Vegan London: A personal tour of London’s Plant-Based scene
When I first decided to stop eating animal products back in 2006, I was hard pressed to find anything decent to eat in London’s restaurants.
Pure plant-based restaurants were few and far between, and mainstream restaurants’ vegan offerings were very limited. Looking back, it would have been so much easier to have just gone back to eating ‘normally’ as, though eating a plant-based diet made sense from a health and ethical perspective, it was just too difficult to sustain in mainstream Britain.
But I was determined to stick the course, driven by a belief that plant-based living was a healthier way to live, and over time my nutritional knowledge increased which drove a whole range of new eating and shopping habits that, looking back, seemed strange to others, but became very normal for me. In truth, in those early days of transition, I didn’t want to attract attention to myself, but it was hard not to, especially as at the time I was Publishing Director for Caterer & Hotelkeeper a role that meant that I got to regularly eat at London’s best restaurants, few of which had any decent vegan offerings on the menu!
Things have certainly changed since 2006 driven by the phenomenal growth in the number of people choosing a plant-based diet. According to a report on UK food shopping, 1 in 8 Britons are now vegetarian or vegan, with further 21% claiming to be flexitarian, where a largely plant-based diet is occasionally supplemented with meat.
I was back in London last month and was amazed and impressed by the huge growth of plant-based restaurants across the city that have sprung up to service the growing demand. With both my consumer and professional hats on, I embarked on a plant-based tour of London (and Brighton).
Vegans, Plant-Based Eaters and Flexitarians are spoiled for choice today. The restaurant range included vegan versions of just about everything you can think of. I had vegan sushi, vegan Italian, vegan Korean, vegan Greek, vegan Malaysian as well as vegan burgers, vegan kebabs, vegan chicken and vegan steak.
All of the UK Supermarkets are also getting in on the act I visited all of them and was impressed to see whole isles now devoted to plant-based options. Sainsbury’s seems to have the edge. I bought the Vivera vegan steaks and vegan kebabs under the Venda brand and cooked it up for my parents.
The Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are also heavily promoting their vegan menus. The vegan subway advert was literally everywhere -I didn’t try it, but I’m certainly aware it exists.
I did go to a couple of my favourite, more traditional vegan eateries: The Riverside Vegetarian in Kingston-Upon Thames and The Wilde Food Cafe in Convent Garden which is outstanding.
A huge thanks to my flexitarian friends who joined me for different legs of the tour, and to Charles Banks from The Food People and Athina Simpson from Y-Foods for your insights. Check out Athina’s vegan London map, a great resource