Did you think vegan food meant side salad and chips? You thought wrong.
After 7 years as a vegetarian, now a 10-month strong vegan, I have had my fair share of poor meals at restaurants that fail to provide for alternative diets.
Limited to a side salad (hold the dressing) and dreary chips, options for vegans can appear rather bleak. Through a lengthy search, involving many a lockdown walk and extensive Instagram browsing, I have found some new favourite eateries that go above and beyond in providing the vegan goods.
With 582,000 people signing up for Veganuary 2021, up from 400,000 in the previous year, and 556 new vegan products launched this year, there is a clear increase in demand for products that fit a plant-based lifestyle. London arguably provides the best options — even with lockdowns preventing the potential mayhem my bank account and stomach would have experienced, I have immersed myself in the city’s cuisine and encourage you to do the same. Many of the restaurants highlighted below are independent businesses relying on new customers and hit hard by lockdown — go and show them some support.
Number 1 on my list of places to try is Purezza, which I already have a booking for next week. Laying claim to being the first vegan pizzeria in the UK, they have locations in Camden and Brixton, as well as across the country, in Brighton, Manchester and Bristol. The real standouts are the sourdough bases and cheese made from fermented brown rice milk. Fellow vegans will agree with me that vegan cheese offerings can be pretty tetchy, so I was pleasantly surprised by how creamy Purezza’s offerings are.
Top pick: ‘The One With All the Seasons’, ‘The One With the Pesto’.
Mildreds has been leading the game in vegan and vegetarian food since 1988, when it first opened in a former sex club in Soho! Now with locations in Camden, Soho, Kings Cross and Dalston, they cover an even greater area through their deliveries and lockdown meal kits. Before I plug my favourite main dishes, I have to put in a good word for the Caramel Cheesecake which my flatmates and I agree is heaven on earth, somehow constructed from tofu.
Top pick: the Chick’n Burger with Fries, the Levant Spiced Kebabs.
- What the Pitta
Our new local is What the Pitta, offering vegan alternatives to doner meat. Winning ‘Best London Takeaway’ at the Kebab Awards 2020, What the Pitta broke boundaries as the first ever vegan winner. With locations in Croydon, Shoreditch, Camden and soon Brick Lane, you can get your fix wherever you go. The portions are large, the staff are friendly and the baklava is to die for.
Top choice: the Falafel Wrap, the Vegan Doner
- Temple of Seitan
I had to include this one for you Tik-Tok fiends who may have seen the trend of making seitan (wheat gluten) by washing flour. If you’ve yet to see this floating around, it’s worth making the journey to either Hackney or Camden to try it — the texture is surprisingly good and not at all far from the meat it imitates.
Top choice: Original Wings, Temple Burger.
Take a slightly fancy trip to Notting Hill for Farmacy, a restaurant dedicated to sustainability and locally sourced ingredients. The menu is free from dairy, refined sugars, additives, and chemicals which shockingly doesn’t equate to tasteless mush for food.
Top choice: Middle Eastern Bowl, Sticky Toffee Pudding
Vegan food is not limited in the way that it used to be. It can easily be enjoyed with friends, whether or not you follow a plant-based lifestyle. These are only 5 of the many restaurants in London (and across the UK) and as demand increases so do the offerings and creative new innovations.
Article by Ursula Perry