A new fascination with carbon calories is driving change in hotels from their veggie gardens to their plant-based menus, writes Grant Jones.

Tread lightly in your travels and leave only your footprints was once the mantra for the seasoned traveller who cared about the planet.

Today, travellers concerned about the impact their international travel is having on the globe can do more than just brush the sand from their feet and pick up their rubbish on their way back to their resort. They can do it at the dinner table too.

Recent OnePoll research by IHG found that 67 per cent of Australians think sustainability is important when choosing a hotel and they are also willing to pay for it. The average young Aussie adult is prepared to fork out about a third more for green accommodation – and that includes what is on your plate. 

The wellness in food focus has also been taken up by hotel operators, with Ovolo recently announcing a global pledge to go 100 per cent vegetarian.

“The one big lesson we have learned from our bold experiment: never underestimate your guests,” said Ovolo culinary adviser and chef Ian Curley. 

“A key focus for us has been ensuring we are creating something that still appeals to everyone – from vegans to flexitarians, and those who are simply keen on expanding their palate.”

Voco Melbourne central and Kirkton Hunter Valley

From April 28, the new voco Melbourne Central will be cultivating plants throughout its public spaces in partnership with Victorian eco-garden specialists Fytogreen. The hotel also features a kitchen garden next to the pool terrace to be used by chefs of its Blacksmith Brasserie. 

At Voco’s Kirkton Park, guests can experience 28 hectares of interactive farming which incorporates bees, solar panels, animal farms and veggie gardens. Meanwhile, the hotel’s ‘Bees for Trees’ program allows businesses to opt into planting a tree to offset the carbon footprint generated from hosting their event. 

Ovolo’s Alibi Bar Sydney

Ovolo was the first hotel group to make a big noise about its solely vegan offering when it launched its Dirty Greens menu at Alibi Bar in 2018. 

Since then Ovolo has pledged to focus on ethical eating, conscious cuisine and cutting-edge vegetarianism by becoming the first hotel brand globally to commit to a fully vegetarian-led offering. It started by introducing the Plant’d brand across its hotel restaurants from February. 

Locally, Ovolo’s culinary advisor Ian Curley has worked on vegetarian menus at ZA ZA TA at Ovolo The Valley in Brisbane, Monster Kitchen & Bar at Ovolo Nishi in Canberra, Lona Misa at Ovolo South Yarra in Melbourne and Veda at Ovolo Central in Hong Kong.

Watervale Hotel, Clare Valley

From its origins as a rough and tough pine pub in the Clare Valley, the historic Watervale Hotel has now evolved into a destination that offers everything from farm tours and cooking school to romantic getaways and chef’s table showcasing produce from its nearby market garden. 

Run by Nicola Palmer (ex-head chef Skillogalee Winery) and Warrick Duthy (Kilikanoon Wines) produce either finds its way immediately to the plate from their Penobscot Farm or is frozen as sorbet or ice cream; made into pickles or preserves; turned into stock, sauces and dressings; or dehydrated. If you like it on the menu, those and many more products can also be found at their Provedore Store. 

“We are taking great pleasure in recreating amazing dishes of the world using the spectacular range of produce we have grown at Penobscot Farm or sourced in our region,” said Chef Palmer.

COMO The Treasury, Perth

At Wellness by Como Shambala, part of the luxury COMO hotel in Perth, you can follow up the hands-on healing and holistic treatments with a meal at Wildflower. This elegant, contemporary space on the hotel’s fourth-floor rooftop area offers lunch and dinner with sweeping views over the Swan River. 

Produce comes via a farmer-and-forager-driven menu of dishes revolving around the six seasons of the First Nations’ Noongar calendar. 

Head chef Matthew Sartori has created a menu of contemporary cuisine using produce and native ingredients sourced from suppliers with a respect for the land. A tasting menu could include heirloom tomato with fresh curd, anise myrtle and miso; cured line-caught snapper finger lime, ginger and Geraldton wax; and a dessert of wattleseed crisp parsnip, walnut and caramel.

Capella Lodge, Lord Howe Island

When regional food means your region is a little under 15 square metres, you have to get creative. For Capella Lodge executive chef Cooper Dickson that could mean raiding his own kitchen garden for produce or that of a neighbour (with permission, of course), or even casting a line for himself from this tiny, pristine island known for its kentia palms and abundance of fish life. 

So line-caught fish obviously features on the daily-changing menu most evenings, alongside island-grown greens and foraged coastal herbs. Oh, and your meal takes place after you’ve had your choice from a menu of island-inspired signature rejuvenating and relaxing spa treatments.

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