Vegan foods in the UK are still somewhat in the dark ages in terms of choice, which is surprising considering the very word ‘vegan’ was coined in Britain. But London is improving all the time. One thing we do have is plenty of Indian restaurants, many of which are vegetarian so it’s often possible to find vegan options there. Here is a list of London’s best vegan restaurants. I’ve visited most of them and where I haven’t, I’ve taken a straw poll from my vegan mates.
Black Cat Cafe got new owners at the beginning of this year. Before, with their constantly changing rota of chefs, the food could be hit and miss. My visit last week showed that their food is vibrant, well proportioned and good to look at, from dirty vegan burgers with sweet potato chips to fantastic soy milkshakes, good curries and cakes. You can also buy a selection of vegan ingredients. The anarchist political atmosphere of yore seems to have subsided, and there’s been a simultaneous boost in professionalism.
Black Cat Cafe, 76 Clarence Road, Hackney, E5 8HB
Carnevale is an economically priced vegetarian Mediterranean (Italian/Sicilian/Middle Eastern) restaurant with quite a few vegan options.
Carnevale, 135 Whitecross Street, EC1Y 8JL
Rasa has two shocking pink branches, across the road from each other in Stoke Newington. One, Rasa Travancore, is ‘normal’; the other is vegetarian/vegan. The prices at this Keralan/South Indian restaurant are low and the food excellent.
Rasa, 55 Stoke Newington High Street N16 OAR
Cook Daily: vegans love this fast food place at the trendy Boxpark (a series of shipping containers) near Brick Lane.
Cook Daily, Unit 55, Box Park, 2-10 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GY
Inspiral Cafe were doing clean eating before Deliciously Ella and all those young ‘wellness’ bloggers started up. Great salads, raw foods, smoothies, cakes and chocolate truffles. It’s completely vegan, mostly raw and the majority is gluten-free. There’s music and events in the evenings too. Inspiral sells ‘high vibration’ foods: for instance, raw fermented sauerkrauts from Cultured Probiotics. A couple of years ago, I went to a fascinating talk with Sonia, the founder of Cultured Probiotics and Sandor Ellix Katz, the king of fermentation, when she described how daily doses of sauerkraut juice and nutritionally dense foods helped her autistic children.
Inspiral Cafe, 250 Camden High Street, NW1 8QS
You’ll find the Primrose Hill set at Manna but don’t let that put you off. It was originally vegetarian but is now entirely vegan. The cooking takes inspiration from around the world and is flavoursome and well presented.
Manna, 4 Erskine Road, Primrose Hill, NW3 3AJ
Indian Veg sells seriously cheap Indian buffet food. All but one of the curries (a paneer curry served on Wednesdays and Fridays) are vegan. This place is packed after a political march in town — at these prices, even activists can afford to eat out. The food is canteen style but tasty and wholesome, especially if you time it so that a fresh batch has just been placed on the bain marie. While you eat, you can look at the posters of Indian beauty queens and Bollywood stars, or read the slogans exhorting you to a flesh free diet (‘vegetarians keep it up longer’). You can eat as much as you want here for £4.50. They also serve organic colas and Indian beers.
Indian Veg, 92-93 Chapel Street Market, Islington, N1 9EX
Itadakizen is a refined vegan Japanese restaurant in King’s Cross. I’ve enjoyed the vegan sushi, the agedashi tofu, home made kimchi, the bamboo leaf and buckwheat teas. Set meals range from £12-£29 including a special seaweed menu. Students get 10% off.
Itadakizen, 139 King’s Cross Road, WC1X 9BJ
The Gate is another high end vegan/vegetarian restaurant. The menu is international: Greek, Thai, Indian, Japanese and British seasonal cooking.
Loving Hut. There is a tradition of vegan food in Buddhism, using gluten to make mock meats such as duck, chicken, prawn and lamb. The Loving Hut does a pan-Asian influenced menu including Mock duck, ‘chicken’ satay, stir fries, Thai and Vietnamese dishes, vegan dim sum, veggie burgers for those who aren’t keen on Asian food, plus milkshakes, juices and desserts.
