Worst Restaurant of the Month – Bookworm Cafe

Vegan marketed wraps knowingly made by default with non-vegan cheese? Despite voracious competition the disgraceful Bookworm Cafe succeeds Su Xi Cafe as worst restaurant of the month.

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The metaphorical charge sheet against Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island goes back a number of years. Dicer reported false advertising by Bookworm Cafe to us (and online) going back to around 2013/14. More recently attention was brought in social media to Bookworm’s misrepresentations by the girls at Puerto Vegans. Here’s an explanation of Bookworm Cafe’s shocking affront to not just vegans but to any sort of vegetarians.

1) Vegan wrap. We followed up the allegation that the vegan marketed wrap is in fact made by default with non-vegan cheese. The lady we spoke with (possibly the manager), confirmed that sure enough the cheddar cheese used in the vegan wrap is non-vegan. If someone wants the vegan wrap to be vegan, she says it can be made with the cheese removed on request.

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2) Bookworm clearly bill themselves as a vegetarian enterprise (see pic below).

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On the menu there are at least three (and possibly four if the goat cheese is different from the feta) different kinds of cheese. The menu states that the mozzarella is vegetarian cheese (see pic below).

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So the lady was asked, does this mean the feta and cheddar cheeses are non-vegetarian (i.e. manufactured with slaughtered animal rennet as the setting agent)? Staggeringly the answer is yes. Feeding this back into point 1) above. This means the vegan wrap isn’t even vegetarian since it’s made by default with non-vegetarian cheddar cheese.

This is wilful, utter contempt for vegetarians (vegan or otherwise), by Bookworm Cafe marketing themselves as vegetarian. This isn’t just negligence on their part. Does this not count as some sort of fraud? And of course it’s a health risk to anyone with dairy allergy or intolerance who is misled into incorrectly believing the vegan wrap is genuinely vegan.

What makes this all the more staggering is this. Take a look at this photo below taken outside Bookworm Cafe and look what you can see a little further up the street.

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In the bottom right corner there’s not just one but two street signs visible for Just Green (since the background is out of focus we’ve marked them with yellow arrows). There’s many things in Just Green such as rows of meat and tins of fish to unsettle any sort of vegetarian. Just Green do though include vegan cheese in their stock. Vegan cheese goes great in vegan wraps. Two shops along the same street. Just in case you wonder if the above photo is some sort of Lamma Island magic trick of the light, take a look at this photo below from the other direction.

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There’s at least two fascinating points about this photo:-

a) The Just Green sign in this photograph is illuminated to help people find it if it’s dark.

b) If you look at the bottom left of the photo there’s not just one but two Bookworm Cafe signs to help people find it (marked with yellow arrows in this photo). On the most visible of those two signs, Bookworm Cafe even proclaim their vegan credentials.

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(The cheese shelf in Just Green on Lamma Island. Top left is Daiya Mozzarella. Bottom right is Daiya cheddar. Both are vegan).

Two shops away on the same street with perfectly functional signage. How easier could it be? Does a vegan cheese supplier have to be next door?

There are other concerns logged online such as people complaining about bread labelled as vegan that in reality contains egg. We didn’t follow up on that. With the insulting attitude of Bookworm Cafe to their core customers though it doesn’t stretch the imagination to believe there’s truth in that allegation. Someone comments about Bookworm Cafe’s vegan cake. Do you trust Bookworm Cafe that a cake they allege is vegan is genuinely so? Someone else points out that Bookworm Cafe sells booze. It thus begs the question; has that booze been verified as vegetarian or is it manufactured with fish extract, cow gelatin, pig gelatin etc?

As we always say, attention to detail matters. If a restaurant takes the short cuts mentioned above, what other short cuts are they taking? For the reasons above the HK veg Worst Restaurant of the Month for November 2016 is Bookworm Cafe.

Note: An update request has been made to the people at HappyCow HQ in LA re the listing linked to two paragraphs above. That request is that the listing is downgraded from being classified as “Vegetarian”.

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4 thoughts on “Worst Restaurant of the Month – Bookworm Cafe

  1. Pingback: Worst Restaurant of the Month – Saravana (Chungking) |

  2. This is most shocking. I have twice eaten at BOOKWORM CAFE, trusting them that their cheese is suitable for vegetarians. Someone should take them to court. These things MUST stop. I am really fond of eating pizza, but since I am a strict vegetarian, would never think of touching any cheese made from animal-origin rennet. PIZZA EXPRESS is one option, who also state that their cheeses do not contain animal-origin rennet. I thought Bookworm Café was among the other few options. But, seems that I am wrong

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Nirmal,

    Thanks for reading the article and taking a moment to feedback some very valid comments.

    I share your disapproval of restaurants that mislead customers. Hence why the Worst Restaurant of the Month award is always centred on that theme.

    There’s options consumers in HK can take to follow up on this. Indeed we are trying at the moment to take a couple of these forward formally to see how much teeth the authorities have. Bookworm Cafe is one of those examples.

    Options consumers in HK have are:-

    a) Food and Environmental Hygiene Department for health risks (in the examples we have its allergy risks but there of course can be many others)

    They are contactable by email at this address – enquiries@fehd.gov.hk

    b) Customs department for cases of false advertising

    The Customs Dept have confirmed to us they are indeed the correct people re false advertising accusations. They are contactable via this email address – customsenquiry@customs.gov.hk

    c) The consumer council

    So far the consumer council have only referred us to the departments mentioned above. Maybe that is because I have not found the correct way to utilise the consumer council.

    https://www.consumer.org.hk/ws_en/

    Your feedback is thought provoking Nirmal. I say that since I am now wondering if going forward I should include info re the FEHD and Customs Dept when I type the articles. That way it puts at people’s fingertips info they may find useful if they want to make their voice heard about restaurants that mislead people. Thanks again for your reply.

    Like

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