Hemingway’s is a laid-back bar and restaurant on the waterfront in Discovery Bay, beloved by locals for its relaxed atmosphere, decent happy hour and comfort food menu. The restaurant’s recent switch from a typical meaty ‘pub’ menu of ribs, burgers and the like to a vegetarian (mostly vegan) menu seems like a brave move. We talked to owner Gary Stokes about the changes and his motivations.
I’m personally very engaged with environmental issues (particularly through Sea Shepherd the marine conservation organisation) and I’m a vegan myself. So I wanted to reduce the restaurant’s environmental impact and be true to my personal values as well.
Animal agriculture plays a massive role in producing greenhouse emissions and reducing biodiversity, and recent studies predict there will be no seafood by 2048 if we continue as we are. Changing our eating habits is a key way to help the planet, and I wanted to make Hemingway’s part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I’m also hoping to introduce a few sceptical omnivores to some tasty vegan food and show just how ‘normal’ a plant-based diet can be. I’ve found through working on The Last Straw project (where we make it simple for restaurants and bars to switch from plastic to paper straws) that if you make it easy for people to do the right thing for the environment then they’re generally very happy with that.
We’re still offering people comfort food dishes, but just plant-based alternatives. So for example we’ve switched to ‘Beyond Burger’ vegan burgers and we’re making a BBQ pulled ‘pork’ sandwich out of jackfruit, and people can’t believe there’s no pork in it. I’m hoping this approach will tempt some people who wouldn’t otherwise try vegan food to give it a go.
We dropped seafood from the menu back in August 2017 and a couple of our customer’s favourite dishes – our Rudeboy Chilli and our Nachos – have been vegan for a while with no complaints. It’s been a learning curve for our chef Mohan, but he’s enjoyed the challenge of developing the new menu. We’re still seeking the perfect vegan ‘spare rib’ recipe though!
What do your regulars think of the change?
Our regular customers have been surprisingly open to it. They know me and understand my passion for environmental issues, so they get the motivation behind it. The reaction on social media has been extremely positive too. Some of my fellow restaurant owners think I’m crazy, but we’ll have to wait and see.
What’s next for Hemingway’s?
We’re planning to switch to a completely vegan menu, phasing out the last few vegetarian dishes on the menu. And we’re looking forward to experimenting more with dishes via the specials board too.
If you’d like to try Hemingway’s new vegetarian menu, here’s where to find them:
Hemingway’s, Shop G09, Block A, Discovery Bay Plaza, 2987 8804