Photos by: Richard Gordon – www.richardgordonphotography.com
A Caribbean-style bar and grill when it opened on D’Deck back in 2006, Hemingway’s quickly established itself as a hugely popular community hub – somewhere DBers love to eat, drink and hangout. By 2017, it was vegetarian, well on its way to being vegan, right in line with owner, ocean conservationist Gary Stokes’ personal beliefs.
“As my environmental profile expanded, I felt more conflicted running a restaurant that served meat and fish. I felt like a real hypocrite, frankly,” opens Gary, referencing his work with Sea Shepherd and his own NGO Oceans Asia. “The only remedy was to make Hemingway’s fully vegan, which we did in 2018.
“We live in a world of 7.6 billion people, many of whom eat meat or seafood three times a day. This is unsustainable,” Gary adds. “While most people cannot go to sea for several months to save whales, sharks, turtles or fish, we can all make a huge difference by simply looking at what we decide to put on our dinner plates. The ‘easy’ solution is a plant-based diet – going vegan.”
Transitioning to a 100% plant-based menu was clearly a bold move but from the get-go, reactions were overwhelmingly positive, with the DB community embracing the opportunity to enjoy what Gary describes as “normal food” in a casual setting. “Our aim is to show people that you do not need to sacrifice what you love when choosing to go plant based,” he says. “We use our menu to encourage people to try plant-based food without preaching.
“Whether you are a carnivore or already following a plant-based diet, we do not judge. Our philosophy is to let the food do the talking. We feel that so long as the food looks good, tastes good and is made from the best ingredients, the terms ‘vegan’ or ‘plant-based’ shouldn’t even be needed. At the end of the day good food is good food.”
One of the first things you notice about Hemingway’s menu is that few of the dishes listed scream vegan or even vegetarian. It’s only after taking a closer look that you realise that all the dishes – even the Thai-style ‘fish’ cakes, Rudeboy chili, Malay ‘beef’ rendang and full English breakfast – are 100% plant based.
“Joining the team in 2008, Chef Meeta Nanda brought along her culinary knowledge of vegan cuisine and worked to create a vegan comfort food menu,” Gary explains. “We wanted the menu to be big on meat-free versions of pub food classics, such as nachos, spaghetti bolognese, burgers and pizza.
“Over the years, as veganism has become more mainstream, customers have become more receptive to trying new things, even ‘things’ that don’t look like they have meat in them, like Chef Meeta’s legendary nachos and potstickers.”
Gary is known for his inventive monthly promotions, and a special series of these kept Hemingway’s going (and DBers coming back for more) during the latest wave of lockdowns. In March, ‘Beer & Burger Thursday’ (a burger and two bottles of beer for HK$160) went down a treat, as did the ‘ Bubbly Sunday Prosecco Promo’ (HK$45 per glass, HK$200 per bottle). Memorably too, in February, Gary threw in a free bottle of red or white wine with any takeout orders over HK$600 on a Saturday or Sunday.
“In January, we called for residents’ support during the daytime hours of operation as well as with takeaway/ home delivery,” Gary says. “The community was there for us, and now with restrictions easing, we’ll keep the special offers coming.”
First and foremost a community bar, Hemingway’s is rightly billed as the home of live music in Discovery Bay. The last big band night was in January with Powerful Moss performing outdoors, but we can hope for more of the same in the not-too-distant future.
“We have random bands playing Friday and Saturday evenings, the likes of Grounded, Powerful Moss, Helium 3 and Saxon & Jarvis,” says Gary. “Then on Sunday, Jay Apungan plays an acoustic session outside. Sundays tend to have a mind of their own and often turn into an impromptu jam session.”
Hemingway’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. To reserve a table, book the space for an event or order takeout, call 2987 8804 or visit www.hemingways.hk