There is no denying that vegan cuisine has become much more popular in recent years. Not only that, it’s become more obtainable in mainstream and chain eateries across the globe. No more does a vegan dining out experience have to include always prenotifying the chef or chips, salad and no dressing. Now everywhere from McDonald’s to The Savoy cater, proudly, for vegans.
This is an overview of some of my favourite places to eat in some of the most wonderful towns and cities I have been able to visit. There are of course more I am yet to discover and so why not leave a comment letting me know your favourites too!
Just a year or two ago, it was a real struggle to find a trustworthy vegan meal in a chain (non exclusively vegetarian) restaurant or cafe. By trustworthy, I mean chips not fried in animal fat or with the fried chicken and that bit of butter they cook the veg in and the chef ‘forgot’ to cook them separately. I could write an entire post of restaurant disasters, but instead I want to focus on the positives and how far vegan culture has become entwined in mainstream culture. Not only are restaurants simply catering for allergies which also happen to make some meals vegan friendly, many are actually proudly labelling items as vegan on the menu, or better yet, even have separate vegan menus so that dining out can be an enjoyable experience again.
This well known pub restaurant now has a dedicated vegan menu which includes nachos, curry and pasta plus apple crumble for dessert!
This one comes as a bit of a surprise given it’s, well, name. However, this popular Sunday joint caters extremely well for vegans, with a vegetarian and vegan section on the menu with clearly marked vegan options. Choose from Lentil Cottage Pie, Butternut Squash Crumble or Spiced Carrot and Chickpea Wellington instead of the meat and fill up your plate with all your favourite roast items including Roast Potatoes, Stuffing, Steamed Vegetables and Vegetarian Gravy. Do be sure to ask for vegetables without any butter.
Zizza have made pizza history by offering a proper, cheesy pizza made with the amazing Mozzarisella. No more bringing your own cheese and asking nicely for them to use it, they stock this gooey vegan alternative as standard. Another with a special vegan menu, starters include bruschetta and the most delicious smoked garlic bread, plus various sides, a customisable Spaghetti Pomodoro and dessert options. The caramelised pecans are a must!
Pizza Express launched a vegan pizza, the Pianta back in 2014. Whilst it doesn’t contain any dairy free cheese, it is deliciously flavoursome with spinach, mushroom, pine kernels, artichoke, tomato, chilli flakes and garlic oil finished with rocket, extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley. You can of course bring in your own cheese if pizza just isn’t the same for you without it!
A little less open to using your vegan cheese (though this does depend on the branch, so call ahead if you wish), but the pan crust is vegan and you can order the vegetarian pizzas without the cheese. Be careful to order the pan and not classic base which is sprinkled with cheese – I made this mistake once and had to go hungry 😦
Here they have a good allergen guide and the pizza bases are vegan. The Mediterranean focaccia is amazing, especially when dipped in olive oil and balsamic. The Aubergine and Tomato fettuccine is vegan if ordered without the ricotta and makes a nice change to the usual plain tomato sauce. The zucchini fritte – battered courgette strips and simple side salad make wonderful sides and nibbles.
Everybody loves a Nandos (except my husband!). The Veggie Pitta without mayo is my top choice or you can go for the portobello pitta without the cheese and perhaps some added avocado. Plus you can dip into Houmous with PERi-PERi Drizzle or Red Pepper Dip. Sides include garlic bread, salad and fries. Many of the main salads can be customised to make suitable also.
This classy Italian chain is actually where Rob and I had our wedding reception! They have a dedicated vegan menu and there are many items from the main menu which can be amended, just ask the staff. The Antipasto is delicious and exciting and the breads are fantastic.
If you like a bit of spice, you’ll love Wagamama’s vegan offerings. From steamed gyoza dumplings to tofu noodle soup, there’s sure to be something you’ll love. Many options can easily be made vegan by swapping egg noodles and leaving out the fish sauce.
This is Rob’s favourite restaurant and I’m pretty keen too! With it’s vibrant Latin flair, you will have a very tantalising meal indeed with plenty of choices from the dedicated menu. The salads are exquisite, especially the Quinoa Ensalada. The sweet and creamy Moqueca curry is a must try but if you want something more familiar, the three mushroom fajitas are always a hit. If you manage to keep room for pudding (I have only once made it this far!), then the Tembleque is well worth undoing the top button for.
