We’re midway through January and if you can feel your veganuary resolve weakening, now might be the time to add some new flavours into the mix to keep you focused. Sidestep the sad looking wraps or overly processed burgers – and grab a bite to eat at one of London’s best vegan eateries. We’ve also included a few non vegan restaurants here so that if you’re dining out with non vegan friends, there’ll be something for everyone on the menu.
The London Institution: Mildreds
True plant pioneers of the London scene, Mildreds was founded in 1988 when vegetarian food was stuck in a strange and unflattering ‘brown’ phase, and vegan was considered extremist. Everything on their menu is vegan unless otherwise and very obviously stated.
From its beginning Mildreds has stuck to its international focus with a menu that is a diverse mix of cuisines from Asian to South American, Middle Eastern and European all stacked on top of each other. The atmosphere is laid back and lively, and it’s very normal to be amongst a real mix of people queuing outside their original Soho outpost for a covetable table inside.
Highlights include juicy gyoza dumplings, with shimeji mushrooms and a hit of heat from a cheeky chilli bean oil. Or instead go middle eastern with a hearty hazelnut dukkah in an orange maple dressing with light and airy whipped tahini and juicy bites of ruby red pomegranate. The long favourite sweet potato Sri Lankan coconut curry has stood the test of time, and their desserts, including a chocolate milkshake with coconut cream and cacao nibs, are an ever changing wheel of delightful indulgence.
If you want to try a vegan staple of the London scene, Mildreds is hard to beat. (It’s also quite hard to get into, so you may have better luck at their Dalston, Camden or Kings Cross outpost than at the original Soho).
Temple Of Seitan
Temple of Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is the ultimate vegan hangover food stop. It’s a pared back, no frills, takeaway style store that is the home of any comfort food to do with crispy ‘chick’n’. Evolving from a market stall in Brick Lane Market, they now have two stores in Camden and Hackney and a cult following of vegans looking for the same spice and bite of fried chicken, just without the bird.
Here you can get juicy BBQ wings, crispy popcorn bites and cult favourite chick’n burgers, all made from seitan, coated in a secret spice and tofu mix, and fried just the right amount of time to be crisp on the outside and succulently soft within. ‘How is this vegan?’ is something you will probably hear.
A real spot for guilty pleasure, Temple of Seitan also made waves when launching their first store, having to reassure some outraged people online that the shops were places for seitan, the wheat-gluten and not for Satan, the Devil.
by CHLOE. on the other hand is perhaps more suited to the Instagram conscious crowd that have followed its beginnings from being celebrity cat nip in New York, to making its hyped entrance to London, subsequently sprawling itself over the city with four stores and launching with a plant-based ‘Fish ‘n’ chips’ (made from crispy tofu).
Aside from all the plant-based versions of British classics (the sticky toffee pudding is really rather good), by CHLOE also have a selection of salads and sandwiches that are packed with vegetables, beans and lentils that really show off their veggie expertise. The ‘Spicy Thai’ with shredded kale, apricot-siracha glazed tempeh, edamame, spring onions, crispy wontons and a peppy peanut dressing is a real crowd pleaser, or the ‘Guac’ burger, with a patty of sweet potato and black beans, hints of heat from the corn salsa, creamy guacamole and a lightly smoked chipotle aioli feels like an indulgence but is sneakily healthy.
With a focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients by CHLOE are attempting, and largely succeeding, at making fast food plant-based and pretty, and they also, if you ever take your pup along with you, have treats for dogs on the menu too.
Health Conscious: Deliciously Ella Deli
A lot of people mistake vegan as being a healthy diet, probably because it’s easier to focus on the things you can’t have rather on the things you still can. But sugar is still very much on the menu and confectionary favourites like the original Oreo’s, Lotus biscuits and proper dark chocolate that’s over 70% are all, if accidentally, vegan.
So if you’re looking for a health boost on top of eating more a plant-based diet, then the Deliciously Ella Deli is the place to be. Food blogger Ella Mills (daughter of politician Shaun Woodward and Sainsbury’s heiress Camilla Sainsbury) has created a little light filled deli of nutritional wellbeing just below Oxford Street that is completely vegan and refined sugar free. With long wooden communal tables, a laidback atmosphere and a focus on meals that are good for the gut as well as the taste buds, this deli is very much a hub for hearty, wholesome food.
Try a varied selection of their wonderful freshly made salads by choosing to build your own bowl from any of the veggie concoctions on offer (a bunch of leaves does not qualify as a salad here), or order a warming stew, soup or dhal accompanied by kale and brown rice for a one stop meal. You can pop in for breakfast to pick up a vitamin boosting smoothie and cold pressed juice, or sit down for some blueberry pancakes or a brownie and satisfy your sweet tooth, all without the sugar rush.
Vegan pizza: Purezza
Purezza is well known amongst vegan foodies in London, not just for having the best fake ‘mozzarella’ in the business, but for creating pizza’s that are interesting in their own right and having an attention to detail (their sourdough bases are left to mature for 48 hours before being stretched) that you can taste in the depth of flavour in each layer of their pizzas.
