarian, Catharina’s executive chef Archie Maclean says he wanted to expand the limited options available to vegetarians by including an à la carte menu and a five-course tasting menu.

Maclean says introducing a vegetarian menu is an idea he’s “been playing with for a couple of years”, especially since the meat would simply be replaced by a carrot or cauliflower to turn it into a vegetarian dish.

“I basically took the à la carte menu and I’ve altered it to make it vegetarian,” Maclean says.

“What we’re trying to do is give the creativeness of the dish in a vegetarian style, so that the piece of grilled impala is not the creative part of the dish.

The creative part of the dish is the flavours that melt together and go with that.”

My colleague and I tried the five-course tasting menu.

We started with a risotto with truffled pea, mushroom and Parmesan, pea shoot and pumpkin seed salad. We both enjoyed this dish. I loved the crunch of the pumpkin seed with the soft risotto.

Risotto with truffled pea, mushroom and parmesan, pea shoot and pumpkin seed salad

The second course was the cashew nut and chilli crusted tofu with pickled shimije, coriander, cos lettuce and a fruity jelly salad. This was my first time tasting tofu and it will also be my last. My colleague and I agreed this was our least favourite dish.

Next was the tomato and feta tortellini with dehydrated mushrooms, sweet potato and rooibos purée with pickled beetroot, broccolini and mushroom sauce.

This was our favourite dish and definitely a vegetarian dish I would consider ordering again.

I loved the feta and tomato stuffed inside the tortellini and funnily enough, I also enjoyed the flavours of the sweet potato and rooibos purée, considering I don’t eat sweet potato.

The last two courses on the menu are the Langbaken Karoo sunset with pear purée, walnut fig salami, candied celery, mustard crackers and roast pear purée.

Cashew nut and chilli crusted tofu with pickled shimije, coriander, cos lettuce and a fruity jelly salad.

This was followed by a coffee jivara mousse, peanut butter ice cream, dehydrated milk froth and caramel popcorn.

The savoury and sweet dishes were the perfect way to round off our vegetarian lunch.

Maclean says his menu has been well received, and I could see - or rather taste - why.

“I think vegetarians are very amazed that they can get something other than tomato pasta or a mushroom risotto,” he says.

The à la carte and tasting menu is available for lunch and supper. The tasting menu costs R850 with a wine pairing and R600 without wine.

During the month of October patrons can enjoy a 10% discount on all vegetarian dishes.

* For bookings contact +27 (0)21 7137178 or e-mail [email protected]