Vegans on the march

By Adam Raphael

What is the hottest trend of 2018? Veganism has a claim. The number of full-time vegans has grown fourfold in a decade. Advocates of a plant-based diet were once regarded as weird. But no longer. The problem for hotels is that it is not easy dealing with the demands of the fruit and nut brigade along with all the other modern food allergies. Recently, we received an angry complaint from a vegan reader about one of the guide’s selected hotels.

A strict vegan, he had phoned the Star Castle in the Scilly Islands to ask whether the hotel would be able to provide the sort of food he and his wife like for a 25th wedding anniversary celebration. On being assured by the receptionist that the hotel could cater for all tastes, he made a reservation. But when they arrived at the restaurant for their dinner on the first night, they were given the standard menu and asked to pick out things they could eat. The next night, the chef made a special vegetable dish for their main course and a fruit crumble for their dessert but there was no vegan wine available.

The couple were not happy. They complained to the hotel and when it did not respond wrote to the Guide demanding that we immediately publicise their experience. We replied cautiously asking to see the email correspondence. The reader replied bitterly: ‘Wow! Positive comments accepted straight away but negative experiences……..that is good for the hotels in your guide.’

I don’t like being pressured which is why my initial response was less than sympathetic. It is also why the hotel was slow to respond. But it is clear that its reception staff should have been better briefed and our reader’s complaint should have been dealt with more quickly. That said, if you are a vegan, coeliac, fruitarian, flexitarian or on some other food diet, you need to spell out what you can and cannot eat. To expect a hotel’s receptionist or even the hotel’s chef to know the details of your individual diet is unrealistic. Certainly, I wouldn’t have known without the benefit of an internet search that most wines are produced using animal by-products and are therefore out of bounds for vegans. Likewise, honey can’t be eaten by vegans because they regard the bees as having been exploited in its production.

My curmudgeonly meat and potatoes attitude may be that of an unreconstructed old man, but that of the Guide’s is not. One of our best writers is a vegan and she often does hotel inspections for us without any problem. When she comes to lunch here, she brings her own food which makes life simple. Partly due to her influence, the Guide’s website now has a page devoted to more than 100 Vegetarian Friendly Hotels. We would be glad to devote a similar page to vegan hotels if we could find ten or more worthy candidates. Please email me with nominations at editor@goodhotelguide.com. Our editorial team will look at them very carefully.