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