What is it about working with psychopaths and bullies that builds close friendships?
The impending sense of fear?
Banding together for safety in numbers?
Empathy, and a shared experience?
All of the above, I think.
This is something I pondered booking a lunch for a girlfriend and I recently. We’d worked in a couple of places which had more than the average share of psychopaths and bullies. These nasty experiences had bonded us together in a way I hadn’t experienced with other colleagues in more serene and collegial environments.
On this occasion, we were decompressing after another bout of intense work periods for both of us. We decided a good long lunch was in order when both of us were off work, and I set about finding somewhere suitable for a vegan and someone with a regular diet.
Come the day of our decadent lunch booking, and the entire east coast of Australia has been hit by torrential rain. Sydney is no exception, and every second ‘comedian’ on social media is mentioning arks.
Thankfully, Lotus has set up numerous heaters which stave off the cold in this fierce weather. Our waiter (whose name I didn’t get, but wish I did as I haven’t had service this exceptional since holidaying in San Francisco and Seattle), gives us a detailed run down of the menu, and the vegan options for me. He’s apologetic, saying “we don’t have many vegan choices” and then rattles off about 5-6 dishes which are either vegan or can be easily modified. To me that is so much choice I almost don’t know what to choose!
Our waiter also mentions a handy tip for vegans dining at Lotus – each restaurant has a similar but varying menu, and chefs cook in the Chinese way of using different ingredients depending on the produce, so always check to make sure on the day you are dining that vegetarian dishes are vegan friendly.
I encourage my friend to order dishes she likes as well as eating vegan dishes with me. She is too accommodating and only orders a seafood starter, happy to share vegan food with me. She chooses the oysters with lemon aspen, butterfly 18 pea flower tea sorbet and finger lime. It’s one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever seen, and her eyes close like it’s her last meal when she eats them.
As the veggie friendly starter, we’ve chosen the vegetable san choy bao, which is also vegan friendly. Our waiter warns us it’s a very messy dish. We are not deterred! He brings us water dishes with lemon slices, which we do need. It’s a delicious dish of generous servings, and worth every splash of sauce. It’s also hearty, with the addition of tofu and pine nuts, and could easily do as a main for one person.
Our main is my choice and favourite dish which I’ve had at every Lotus restaurant – the salt and native pepper tofu with dukka and sesame. Even if you’re a meat-eater, I recommend trying this dish once. Combined with a spicy, nutty Szechuan sauce, it’s rich and decadent tasting.
We can’t go past dumplings or Asian steamed greens, so we have both with some rice. The dumplings are delicious parcels of vegetables and only require a bit of soy sauce for seasoning. The Steamed Asian greens with soy and sesame are light and lovely, rounding off the heartiness of the tofu and spice.
My friend finishes off with a beautiful dessert we see on a nearby table – “Passion fruit picked from the vine” – made of burnt vanilla ice cream, with a liquid passion fruit centre and a passion fruit skin glaze. Our waiter mentions that it’s the most popular one at the restaurant. I have a jasmine green tea, which is warming in this nasty weather. I’m only mildly jealous there is no vegan dessert available, and enjoy my tea in the rain.
A perfect lunch. Amazing dishes. Great location. Wonderful service. It doesn’t get much better with Lotus!