Giraffe offer a superfood salad or a curry for a main plus a selection of suitable sides and the Edamame are a fun nibble while you wait!
Great for lunch on the go, Leon is the future of fast food. That is, healthy fast food. Options include SuperClean Quinoa Salad, Brazilian Black Beans, Fresh Slaw, Crushed Pea Salad, Hummus and amazing lattice shaped Baked Fries. Plus the flatbreads are vegan so you can roll it all up into a yummy wrap. There’s even vegan kids choices, soya milk and delicious juices and smoothies.
Pret A Manger
Another healthy food on the move option. Pret has expanded it’s range to include vegan options like the Super Greens & Reds Sandwich, plenty of hot soups, Tagine, Asian Mushroom and Avocado Baguette, Red Thai Veggie Flatbread and SO much more! This is well worth a stop next time you’re in town.
Avoid the cheese bread and flatbread, but a Veggie Delite with any veggies you like on any of the other breads is vegan. Make it exciting with one of the many vegan friendly sauces; Barbecue, Hot Chili, Sweet Onion, Teriyaki Glaze, Marinara, Sweet Chili, Mustard, Ketchup and HP Sauce.
Prezzo offer an Italian Hummus to start and the Bruschetta can be customised also. Both the Spaghetti Napoletana and Penne Arrabbiata are vegan friendly as are veggie pizzas without the cheese.
Wahaca is one of my favourite places to eat really good Mexican food. Last time I went there I was able to have the advice of a fellow vegan waiter! They used to have a good allergen menu but it seems this doesn’t exist any more but many items can be adapted to suit vegan diets. The plantain tacos (without the cheese) are delicious and nice and spicy. The Cactus & courgette vegan adapted burrito is a must try and the Corn & bean salad as a side. Unfortunately the fryers are shared so any of the fried items are unsuitable, including tortilla chips and Tostadas and any other crispy tortilla items.
Would you believe the stationery and book shop WHSmith even caters for us vegans? URBANeat’s Bombay Spiced Veggie Wrap and URBANeat’s Falafel, Lemon & Coriander Houmous Sandwich mean one will never go hungry in an airport again.
Le Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien offer a really smart and healthy range of vegan items in every section of their menu. From a breakfast Blueberry Muffin to Avocado Toast with Chia seeds for brunch to Hummus Tartine or Six-Vegetable Tart for lunch and dinner there really is something for everyone and at all times of day. You can have your cake and eat it too with Organic Carrot Cake on the menu! And the best vegan hot chocolate ever – A bowl of steamed frothy soya milk and a jug of rich dark melted chocolate to stir in. So fun!
Vegetarian & Independent Restaurants
The Quarry Cafe, Machynlleth
This little gem is in an unexpected location, within the historic Welsh valley town of Machynlleth with a population of just approximately 2,000. This vegetarian cafe has plenty to offer for vegans and uses as much locally sourced, fairly traded, seasonal and organic produce as possible. We visited during our honeymoon to Wales and it was so packed, we had to wait outside until we spotted a table! They serve traditional cafe favourites like soups, sandwiches and a selection of salads. We had the Big Mach veggie burgers with vegan cheese which comes with a delicious homemade bun and coleslaw. I ended up leaving with a (eco friendly!) takeaway box full of their coleslaw!
Noodle One, Bangor
Another from our honeymoon, this noodle bar is a relaxed and friendly and the staff very helpful to vegans and those with allergies. One of the best perks is that the ‘egg noodles’ don’t actually contain any egg!
The Garden Restaurant, Bangor
Another Asian restaurant, this is one of our favourite Bangor eateries and we have visited twice. The Cantonese Chinese menu has so much for vegans, which is all clearly marked on the menu. Homemade tofu is a must and the vegan duck pancakes are incredible! I promise you’ll leave stuffed and with a few doggy bags too!
