I’ve spent 35 years eating out as a vegan and there’s no doubt things have improved massively in that time. The vegan movement is steadily growing and savvy restaurants have woken up to the fact that they need to offer vegan options.
In a group booking there may well be one vegan and if catering for them is a hassle for the chef, they may well decide to take their party somewhere else.
Even though restaurants are getting better, the same common problems still occur time and again.
Here are six ways that restaurants can improve
1. Offering vegan menu items that are similar to non- vegan items can result in confusion amongst staff. The vegan dish needs to look and sound completely different and serving it on different plates goes a long way to cutting down on genuine mistakes by the staff, often due to nothing more than human error.
2. While genuine mistakes do happen, what’s completely unacceptable is that some people in hospitality still think it’s funny to sneak non-vegan ingredients into meals served to vegans. Butter on vegetables where they think you won’t notice is common I always ask for butter to be replaced with oil (that’s why eating out in Italian restaurants is a winner because for every dish where British cooks reach for the butter, Italians will always gravitate towards olive oil).
3. Coffees can be a minefield. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken a sip of my soya latte only to discover it was made with milk. Yes, people can make mistakes and the server can easily just take the wrong drink. But, again, having different cups for soya milk drinks and milk would hugely minimise the chances of the wrong drinks arriving.
4. I worry about having vegan food prepared in non-vegan kitchens. Food hygiene rules should prevent cross contamination, but we have to accept it happens. Restaurants need to have a clear policy that vegan meals are prepared at a separate station so there is no opportunity for crosscontamination.
5. A BIG no is frying vegan food in fryers that also fry meat and fish products. If restaurants are doing this the customer needs to know so they can make an informed decision. This should be clearly identified on the menu.
6. There are so many ways common items on a menu in a non-vegan restaurant could easily be veganised. Just removing meat, fish, and cheese from a dish and not substituting something else but still charging the same is, at best, annoying. There are lots of ways to add flavour, all it takes is a bit of thought. If I order a salad with the feta removed, I really appreciate when a restaurant adds alternatives such as olives, sun dried tomatoes, seeds, asparagus, broccoli – anything really that complements the dish.
Currently I have a very small list of vegan-friendly restaurants that I like to visit and my wish is to see that grow into a very long list.
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award – winning restaurant Stem + Glory; a hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurant, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients which are 100 per cent made on site. Stem + Glory offers all day casual fine dining, fast breakfast, brunch and lunch, juices, smoothies and great coffee. All available to eat in or take away. Stem + Glory also offers mouth-watering and hugely popular tasting menu evenings and special event menus. The restaurants have an extensive vegan bar, offering the best craft beers and fine wines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and smart drinks https://www.stemandglory.uk/