Blacklock steak

Pound of flesh: a steak on the grill at Blacklock Restaurant

The plant-based debate. Sounds a bit preachy right? Like you’re going to be trapped in a room full of vegans and clean eaters who can sense that you had bacon for breakfast and are judging you for it.

This is exactly what I thought was going to happen as I walked into the Bol plant-based debate on Tuesday night. Luckily for me, and panellist Gordon Ker, founder of steak place Blacklock Restaurant, I was wrong. Instead, we were told it’s okay to eat meat. And that, in fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get all the minerals and vitamins you need from a plant-based diet. Phew, steak is back on the menu.

The debate, with special guest Heston Blumenthal, was in celebration of Bol’s recent announcement that it was ditching the chicken and fish from its lineup – its entire portfolio is now suitable for vegetarians or vegans. It was a risky move, with the Jamaican Jerk Chicken lunch pot among its top sellers. But, as founder Paul Brown says, being kinder to the planet and people is the way forward.

However, reducing doesn’t mean cutting out entirely.

It was this holistic view that made the debate a refreshing experience. There was no judgement, unlike the onslaught of hard-line views one is exposed to online. Sure, everyone agreed we needed to eat more veggies, but the occasional McDonald’s, if you want it, is fine too.

And while the panel advocated high welfare, sustainably reared meat when consumers do choose to indulge their inner carnivore, they were keen to highlight that not everyone has the budget to do so. The emphasis should first be on ensuring everyone has enough nutritious food.

Blumenthal believes many humans have lost respect for their food, no longer having to hunt and gather for it, instead popping to Tesco. We need to value our food and, by extension, ourselves more, he argued.

The evening was certainly filled with food for thought, but I believe Ian Marber, nutritionist and founder of The Food Doctor, said it best: “The best diet is one that makes you happy.”