Overcoming dining challenges

Being a vegetarian occasionally presents difficulties and I try to overcome these wherever possible, without making a fuss. The biggest challenge would be a lack of or minimal vegetarian options offered at some dining venues.

One of my expectations when eating out is to not be made to feel different. I want to blend in with the rest of the diners and concentrate on enjoying the meal, with the only distinction being what’s on my plate.

With no New Year’s Eve plans due to a bicycle drama (that’s a story for another day) I jumped at the chance to join a group of friends who were having a degustation dinner at Bishop Sessa, formerly Crown Street Assembly, in Surry Hills.

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The restaurant promoted the degustation on social media so after receiving confirmation from them that they could accommodate a vegetarian, I happily joined 11 other food lovers to deliciously ring in the new year over seven courses.

A long table upstairs by the window was reserved for us and we were the first to arrive. The hardwood floors, wooden furniture and high ceilings created a very loud environment – the combination of chattering guests, 80’s background music and cutlery clinking on crockery produced so much noise that it was difficult to hear the conversations at the table. This was most noticeable when returning to the dining area after visiting the bathroom. Sitting for a few hours on a hard wooden chair wasn’t overly friendly on the b-hind.

There was some initial confusion between the wait staff as to how many courses I would be having. Unfortunately some of my dishes were served at different times so for some courses, I wasn’t eating with the rest of the table. It can be a tad embarrassing when your dining pals ask you where your food is.

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A couple of my courses were also served as additional sharing plates for the rest of the group. This meant my dining companions had much more than me, yet we were paying the same price.

I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer as the food was quite good!

  1. Beetroot salad with smoked goats cheese and caramalised walnuts (my favourite)
  2. Mushroom and shallot dumplings
  3. Eggplant and Dutch carrots with chilli jam and orange marmalade (this was too hot for me)
  4. Pearl barley and sweet potato risotto
  5. Vegetarian tart with onion and zucchini
  6. Dessert plate – Italian meringue with strawberries, choc-caramel tart, coffee-choc mousse

Yes, you counted right. I only had six courses – not seven as advertised or nine as received by the rest of the table. I did feel a bit like I had missed out, especially hearing how much everyone else enjoyed their meal. You will be pleased to know that afterwards one of my fellow diners had a chat with the staff and they offered me a rebate on my meal. Thank you!

To be fair, it was New Year’s Eve and the restaurant appeared to be fully booked so they were flat out. And perhaps I should have double checked with the restaurant as to how they were going to accommodate to help eliminate any confusion on the night.

As for the noise – I hear they may be installing carpet which I expect would alter the acoustics and absorb some of the sound.

For me it’s a lesson to speak up as people can only make improvements when they know what needs to be fixed!

Have you ever had a dining experience that has taught you something for next time?

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Bishop Sessa (formerly Crown Street Assembly) on Urbanspoon

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Comments

  1. My dining out experiences as a vegetarian has strengthened my resolve to cook great dishes at home. Much cheaper, generally tastier, and I know exactly what hidden ingredients lurk within.

    Good points made in your post… the infrequent times we do dine out with non-vegetarian friends we generally feel like the culinary troublemakers, and feel ripped off to boot! Good on your mate for speaking to the restaurant staff. And the food does sound rather wonderful….

  2. Um, no idea what more you could’ve done! You called and asked if they could do a vego degustation, they said yes, the rest is up to them. They should not have served a couple if your dishes ‘to share’. Hospitality means making people feel welcome and if you can’t properly accommodate special requests, then don’t say you can.

    • Good point Lau. It was a little disappointing getting salads for myself and then a few more for the table. It makes me feel like I need to check and double check in future.

    • I agree! Good on you for trying to be gracious but it sounds like they were just a bit busy and got a few things confused. By the way if you’re ever looking for somewhere that will be really nice to vegetarians (including vegans), our work function at Delicado really exceeded expectations. Our vegan diner got way more food than she bargained for! The nice thing about having excess vege food is that meat eaters can eat them too :)

  3. Hmm that’s a little disappointing.. Hopefully they up their game for other vegetarians/vegans to enjoy a full dego.. But I’m glad that you posted about your experience as hopefully this will show restaurants that it’s important to cater for everyone properly, and I’m glad they offered you something back at the end of the day.

  4. Oh I know how you feel. Even my mum thinks I’m a social outcast because I’m vegetarian. “Just let me cook you some fish. Just once. No one has to know.”

    I’ve frequented many eateries with limited vegetarian options on the menu, sometimes no options at all. Others cater very well for the veg-minded. The most outstanding experience I’ve ever had was at the Press Club in Melbourne. It was just myself and my partner (a meat eater), and they were more than happy to prepare a complete 9-course vegetarian degustation for me, and a meat version for Tony. Not only was the food exceptional but the service impeccable. Expensive but worth it just to be treated like a normal person!

  5. Oh amazing! I know.. I hate feeling like a second rate citizen. Sucks. I went to Emmilous in Surry Hills on Saturday night and a girl vomitted on me. Yup. I wasn’t even past my 2nd course of a 4 course meal. :(

  6. oh no! i would of felt jipped! but people need to stop thinking vegetarians only eat tofu!

  7. I think that the fact that you rang ahead gave them ample time to be organised, regardless of how busy they were.

    I usually order, then confirm that it doesn’t have meat in it, then explain “because I’m a vegetarian….I don’t eat meat”. Best to be safe. I ate at a place in Rosebud once that clearly had bacon in the dish and when I pointed it out they said “oh, it’s only a little bit, don’t eat that”.

  8. Hi, the food in the pics look gorgeous!! We definitely aim to increase vegetarian options on our own menu, (felt abit bad that it was alittle limited last time you visited). Our cooks have been working on some yummy treats like our new baked eggs with eggplant kasundi and beans as well as fennel, walnut and radish quinoa buckwheat salad. Anyway, hope ur enjoying the long w’end! We’re enjoying time down in Melbourne and of course visiting some great cafes along the way! Cheers Susan (Element6 cafe)

    • Thanks so much Susan! I’m excited to see what you guys come up with – I’ll be back soon! Have a fab time in Melbs, so many excellent places to eat there

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