PRIVATE PLANT-BASED DINING AT SANCTUA, LEICESTER
PLEASE NOTE: SANCTUA IS NOW CLOSED
The much awaited Sanctua is shortly officially hitting the Leicester plant-based dining scene and having had it on my radar since talk of my slow transition to veganism, it was simply a must for me. It was an absolute pleasure to be invited by Chef Bee to experience private vegan dining at Sanctua in Oadby, Leicester.
The name Sanctua, a play on the word Sanctuary is most definitely reflective of its name. From beginning to end it delivered an experience that was nothing less than a calm and peaceful oasis for all the senses; but namely the sounds, tastes and smells of this establishment are unique, inventive and introduces a different culinary palette and style to the city.
The talented lady behind the concept of Sanctua is Chef Bee (aka Bindu Patel). Chef Bee trained in London at the well acclaimed Michelin star establishments of Trishna (Marylebone) Gymkhana (Mayfair) and Michel Roux Junior’s La Gavroche (Mayfair).
Being a Leicester born and bred girl, like myself she decided to return to her home-city of Leicester to bring us the concept of Sanctua. Being a vegan, Chef Bee wanted to show off her skills, creativity and talents to give Leicester the taste of the dining scene? But are we ready for it? Well I think we most certainly are ready to indulge in edible flowers and foraging. It’s an honour to welcome such a culinary genius back home!
Chef Bee is an avid animal conservationist, as well as a fellow advocate of the importance of sustainability since adopting her dog Caleb from the Azores.
She explained how as well as wanting to bring the notion of celebrating vegetables at Sanctua it was equally as important for her to promote aspects of the Ayurvedic and Satvic lifestyle. Thus she incorporates certain herbs and spices, which promotes the principles of good health, mind, body and soul together with the benefits of Ayurveda into each dish.
Chef Bee promises to bring a fresh new approach to Sanctua, where the menu will change often as well as the ingredients being selected for their seasonality and freshness. Where possible they are locally sourced from farms, as Chef Bee herself has experience in farming and plants.
As you enter Sanctua through the bar area, featuring an up-cycled timber bar, you’re immediately hit by the simplicity of the décor, the medium wood accents, white washed walls, the greenery from Chef Bee’s love of plants and that stunning bright magenta velvet love chair style sofa.
Walking through the archway brings you to the main restaurant area where the same décor flows through seamlessly.
Think locally sourced reclaimed furniture, the most beautiful wooden tables and chairs, each seating collaborative different to the next based upon the grain of the wood.
The walls are adorned with the occasional art works of Kevin Sloan, that tell a story of conservation and sustainability.
Plants such as the Yuca, cacti and orchids provide the garden like green outdoors into this space. Many of the plants were selected due to their succulent properties in boarding water and producing oxygen.
Additionally, there are hanging coconut shell baskets containing yet more plants consolidate the theme of Santua perfectly. The piece de resistance (second to the food) is the atmosphere, which has been filled with birdsong. Chef Bee incorporates her passion for ornithology by playing recordings that she took herself of bird song from the local Leicester shire areas and Scotland. I honestly felt as though I had been transported to the rainforests of Costa Rica, but it’s all kept way more local that that!
4 COURSE MENU
Dr C and I took our places for the private dining experience and were served very attentively by the Maitre D. The menu was a set four courses, which had vegan wines paired by Chef Bee.
Dr C opted for the red wine, which was a 2017 Malbec from Spain and surprisingly I thought I’d try a white wine, which was paired as one from the region of Pecorino in Italy. A wine that I initially found as quite sour, however it came into its own when accompanied by the food, a much sweeter and lighter taste.
Chilled Sweet and Sour Watermelon Soup with Mint and Pink Himalayan Chilli Salt.
A small glass tea cup arrived containing the bright, fresh pink of the watermelon with the occasional mint leaves and a rim lined with the Himalyana pink salt and chilli. Each sip of the soup gave you the chilli and salty hit (similar to a chilli Margerita!) and then the sweet refreshing watermelon to calm the palette and finally the slight zing from lime. A beautiful way to awaken the senses and prepare them for what was to come.
Crispy golden, black sesame vegetable tempura with fresh lime, coriander and Matcha chutney.
Homemade Scrircacha Aioli and quick pickled radish served with a soy dipping sauce.
Freshly prepared light tempura batter with the al dente crunch of the vegetables, especially the cauliflower is spot on. The punch delivered by the accompanied chutneys is quite the match made in heaven in this dish.
Malaysian Laksa with rice noodles, crisp Tofu and stir-fried vegetables.
It was evident that you could see a little portion of Chef Bee’s heritage from this Malaysian Laksa. It was on a par with what I’ve had in Malaysia and delivered the perfect combination of flavours and heat courtesy of the spice. The rice noodles covered in the opulent sauce were topped with beansprouts and the crispy vegetable selection included, mange touts, red pepper and baby sweetcorn. The Tofu was crispy on the outside and squidgy and flavoursome in the middle.
Coconut, chill, ginger and lime sorbet, toasted coconut, coconut sugar and coconut salted caramel.
The perfect rotunda of sorbet with a deliciously sublime coating and sauce accompaniment. This is exactly how you want to end a meal of this precedence.
I don’t say this lightly but I was utterly blown away by this menu, the quality, the whole private dining experience, the concept of sustainability, vegan flavours, inventiveness and the sanctuary that Chef Bee has created in her home town. She uses fresh locally sourced ingredients, everything is prepared from scratch. You may have to wait a little longer for your dish but it’s most definitely worth the wait. After all this kind of meal is best enjoyed at a slower pace, with time between courses to really reflect on the flavors and textures of Vegan culinary techniques. Dr C (a farmers son) a carnivore through and through, admitted that ‘if vegan food tasted this good, he would happily not eat meat!’
I truly believe Sanctua is something that will elevate Leicester’s dining scene and has flashes of the passage to the London horizon seeping through. Chef Bee truly is a master of her craft.
Sanctua aim’s to create an atmosphere of ‘live the garden, eat the garden’ and this it most certainly delivered. Sanctua is not stuffy, pretentious or over done, it has a real focus on quality and ingredients being the star of the show.
Tell me, have you ever tried a Vegan set menu Like Sanctua’s before?
29 London Road
Leicester LE2 5DL
Tel. 0116 319 5791
Bookings can be taken at Sanctua’s website https://www.sanctua.co.uk/
Disclaimer: I was invited by Chef Bee to experience private dining at Sanctua and therefore our meal was complimentary. All views, opinions and photography are my own and therefore remain a copyright of be-lavie.