Caffi Sam, Llanberis
This is in a great location if you are visiting any of the Snowdon mountain attractions like the various trains or other activities in the area. Again, in a small village that seems like everything is closed, there is this wonder of a cafe that has wonderful homemade vegan pies and pasties and interesting salads. They also sell local craft items, art and wood work and have lots of toys to keep little ones busy. It was full of locals despite the seemingly empty streets and a great one to have up your sleeve that hasn’t been overrun by tourists.
Food for Friends, Brighton
This award winning restaurant offers classy, fine dishes served with style. Plenty of vegan dishes and vegan versions of vegetarian dishes. We had our engagement celebration here and the food and service was impeccable even for a large crowd. I first visited a few years ago and will never forget the truffled cauliflower puree I had. The menu is seasonal and vibrant.
Terre à Terre, Brighton
Terre à Terre is iconic in the Brighton vegan scene. With it’s innovative style and interesting combinations, you will feel like you are dining Michelin starred. It’s affordable too with a great value set menu on offer if you want the full works. Lot’s of inspiration from world cuisine and you will discover tastes and spices that will blow you away. Great choice for vegans and most menu items have a vegan version so you don’t have to miss out.
Fortify Cafe, Maidstone
Fortify took the plunge and went from vegetarian to fully vegan in 2016. I was a frequent visitor even before this when they had lots to offer vegans but now nothing is off limits! They use amazing homemade vegan cheeses and seitan and wonderful fresh bakery and salad options feature in the daily specials. Great for a sandwich or a full main meal with options like Mediterranean Lasagne or Home Baked Quiche or Frittata. Plenty of cake and dessert too!
Smile Cafe, Portsmouth
Over to Portsmouth now and this quaint little cafe has fond memories for me. Fond now, but definitely not at the time! I was on a caravan holiday nearby when Rob and I had not long been dating and he had come to visit me while I was there. We had a wonderful day in sunny Portsmouth where we visited this lovely place and had brunch from their well vegan marked menu. We enjoyed the day and returned to the car that evening before Rob was due to return home for work the next day. To our dismay, the car park was locked with the car in it! To make matters worse, there was a large race on that weekend so the hotels were booked up! Two hundred pounds later and we managed to find a room. It ended up being one of our most treasured memories in those days, as we laughed about it so much and ran up over 30,000 steps on my pedometer!
This cosy restaurant overlooking the Thames is one of the most comforting eateries I know. The menu is imaginative, multi-cultural and home cooked with big portions, great prices and a lovely view. Winner of The Food Awards London 2016, you will remember what it is like to be spoilt for choice in a restaurant here. The menu is huge plus daily specials and the quality of the food is superb. Many gluten free options make it suitable for most common food allergies as well as tonnes for vegans to choose from. In fact, most of the menu is vegan and gluten free and there are even onion and garlic free products. The Organic Spicy Vegetable Balls with Coriander Sauce or Marinated Aubergine Bruschetta are starter favourites and Masala Dosai and Sweet Potato & Aubergine Afican make filling and flavoursome mains. If you can manage dessert, there is so much to choose from; whether you fancy a classic like Chocolate fudge cake or Crumble or something more adventurous like Organic baked figs with orange and Brandy or Rice pudding with nuts and sultanas.
222 Veggie Vegan, London
It’s hard to find a 100% vegan restaurant in the UK, but Kensington’s 222 Veggie Vegan has got it covered with their amazing value lunch buffet and A La Carte dinner service. They cater for gluten free and raw diets with an impressive fully raw section on the menu. Expect wholesome, healthy meals utilising protein rich nuts, seeds, legumes plus tofu and seitan and plenty of fresh, seasonal produce. The Seitan Stroganoff is a must-try with it’s endearing smokiness and make sure you save room for the Tofu Cheesecake.
The Gate, London
With two locations, the Gate is one of London’s most successful vegetarian restaurants and one that offers a wonderful, seasonal menu that caters well for vegans. It is here that my love for courgette flowers blossomed, I always hope they’ll have it again some day. They refurbished a few years ago so I must visit again soon to see what’s changed. The menu looks as good as ever, I especially love the effort put into the often boring side offerings. No plain fries here, but how about Chunky herb polenta chips with garlic aioli or Cauliflower with smoked paprika tahini, pinenuts and pomegranate instead?
