One of the things that crop up on menus these days are little symbols by some dishes that tell you whether a dish is vegan, or vegetarian, or gluten-free, or soy-free, etc. (or all of the above). I rather like this system and as I mentioned it to the Head Holybellys I got two characteristic reactions:
Chef Sarah: (crinkled nose) “We don’t really want to gate things off from people…”
Nico: “Nooooo” (note that there must always be at least 5 consecutive letters when he gets expressive)
Sarah explained, “Well, if a dish is marked ‘vegan,’ he would definitely not order it.”
I laughed. “A militant omnivore, eh?” Nico nodded, and reached for an imaginary burger in his mind.
“And for us,” she continued, “we always want to welcome everyone, and so marking dishes as this or for this type of person isn’t our style.”
“But how will someone know? I know us Anglo-Saxons don’t mind asking questions, but often the French will not...”
“Yes,” she conceded, “but we want people to be free to ask and for our staff to be knowledgeable across the board. Besides, there are vegetarians and gluten-frees on the team. And BOH (back of house) consistently think about vegetarians when building dishes.”
“Really?” I wasn’t entirely incredulous, as I once met a vegan working at In-N-Out Burger. Sarah also reminded me that 50% of the mains ordered at HB19 are vegetarian. Then it clicked.
“Okay, so the HB policy on vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. is that there is no policy. You want to deliver honest, good food, let everyone know they are welcome and trust there are tasty and well-crafted dishes on the menu that are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free.”
So that’s the “policy.” As Nico would say, “Come in, we got you.“