We did a routine follow up to see if Benzhen is still all vegan. The outcome was a big disappointment. This is the story.
(Pic source: freegreatpictures.com)
Benzhen Vegetarian was opened last summer in Causeway Bay as a re-branding of what had been Queen of the East Vegetarian. When we visited at that time we were told a new investor was making their presence felt. In particular the food policy was upgraded so no animal products would be used. When we asked we were told this wasn’t just excluding milk and egg products. We were told honey would also be excluded. Previous management insisted Queen of the East was vegetarian but would commit to nothing stronger than that. Thus the food policy upgrade of the re-branded restaurant was welcomed as a positive step for the HK vegan scene.
We followed this up on Friday evening with a routine visit to just to check how things were. We asked for a look at the menu as first point of reference. They now have a new menu in operation from when we checked them out last time. One word on the menu dominated the conversation to follow with the Floor Manager. The Floor Manager’s performance was uninspired and eroded confidence.
HK veg, “The honey listed in this dish here, is that real honey?”
Floor Manager, “It’s definitely honey.”
HK veg, “Currently you guys are listed as vegan on some online vegetarian directories. Honey isn’t vegan though”.
The Floor Manager then said, “Let me check,” and signaled for a waitress to go into the kitchen. Then after a short while he backtracked from what he said before when he stated, “It’s not real honey.”
HK veg, “What is it then? If it’s an alternative is it agave or maple syrup or something like that?” When we have asked in other restaurants it seems to be one of these two products used instead of honey.
We asked if we could see what this honey alternative is or be told its name. We were told that we could not. This is unusual as when we have asked this question elsewhere, restaurant staff have been happy to co-operate. Intrigued by this mystery, we asked the same questions in slightly different ways to attempt to find out more. Rather than answer our questions about honey, the Floor Manager twice tried to divert us to order food.
The Cantonese speaker in the team involved in this conversation then explained to him we have a blog on the HK vegan scene. The gentlemen managing the floor didn’t say anything but adopted a more concerned facial expression. He then suggested we leave contact details for someone to get back in touch.
(It remains to be seen that the compassion of Benzhen’s new investor extends to honey bees)
So far we’ve heard nothing back. We don’t have a high level of confidence in them at all about this. We would though be delighted to be proven wrong. The Floor Manager’s replies were inconsistent, defensive and opaque. From that I currently wouldn’t trust Benzhen to cook me any food.
Benzhen has been removed from our list of the all vegan restaurants in Hong Kong until further notice.