At Graphisoft Park, a complex of offices is interspersed with the International Business School, a café and the pioneering, English-language REAL School. Operating in the basement of one of the IBS buildings, a canteen once fed schoolchildren in the time-honoured fashion, but over the course of a year, it has developed into both a canteen and a café where anyone can go for tasty, healthy and top-quality plant-based dishes.
Married couple, Viktória Szemerédy and Barna Baráth, started the REAL School at Graphisoft Park four years ago. With all tuition given in English, REAL School is run along the principles of sustainability and environmental awareness, and within that framework, they were looking for a catering company to supply the canteen.
They found chef Gergő Zsolnay, a true renaissance man. Gergő first studied environmental protection, then became a horticultural engineer, then learned to be a chef and finally studied nutrition at Semmelweis University. With his great expertise and perseverance, he assembled a team for the kitchen and, together with REAL School project catalyst Federika Faith, worked out a concept for The Planteen.
At first, it seemed that The Planteen would mainly be frequented by students and people working at Graphisoft Park, but they proved to be only part of the regular crowd seeking plant-based, vegan creations. The rest were attracted by the delicious flavours and convivial surroundings generated by the location and friendly staff.
There is no meat or anything of animal origin at The Planteen. In fact anything incompatible with sustainability or environmental awareness is pushed to one side. There is no plastic, the food is prepared from seasonal ingredients whenever possible, the coffee is received without packaging and all the furniture has been recycled. In fact, they even take away the kitchen waste to be used as compost by the gardeners at Graphisoft Park. The Maltese Charity Service receives any leftover food.
One of the many nice things about The Planteen is that the food is not overly complicated – it’s simple and it’s great as it is. Dishes such as casseroles are prepared as if meat were still the main ingredient, in just the same delicious fashion.
They don’t cook too wide a range of dishes, also part of the concept, to ensure that as much as possible is consumed that day, when each new menu (soup + main) is conceived. There is also a weekly offer (soup, main + salad) and that’s it. From September to December, there will be themed days on Thursdays, when the delicacies of a certain national cuisine will be served. You can also choose from sandwiches, wraps, salads, dips, porridge, desserts and ice cream.
It is important to point out that The Planteen does not want to preach or convert anyone about how to live their life. All they say is: visit us, look around and taste our food. If you eat meat, why not try something vegetarian or vegan? Avoiding being paternalistic, they set a good example and, by doing so, help shape attitudes.
Prices at The Planteen are decidedly reasonable, which means that they override the stereotype that plant-based products must necessarily be expensive. Soups cost 1,190 forints, main courses 2,290 and the menu (soup + main) 2,990. You can also come here for coffee, from 300 to 950 forints. Breakfast and snacks are equally affordable, each a few hundred forints.
This also helps banish any negative connotations attached to vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Come here, eat, enjoy. They operate every weekday, 8am-4pm.
As this was the canteen of the International Business School, it’s pretty large in size, and so ideal for special occasions. The Association of Conscious Buyers, for example, puts on many events here. Every other Wednesday, they organise a business club focused on sustainability and plant-based meals. The company Christmas party is also staged here, guests enjoying vegetarian and vegan food, while Thursday afternoons mean champagne get-togethers to end the week and welcome the weekend, especially for employees of companies at Graphisoft Park.
In the future, to raise general awareness, they would like to start gastro-oriented training sessions, where adults can learn the basics of plant-based, vegan cuisine, but if someone is already a professional chef and would like to develop further in this direction, The Planteen team is on hand to help.