I must admit I have never been to Mildred’s, which must be one of the most well known vegetarian restaurants in London. They now have a cookbook out and I’ve always heard good things about the place. They do vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free dishes, all clearly marked on the menu. Like many veggie restaurants, the food is international. This is usually a bad sign in a normal restaurant but a vegan diet has restricted ingredients, therefore you have to reach out to foreign cuisines for variety.
Mildred’s, 45 Lexington Street, W1F 9AN
Vanilla Black is a very posh vegetarian restaurant with modernist plating (asymmetric, powders, droplets, shards and fragments) with a vegan menu also. I ate there a couple of years ago and while I liked the food, the vegan menu did all look a bit brown. The chef Andrew Dargue is doing refined vegan food, and it’s the sort of place you can take your parents or have a business meeting at. Classy. He also has a cookbook out.
Vanilla Black, 17-18 Tooks Court, EC4A 1LB. Read Londonist’s review from last year
Amico bio is an Italian vegan restaurant. Italian food is one of the easiest to convert to vegan so this is one to try. I’ve heard mixed reports about this place, so I must try it myself.
Govinda’s is a Hare Krishna run restaurant, therefore they claim to serve ‘karma free’ food. While the food is very good, it’s under seasoned and contains no onions, garlic or mushrooms either. Take your own salt. I always have a little tin of Maldon salt in my handbag.
Govinda’s, 10 Soho Square, W1D 3DL
Tibits is a popular vegetarian restaurant run by three Swiss guys, the Frei brothers. You fill your plate from the buffet then have it weighed. Tuesday nights is completely vegan.
Tibits, 12-14 Heddon Street, W1B 4DA
Woodlands serves Southern Indian vegetarian cuisine but also has a specific vegan menu with idli, dosa, utthapam, soups, thalis. They also do a Jain menu which is vegan food without onion or garlic (they excite the body!).
Nama Foods is an entirely vegan and raw food (no cooking above 42 degrees) menu. Lots of dishes claiming to be pasta but made out of vegetables (although I rather like courgetti).
Nama Foods, 110 Talbot Road, W11 1JR
La Suite West is a hotel restaurant with a difference; the menu is vegan and often gluten free and raw. The plating is gorgeous and the food is high end.
La Suite West, Queensway/Bayswater, 45-51 Inverness Terrace, W2 3JN
Pomodoro e Basilica is a vegan pop up run by Italian chef Sara Mittersteiner. I’ve heard great reports about this place. She also does street food at Camden from time to time.
Pomodoro e Basilica, 7 Lothrop Street, Queen’s Park, W10 4JB
222 Veggie Vegan. Here, chef Ben Asamani cooks low salt, low fat, non-GM vegan food. Lunch is a buffet and dinner is à la carte. This restaurant is highly rated by reviewers generally.
222 Veggie Vegan, 222 North End Road, West Kensington, W14 9NU
Greenz is a Caribbean and African influenced vegan restaurant in Tulse Hill which also does cooking classes and events such as a book club. Sensitive to diabetic diets.
Greenz, 5 Station Rise, Tulse Hill, SE27 9BW
Veg Bar serves a classic vegan menu using vegan cheeses, seitan, tofu. Also a late night speakeasy.
Veg Bar, 45 Upper Tulse Hill, Brixton, SW2 2TJ
Ms Cupcake. A vegan bakery in Brixton where you can buy ‘afters’.
Ms Cupcake, 408 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LF
The Waiting Room. I’ve been hearing many good things about this restaurant. Vegan drinks include micro beers, cocktails and there’s vegan food such as burgers, hot dogs, bagels and Chef Wayne’s famous vegan sausage rolls.
The Waiting Room, 142 Deptford High Street, SE8 3PQ
Have you any suggestions for our vegan list? Any unknown gems? Please let us know in the comments.