JUST a few decades ago most restaurants reserved the humble vegetable for the side of their plates. Today, however, vegetarianism is socially acceptable and even fashionable. Restaurants and cafés catering for meat-free diets are springing up thick and fast, establishing themselves as popular eateries not only among the vegetarian and vegan markets but also among the most red-blooded of diners.
The culturally diverse streets of London offer a multitude of options for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs, from market stalls and buffets to fine-dining restaurants. Here’s a selection to whet your herbivorous appetites:
Mildreds, (pictured above right)
An incredibly popular vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Soho. Food is served all day, Monday to Saturday. On the menu you’ll find a mixture of dishes including burgers, salads and stir-fries. The restaurant also caters well for vegans and boasts and impressive range of vegan desserts including tofu cheesecake and double chocolate pudding. Despite its popularity Mildreds does not take bookings, so be sure to get there early.
London’s first vegetarian, fully organic Italian restaurant. After opening their flagship restaurant in Barbican a few years ago, the family has expanded their business with another premises in Holborn. All ingredients used in the two kitchens are sourced from the family’s farm in Capua, southern Italy. Most of Amico Bio’s dishes are vegan or have a vegan option available. The Barbican restaurant also serves a vegetarian afternoon tea, including all the traditional British elements with an Italian twist. Please note that booking is compulsory for afternoon tea.
A vegetarian and wholefood Indian restaurant in Angel Islington, open all day every day. The all you can eat buffet, priced at a very reasonable £5.50, offers a range of traditional curries, brown and white rice, and a selection of salads. There are numerous options on the buffet for vegan diners as well. For dessert try some of the dairy-free lassis, available in different flavours. Although the restaurant does not serve alcohol, diners are welcome to bring in their own drinks.
One of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in London located in Chalk Farm. Dinner is served Tuesday to Saturday, but lunch is only served at the weekends. The venerated establishment prides itself on its fine-dining approach to vegetarian cooking and the gourmet dishes on its à la Carte menu are testament to this fact. Dishes are multi-cultural, ranging from an Indian pizza to a Caribbean platter, and seasonal chef’s specials are available throughout the year. Plenty of vegan and gluten free options are available, and onion and garlic free dishes are also marked on the menu.
The Coach and Horses
Located on Greek Street near Shaftesbury Avenue, the Coach and Horses is London’s original vegetarian pub. It remains true to classic pub dishes in its meat-free menu, serving up vegetarian takes on lasagne, burgers, fish and chips and sausage and mash. Some of its lagers and ciders are suitable for vegans, and vegetarian wine is available by the bottle. The pub can also provide a vegan version of its traditional afternoon tea with advance notice.
A popular vegetarian buffet close to Regent Street. Open seven days a week, Tibits offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes. As well as an extensive choice of cocktails and fruit juices, the restaurant also stocks vegan lagers, ciders and wines. There is plenty of seating indoors and a spacious courtyard, all of which is easily filled on a busy day. Be aware when piling on the salads, hot daily specials and baked snacks – you are charged according to the weight of your plate, not its size or contents.
Cookies and Scream
Open daily from 10am to 6pm, this Camden Market stall is located close to the HaHa Veggie Bar in Dingwall’s Gallery. It is a dream come true for anyone with a sweet tooth, serving cakes, cookies and other baked goodies that are dairy and gluten free. All the bakes are also low in cholesterol and are made using unrefined sugar, providing a sweet indulgence without an ounce of guilt. Teas and coffees are also available to accompany your baked treats, and there is a communal seating area close by.
Located in the Barkers Building on Kensington High Street, Saf was named London’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant in 2010. Saf, which stands for “Simple Authentic Food”, also means “pure” in Turkish; fittingly it has a sister restaurant in Istanbul. The restaurant’s chefs are dedicated to preserving the nutrition and flavour in food through careful preparation and cooking. The menu includes wraps, burgers, dairy-free cheeses and raw and gluten-free breads. Also on offer are a range of cocktails inspired by the wholefood menu, including beetroot margaritas and the “Green Fields Martini”.
A fully vegan restaurant overlooking Camden Lock. Everything is naturally cholesterol-free and organic wherever possible. The inSpiral kitchen offers a variety of cooked foods including curries, bean patties and ratatouille, and raw foods including burgers, lasagne and nachos. If you have room for more there’s also a selection of tempting vegan cakes and ice cream. Live music acts often play in the evenings, combining sophisticated dining with a relaxed café-culture vibe that suits the riverside location.
Formerly the Peking Palace, this vegan Chinese restaurant offers a buffet at lunchtimes and á la Carte dining in the evenings. The buffet, priced at £5.95, offers a range of hot food and accompaniments including traditional stir-fries and noodle and rice dishes. Dinner’s á la Carte menu boasts an impressive 80+ vegan dishes, many of which contain tofu or soya imitation meats. None of the restaurants dishes contain any MSG, good news for those normally deterred from Chinese food by the thick, lurid sauces.