A supposedly vegetarian restaurant that offers a full meat menu. Saravana in Chungking Mansions succeeds Bookworm Cafe as the Worst Restaurant of the Month.
To be 100% clear about the distinction between two completely different Indian restaurants in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon:-
- Saravana in Chungking Mansions opened around 2009 and is the restaurant of concern in this article
- Saravana Bhavan in contrast is a Chennai based Indian vegetarian restaurant chain that opened in Ashley Road in 2015. Saravana Bhavan is not the subject of this article
We were tipped off by Alec, a Business and Entrepreneurship student at HKU, that all at Saravana wasn’t what would be expected from a vegetarian restaurant. We were told:
“The waiter recognised me from the first time I had eaten at Saravana a week before. He said to my friend, “Are you vegan also?” My friend replied saying, “I’m not vegetarian at all”. The waiter then offered a full meat based menu to my friend. The restaurant’s owners have a meat restaurant a few doors along the corridor. It was a menu from the meat place they had in Saravana to give to my friend.”
So we followed this up. The tip off couldn’t have been any more accurate. On arrival at Saravana I politely asked, “Who is the available senior person here just now please?”. The answer was the lady who is the chef. I asked if there was a meat menu. Without hesitation she leaned across and from the pile of menus picked out a full meat menu. The restaurant name on the meat menu was Moti Mahal. On strolling a few doors along to this Moti Mahal, this below is the banner outside.
As completely expected Moti Mahal sell fish, chicken, lamb and prawns in abundance. At this point the restaurant manager walked outside Moti Mahal whom I recognised from having previously met at Saravana. Next the dialogue went like this:-
HK veg: “Saravana is supposed to be a vegetarian restaurant?”
Restaurant Manager: “Yes.”
HK veg: “Someone told me that when he and his friend went to Saravana a few days ago they were offered a meat menu. I went to Saravana just now and asked about a meat menu and was immediately offered the menu for this place.” (i.e. Moti Mahal).
Restaurant Manager: “But cooked here in different restaurant. Everything is cooked separate.”
HK veg: “One of the reasons for going to a vegetarian restaurant is not to be in the same restaurant as people eating dead animal parts.”
The restaurant manager then went on damage limitation by saying:
“Only happens once a month.”
This ‘once a month’ comment seems difficult to believe. The person providing the tip off and I each visited Saravana separately a few days apart. On both occasions there was a meat menu immediately available on the premises. This ‘rarely happens’ attempt at damage limitation was similar to what Kan Kee told us a few months ago (when they were questioned about using cream after they repeatedly told us they didn’t use milk products).
The HK veg take on this is that the customer of a vegetarian restaurant should expect the restaurant has:-
- Management who ensure everything that the restaurant sells is indeed 100% vegetarian
- No one at the restaurant consuming dead animal parts
- No one at the restaurant contributing to the profitability of animal slaughter with the products they consume there
It doesn’t matter if the products sold in a vegetarian restaurant are prepared on site or brought in prepared from elsewhere. All three points above apply. Once a day, week, month or year is still too often a violation. A vegetarian restaurant should be vegetarian 24 hours every day. And a vegan restaurant should be vegan 24 hours a day.
As we repeatedly state, attention to detail matters. If Saravana’s management are taking liberties with this above, where else are they taking liberties?
(The claim on the Saravana shop sign to be “PURE VEGETARIAN” is untrue)
Hence why regrettably Saravana in Chungking Mansions is the HK veg Worst Restaurant of the Month for December 2016. Our review of Saravana has been updated accordingly in the our guide to Hong Kong’s Indian vegetarian restaurants.