IF you’re vegetarian and you decide to go to Dublin, be prepared to starve; the capital of the Republic of Ireland and its citizens eat meat.
Not only do they eat meat, they can easily anger vegetarians too.
For example, someone, somewhere – probably in the marketing department – of a large hotel group one day agreed that it would be a good idea to produce signs that said their ‘restaurant … will suit your needs’.
With just one sort of pizza and a single pasta dish available to those who do not or can not eat meat or fish, the restaurant clearly did not suit their needs.
The sign was dishonest.
Consequently, it had two implications for the wider business.
Firstly, in terms of the staff on duty, the wording was highly irresponsible. It raised expectations that could not be met – so my disappointment was consequently greater and my emotion reaction more passionate and irrational that it would otherwise have been.
I was confronted as a vegetarian with the choice between one style of pizza and a pasta dish. I wanted neither so, based on the claim that the restaurant would ‘suit my needs’, I asked if it was possible for whoever was in the kitchen to prepare a simple omelette. I was informed that this could not be done.
The following day, I had lunch at that hotel restaurant. I would have returned in the evening – but with having little option but to have the same meal twice within a few hours, I was driven away. I found it hard to believe that a major European hotel chain employed managers who take decisions about the range of dishes available restaurant who have not recognised this.
(All these episodes have repercussions. If a corporation cannot be honest in such a relatively straightforward matter, how truthful is anything else that emanates from the corporation? And it raises wider questions about the competence of all that organization’s corporate decision-makers.)
Additionally, in the 2010s, such a stance could be regarded as discriminatory towards those who do or cannot eat meat in favour of carnivores and omnivores.
Although the restaurant did display a small notice was visible about food allergies, this lack of appreciation of the market potential from vegetarians and, also for example, those who are gluten intolerant is indicative of a business that is – to use the jargon – worryingly ‘behind the curve’.
Elsewhere in the city, the situation was no better.
Heading out to eat with friends on a Friday evening brought the suggestion of Chinese food – but one large and busy buffet restaurant in the city centre could only offer one dish without meat, fish or derivative sauces. That was an unappetising tofu variant that was certainly not worth the same price as the range of choice available to carnivores.
The ‘vegetarian option’ offered at a leading hotel on Dublin’s prestigious O’Connell Street that Saturday was overcooked pasta covered with a ‘spicy’ tomato sauce that tasted if had been made with raw chilli powder, leaving a burning sensation in the mouth that took nearly half an hour to disappear.
The alternative – a simple sandwich – was not available either. Everything on the shelves in the nearest shop, just across the road, contained either fish or meat; egg was with bacon and cheese was with ham.
Dublin, unlike many other major European cities, does not yet seem to have as small convenience stores, further reducing the self-catering possibilities for vegetarians.
That the Dunnes chain does have a late-opening liquor store on one of the narrower thoroughfares running east off O’Connell Street provided some succour – but probably not in the way that nutritionists would really recommend.