I can’t leave this section without paying homage to the very first vegetarian restaurant I ever stepped foot in which is now, sadly, closed. Food for Thought was the most unconventional yet charismatic place I have ever eaten with it’s steep stairs and cramped, shared tables. It inspired me and continues to do so through it’s cookbooks which are now, too, out of business.
It’s fairly easy to eat vegan in Europe these days, just as it is in the UK or the US. In places like Italy, you’ll be spoilt for choice with tomato based pastas, cheese free pizzas and vegetable antipasti. Just look out for the usual suspect, egg, in fresh pasta. If you find a pizza base in Italy that has any animal products then I’d question the origins of the restaurant. True Italian pizza should be flour, yeast, water, salt and sometimes olive oil and that’s it.
Most of Europe, like the rest of the world, has become more vegan friendly with vegetarian eateries in major towns and cities, well stocked supermarkets and customisable meals.
House of Wonders, Cascais, Portugal
This place is true to it’s name. A beautiful setting and a beautiful mezze style buffet. There is fresh juice of the day and vegan desserts to choose from. Much for vegans to choose from but there are a few dishes with dairy and honey so do ask what is suitable. There were many local vegans in the restaurant and the food was divine.
Cafe Do Rio, Lisbon, Portugal
Burgers without the bun? Yes it’s a thing and it’s a really good thing! This was an accidental find, one hungry evening in Lisbon and a find that I will return to again and again. There are two marked vegan burger options and plenty of delicious sides. I promise once your burger tower arrives, you will not miss the bun! The cocktails are pretty good too!
Sabor Superior, Algés, Portugal
This is another one of those little gems in the most unexpected place. Algés is a small town situated on the outskirts of Lisbon. It is small and traditional and as far from touristy as it can get. My Nan has an apartment here and my dad lived there for a short while this year before moving to the Silver Coast, so I have spent much time here and have very vivid childhood memories of struggling to eat even as a vegetarian let alone vegan in a very seafood oriented culture. A place where you will be offered salted cod or chicken on telling the waiter that you are vegetarian. And yet, fast forward to 2016 and there is a fully vegan restaurant in a quiet, residential street. Amazing. It is a small cafe with freshly prepared meals based on a daily menu. You can enjoy sweet or savoury pastries and wonderful fresh juices and smoothies along with traditional Portuguese influenced main meals.
Even if you randomly woke up in Sierra Leone knowing not a thing about the local food, vegan or otherwise, you would survive really quite easily there. You can pick fresh mangoes straight off the tree if you are lucky enough to come across one, like no mango you have ever tasted before. The only downside is that no other mango will do when you return home. You simply bite into it, scrape the flesh from the skin with your teeth and (as gracefully as possible!) spit out the skin.
Everywhere you go, you will see kayaye or street sellers, carrying large pans of bags of salted plantain chips on their heads. These are like crisps or potato chips to Americans, only made of slightly sweet plantain and generously salted. They are truly delicious and you can literally pick them up anywhere, even out of the car window in a traffic jam.
In Ghana especially, you will find ‘groundnuts’ or peanuts, freshly roasted, being carried for sale on the streets, especially in the cities and towns. There are many street vendors selling bread and fresh produce, especially in the many large markets across Africa. Many traditional foods could well be vegan, just look out for obvious meat or fish and ask which stock is used. Pepper soup, Cassava bread, Jollof rice, Garri and Fufu are all usually vegan in their basic form (stock dependent) and often served with a meat or fish dish on the side, so make sure you ask for it without this. Rice is everywhere in Africa, and again, check if it is cooked with animal stock. Also look out for sweet potatoes. Many hotels and tourist restaurants serve imported things like pasta and baked beans. It is much easier to describe yourself as having allergies, as unfortunately vegetarian and veganism is not very widely understood in Africa, though definitely on the rise.
The US is beaming with vegan eats. I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks exploring a few states and cities with some of my wonderful US based vegan friends and ate extremely well! Check out my post here for details on many great places to eat in Utah and California.
Where are your favourite places to eat, anywhere in the world?
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