The Lowdown: non-vegan friendly restaurants

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Australian chef John Mountain bans vegans from his Perth restaurant

Related tags Vegan John Mountain Australia

An Australia-based chef has banned vegans from his restaurant on ‘mental health grounds’.

2010 Gordon Ramsay would be proud... 
Chefs having a pop at vegans does feel a bit old school. Not so long ago plant-based eaters were considered an easy target but less so since veganism has made the transition from fringe movement to mainstream. 

Is this chef anyone we’d know?
Possibly. He’s Preston-born but now Perth-based chef John Mountain. He appeared on Great British Menu (going by the name Johnnie Mountain, he appears to have undergone a rebrand) in the early 2010s and attracted some press coverage for swearing in the general direction of Marcus Wareing upon receiving low marks for his fish course. He later revealed the pressure of the camera had made him consider suicide. 

Blimey. So what prompted his ban on vegans? 
The move follows a clash with a customer online. It appears that the unnamed ‘vegan woman’ got in touch with his Fyre restaurant to check if they had options to suit her diet. She was assured that a number of dishes could be made vegan friendly, but on arriving it turned out that only one dish was suitable. In a private message to Mountain, she questioned the dish’s quality and $32 price tag and told him to ‘get with the times’.

What was his response? 
Mountain branded her childish and said that she ‘and all your vegan mates’ were banned from his restaurant forthwith. He followed up with a Facebook post announcing the news that ‘sadly all vegans are now banned from Fyre (for mental health reasons)’. Cue a stream of negative reviews and fake bookings from furious vegans. Mountain doubled down by way of an expletive-laden quote to Perth Now​. Shortly afterwards, he announced that the incident had caused him and his girlfriend to split because she ‘couldn’t handle’ the backlash.

Oh dear. Are restaurants even allowed to ban vegans? 
That’s an interesting one. In 2020 it was ruled that ethical veganism is classified under UK law as a philosophical belief, which is one of the nine protected characteristics listed under the Equality Act 2010. Employers could face discrimination claims for refusing to hire someone because they are a vegan or failing to provide suitable food options for vegan employees. When it comes to restaurant customers, the situation isn’t as clear cut but our understanding is that actively banning a minority group could open restaurants up to civil legal action. 

What about places that refuse to cater for vegans but don’t explicitly ban them? 
That’s a good point. A growing number of high-reaching and specialist restaurants don’t do vegans (and often vegetarians, too), not least Ynyshir, which currently holds the number one spot on our list of the top 100 restaurants in the UK.​ Its chef-patron Gareth Ward says that his Wales-based restaurant specialises in meat and fish and that he would ‘not want to take their money because they would not get the full experience’. The furore at Fyre has once again opened up a fault line within the industry, with some chefs taking the view that hospitality should be as inclusive as possible, and others taking the stance that it’s simply not practical to cater for what is still a relatively small niche. 

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