Much misguided vegan food starts with people (read: supermarkets) trying to replicate the original dairy or meat version forgetting the importance of taste over texture. But Purezza has a masterful and award winning menu of creative stone-baked pizzas that stand on their own. They won the best UK pizza of 2018 at the National Pizza Awards with the ‘Parmigiana Party’, a pizza with classic tangy tomato base, creamy smoked ‘mozzarella’ cheese, aubergine parmigiana, a crumbling of ‘sausage’ and a pinch of nutritional yeast for an added kick. It was the first vegan pizza to win and a true milestone in the plant-based pizza world.
They also have a serious contender for the 2019 award in ‘Here Comes Truffle’, a sublime sourdough and black truffle base pizza, topped with wild forests mushrooms and slices of wood smoked tofu. A small mountain of fresh basil goes into the homemade pesto that is slathered on the veggie feast of the ‘Pesto Manifesto’, or if you’re looking for something sweeter they have an indulgent and crowd favourite Oreo pizza with a hazelnut and chocolate sauce for dessert.
If you’re still not convinced – for this month only, from every Monday to Thursday non-vegans get a pizza for free. If you can’t make it to Camden, they do takeaway.
Fine Dining: Gauthier Soho
The first Michelin starred establishment in the UK to offer a vegan tasting menu, Gauthier Soho was thinking plant-based back in 2015 before the vegan craze began to really take hold. Set in a Georgian townhouse, where you have to ring the bell to enter, the place feels a little like a secret that’s held close between the French locals in London who often dine here, and the plant-based crowd who like to a touch of refinery to their restaurants.
In contrast to much of the above, the food here is very much an exploration into the delicate balance of flavours, with an added touch of the theatrical. The eight course menu is pre-empted by a small offering of ‘Faux Gras’ – made from mushrooms, beetroot, lentils, shallots and walnuts, that creates this subtle earthy taste which goes perfectly with champagne, and the first course is a fresh and fragrant ‘carrot tartare’ that is minced, rather amusingly, at the table.
The true highlight of the meal comes about halfway from petite parcels of tortellini, that are creamy and cheesy, without any cream or cheese, and that explode in your mouth in little bombs of warmth and truffle indulgence. This dish was outstanding and even as I enjoyed the delicate desserts like the papaya and pineapple vacherin with a refreshing coriander sorbet (that was accompanied by a mousse like Sake from the very talented Sommelier), the tortellini stayed stuck in my mind.
Unlike many on this list here you can book. Reserve soon, because space is limited and the French don’t wait.
Non-Vegan Restaurants That Are Great for Vegans:
It can be a little awkward when you’re a vegan at a restaurant that is distinctly not vegan. The poor waiter or waitress tries to hold back their grimace that they got a ‘fussy’ one, while the other diners do less to hide their sighs of exasperation. Usually a manager is called over for a special allergens menu and suddenly in the confusion gluten is not vegan and nor is soy. Repeated questions are asked about the difference between vegetarian and vegan and someone remarks how they could potentially give up meat but never cheese – because even if you’re lactose intolerant brie is simply worth suffering for.
After much confusion a special meal is agreed upon, too often involving a magically procured falafel and some sad looking hummus, occasionally in a restaurant that serves neither, and in the end everyone looks at your food and says ‘see this is why I could never go vegan’.
Fortunately this is gradually becoming a thing of the past. London’s fast moving food scene has, especially in the last couple years, started catering to plant based preferences. So if you’re going out with a group with different tastes, below are some of the best non-vegan eateries that are also great for vegans:
With six restaurants across the city, Ottolenghi is a great choice for plant based eaters with carnivores in tow. Rovi in Fitzrovia is the newest restaurant to open and has an abundance of vegan options in the vegetable plates, including beautiful baked beetroots with fresh green tomato and spicy jalapeno salsa, as well as sliced swede gratin style with nutty freekeh pilaf and a tahini crust.
If you have an occasion and need a Michelin starred dinner that will cater to any food preferences than there are two main options to choose from. Pied A Terre, is a French one Michelin star restaurant in Fitzrovia that offers a ten course vegan tasting menu, including a cauliflower black curry and a creamy spelt risotto with coconut and saffron. Or if you fancy Scandinavian dishes with a touch of Asian influence you can head to Texture instead, where there is a five course vegan tasting menu, including baby beetroots with pesto and walnuts and a spiced tofu with quinoa and kale juice as well as an elegant champagne bar on the side.
Southern Indian: Rasa
Southern Indian food isn’t as dairy or meat heavy as its northern counterpart, making it naturally an easier home for the plant based crowd. One of my favourite places to eat authentic southern food in London is Rasa, where you can dine your way through a feast of vegan courses, including a masala dosa or Rasa Vangi, a light aubergine dish with fennel, tamarind juice and coconut milk, without feeling like you’ve compromised at all. This was one of my ‘best Indians in London’, and is a perfect example of the scale of vegan food worldwide.
Aside from all the tongue in cheek names or ‘impossible burgers’, a lot of street food or ‘peasant’ food like the original pizzas that were without cheese in Naples or the dosa from South India are naturally vegan already. Simple due to the fact that meat costs and dairy costs to keep fresh.
So if you’re struggling with vegan food, or you’re not sure about dining at a vegan restaurant – approach it instead from a point of exploring street food (Asian in particular to avoid dairy) and you’ll be eating vegan without realising it.