Carnivore vs vegetarian: two takes on the plant-based fare at Lexi's Healthy Eatery
Hilary Biller and Paula Andropoulos graze their way through the largely vegan menu at this new whole food restaurant in Rosebank, Joburg
Lexi Monzeglio is a clever woman who quickly cottoned onto the idea of catering for the world’s fastest growing lifestyle choices: vegetarian and veganism.
She oozes good health and vitality but, she admits, it wasn’t always that way.
She couldn’t cook when she left home and lived off takeaways and spag bol, but when she embraced a vegan lifestyle things changed and she was encouraged to leave the corporate world and start something fresh.
The something was Lexi’s Healthy Eatery, the mostly vegan, whole food restaurant she co-owns. There are now four branches of Lexi’s dotted around Gauteng and one in Sea Point, Cape Town.
Here’s what two of our writers thought about the fare at the recently opened Rosebank branch:
THE CARNIVORE: HILARY BILLER
Lexi’s Rosebank is a bright and cheery eatery with tables spilling out onto a courtyard in The Zone shopping centre. Situated in a busy hub, it’s a green pasture surrounded by more meaty eateries where one can happily graze on mostly plant-based fare while watching the world go by.
They offer everything from breakfasts and grain bowls to wraps and burgers (meatless) and even a menu for kiddies.
The promise is that all the food is plant-based, vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free unless otherwise stated. There are a few fish and free-range beef options.
The burgers got my friend and I going: eight of the nine on offer are meat-free. Why are vegetarian/vegan dishes classified the same as their meaty counterparts, or is that a meat-eater’s lament to wriggle out of the guilt of their carnivore lifestyle?
We picked a Samurai Salad (R65) to start. This combination of greens, carrot, cucumber, cabbage and toasted peanuts with ginger tamari dressing needed some livening up — chilli or garlic maybe?
Then onto some grains. The Black Rice Bowl (R95) had the potential of warming us towards a meatless lifestyle. With a wonderful array of contrasting textures, we loved this mix of nutty black rice, mushrooms, pickled ginger (much more, please), broccoli and kale with a peanut butter drizzle.
The good intentions fell by the wayside when the something hot left us feeling very cold. The Grapefruity Green Curry (R130) sounded inspiring, but instead was a soupy broth with lots of mainly squishy butternut with frayed edges and some floaty greens. It had a peculiar bitter aftertaste, we suspect that of grapefruit pith, that just didn’t gel.
It needed gulps of Fable Mountain The Raptor Post Rose* (R165) to wash away the taste and for us to mellow and agree there’s nothing quite like a good green chicken curry. The veggie version hadn’t quite cut the mustard.
THE WANNABE VEGETARIAN: PAULA ANDROPOULOS
Unless you have Herculean powers of self-restraint, weaning yourself off meat, eggs, and dairy is no easy feat. Those of us who are trying to limit our consumption of animal products are doing so largely out of concern for animal welfare and the environment, not because we miraculously stopped enjoying cheese burgers and chicken nuggets overnight. Herein my appreciation for Lexi’s Healthy Eatery lies.
In my opinion, this holistic “mostly vegan” deli has some of the best plant-based alternatives to fast-food favourites available in Johannesburg, in addition to proffering a free-range meat menu for ethically conscious flexitarians.
Sometimes — often — all you want is a toasted cheese or a chicken mayonnaise sandwich, morals be damned. Lexi’s offers vegan alternatives to these childhood staples: the Chickie Mayo (R45) made with chickpea mayonnaise and the Cheesy Toastie (R45) featuring both vegan cheese and almond ricotta.
They also make genuinely delicious vegan desserts — though I must say that, while I understand that making vegan cakes requires ingenuity and quality produce, most of the desserts on offer are markedly overpriced. (They start from R30 for a single scoop of Nice-Cream.)
Still, when I’m one hangover* shy of yielding to McDonalds’s siren song, the prospect of a meatless Lexi’s Beyond Burger (R130) is enough to pull me back from the brink.
Their full-size Bowls (priced from R65) constitute a wholesome and healthy takeaway option during the week, a complete solution for when you’re too lazy to cook but too worried about your cholesterol to consider ordering a pizza; and their waffles (from R65) are simultaneously indulgent and packed with protein and superfoods.
Given the standard of most of the fare available to vegans in Johannesburg (low), I take my hat off to Lexi’s for coming up with a creative, satisfying menu chock-full of plant-based comfort foods with a healthy twist.
• Visit Lexiseatery.com to find your nearest branch.
* These reviews were written before the current alcohol ban.