The number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled in the past four years so no surprise that restaurants have put money where their mouth is. No longer are vegan restaurants the stuff of hemp-wearing hippy yore either. You can now eat vegan burgers for lunch and popcorn ‘chicken’ for supper. Meat eaters are fooled into snacking on ‘steak’ and ale pies and these aren’t ones containing over-produced fake meat that pretends to bleed. Here are eight of London’s best vegan eateries to tempt even the hardiest carnivore (this writer included).
Purezza put me to shame. I was skeptical that good pizza could really come without cheese – after all it is one of three stipulated toppings of the original Neapolitan. But this little Camden pizzeria proves that a) brown rice mozzarella is a tasty thing and b) pizza doesn’t need to have cheese on it. A beetroot carpaccio, olives and marinated artichokes on chewy hemp crust is enough, though the packed ricotta and chickpea calzone is also dense and delicious. Desserts aren’t quite as exciting but the sides and dipping sauces are.
Resident at the Spread Eagle – a hippy happy hipster pub in Homerton – Club Mexicana knocks the idea of veganism as virtue into a rolled-up beanie hat. The pub itself looks as Frida Kahlo took a sideline designing the inside East London boozers and the food is bright and punchy to match. Crackling tortilla chips with heaps of guac, a ‘tofish’ burger (tofu wrapped in seaweed) that tastes disturbingly like it is made of something that could have been caught on a boat and a heaped ‘chicken’ salad made from seitan – wheat that has been fermented then fried. They also have 16 vegan beers on tap.
This is the health-kick haunt. Redemption serves wheat-free, sugar-free, vegan food alongside its alcohol free bar (London’s first) with the premise that socialising shouldn’t have to mean consuming quantities of things that our bodies could probably do without. It might sound like they had sacrificed taste and fun on the altar of virtue but both the mocktails and the menu make for a satisfying evening. Try the flavorsome pulled barbecue jackfruit washed down with an apple mockjito – and enjoy your halo shining. There are two more Redemption outposts in Covent Garden and Shoreditch.
Temple of Seitan
Ask for a vegan for vegan restaurants in London and Temple of Seitan will almost undoubtedly be mentioned. With spots in Camden and on Morning Lane out east, this fast food joint sells the vegan version of the Big Smoke’s favourite Friday night grub: fried chicken. Wings, burgers and popcorn bites – it’s all there, though sadly not open as long as your average chicken shop – just 12pm – 9pm. Still, finger lick’n good.
Young Vegans Pie Shop
One of the things that would worry me most about becoming vegan is the potential lack of a good pie. All that short pastry and meaty gravy… but fears were allayed on coming across Young Vegans. The pastry crumbles, the gravy is lustrous and pies can come with heaps of mash or mac and cheese. As the vegan friend said who recommended it: “Meat eaters would be missing out if they didn’t go”. You can also get the pies delivered. Chicken parmigiana or steak and ale are the best.
222 Veggie Vegan
222 was far ahead of the new wave of veganism. It opened in 2004 on Fulham’s North End Road, which is slowly becoming something of a vegan foodie mecca with London’s first meat-free supermarket just a few doors down. Chef Ben Asamani serves refined versions of homey classics from raclette and stroganoff to stir fries. The desserts are a dairy and gluten-free delight too: apple crumble no less. At lunchtime there’s a vegan buffet, which comes recommended.
The Vurger Co
London’s best vegan burgers according to a couple of vegan friends. The Vurger Co started life as a pop-up but has now found a permanent home on Cygnet Street in Shoreditch. To walk into it looks like your average Instagram-friendly burger joint except that meat is now aubergine, black bean or corn fritter and the shakes are dairy-free (although you can add a shot of rum). For those hunting an even meatier no-meat experience, Biff’s Jack Shack in BoxPark Shoreditch lays claim to creating the UK’s first vegan poutine. That and the ‘Tower of Power’ jackfruit burger makes a mighty feast.
Mildred’s opened in 1988 in an ex-sex club with an S&M chamber in the cellar. Back in the days when Soho was more seedy, the pale blue exterior, brushed wood interior and vegetarian menu was a surprise to London’s louche square mile. But such was its success that there are now four branches. The menu is largely – but not purely – vegan and runs from vegan tandoori chicken to a homely mushroom pie. The brunch is good too – try the waffles – but be warned you may have to queue.