It’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny the fact that, much as the joys of a hearty steak are many and varied, a move towards a more plant-based way of eating should be for the whole year, not just for Veganuary. Luckily for long-term herbivores and seasoned carnivores alike, London has so many genuinely innovative and truly delicious vegan eateries these days, you’ll be spoilt for choice. So put down the pork chop and head to one of these flora-flaunting foodie faves: trust us, you’ll be drooling so hard you won’t miss a thing.
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Mildreds has long been the OG of London’s plant-based scene, and so it makes sense that, with a whole host of challengers to their throne cropping up, the team behind the chain has launched a newer, swisher venture: Mallow. Working with local producers and emphasising exciting, palette-awakening global flavours, their plates (big and small) range from truffle-spiked porcini croquettes to a market thali, where rich dhals and piquant pickles jostle for attention. The menu reads like a mouthwatering cross-continental flavour tour, through creamy tahini, citrusy habanero slaws and zingy kimchis. The only question is where to stop off.
1 Cathedral Street, SE1 9DE
The Spread Eagle
London’s first 100% vegan pub (yes, that means all of the booze – including a dangerously appetising cocktail list – too), The Spread Eagle’s wares are far more elevated than your traditional fare. Sure, they do burgers, but branch out into the other corners of their small-but-perfectly-formed menu and you’ll find the real treats: a watercress soup so green it looks like it must have been plucked from the ground mere seconds before reaching the bowl, say; or an unctuous pile of braised butterbeans topped with mellow fennel and a zingy green sauce. Get lots and share – because anything can be tapas if you want it to be, right?
224 Homerton High Street, E9 6AS
Go for their famous wontons – pillowy dumplings filled with an umami mix of vegetable and tofu, bathed in lashings of tingly but drinkable chilli oil – and then stay for basically everything else at this highly-acclaimed Chinese spot in Islington. Though it’s literally got it in its name, tofu makes up only a fraction of the menu here (although the ‘clean slate’ quality of beancurd makes it the perfect vehicle for the sweet, sour, garlicky flavours on offer). Elsewhere, mushrooms are turned into stars, wrapped in sticky Gong Bao sauce, while their line in fake ‘meats’ is impressive - shut your eyes and tell us the cumin-spiced ‘lamb’ is any less delicious than the real thing.
105 Upper Street, N1 1QN
A vegan deli, cheesemonger and natural winery, Peckham’s The Odds should be your one stop shop for a summertime posh picnic. They’ve got rosemary ‘butters’ and tonka bean jams; faux fromages infused with everything from sumac to truffle and black ash. Want to get boozy? Pick up a Pocket Negroni or an adult, spirit-filled ice pop. Want something sweet? There’s a whole range of dairy-shunning pastries here to boot. Or, if you just want to sit in and chow down on a range of fancy sarnies and nourishing bowls, they’ve got you covered too. Get yourself an eatery that can do both.
28 Choumert Road, SE15 4SE
Starting off in Brighton as the UK’s first vegan pizzeria, Purezza now has branches up and down the country (including an outpost in Camden) and it’s easy to see how they’ve been able to make the leap. Perfecting the much-maligned art of vegan cheese, their plant-based mozzarella is oozy, melting and delicious – the three things that many lesser folk have failed to achieve. Top all that with various combos of 'nduja (faux, of course), roasted veg and more, and you’ve got a multi-award-winning pizzeria that’ll have you ripping up the Domino's menu in no time.
45-47 Parkway, NW1 7PN
Plant-based and almost entirely gluten-free, Hampstead's Kojo is the sort of place you go to when you want to feel positively smug about your life choices. Breakfast options come loaded with nut butters, cacao nibs and other ingredients that would feel at home in a Deliciously Ella book, while their evening menu spans cuisines: a comforting, mushroom-y miso ramen here, a crispy serving of ‘krab’ cakes there – cleverly engineered from heart of palm and served with a vegan take on tartare sauce. If you’re feeling slightly less virtuous, order the dessert platter: a smorgasbord of chocolate bites, matcha mousses, almond ‘sand’ and more that’ll feed the whole table.
32-34 Rosslyn Hill, NW3 1NH
Rudy's Dirty Vegan Diner
So committed are the folks at Rudy’s to the art of lip-smacking meat substitutes that they’ve created the world’s first vegan butcher – an Islington outpost boasting everything from black pudding to pastrami, all sans flesh. It’s an attitude that rolls into their sit-in space too, where you can indulge in ribs and hot dogs, wings and a burger called, intimidatingly, The Ridiculous, with seitan, soya and jackfruit doing the bulk of the legwork. It’s dirty in the sense that you’ll probably want to make your next meal a nice green salad, but conscience-wise, Rudy’s is clean as a whistle.
729-731, Camden Stables Market, NW1 8AH
With a sit-down space in London Fields that prioritises vegetables and classics, and an express kitchen in Shoreditch’s Boxpark that tends towards meat replacements and more out-of-the-box ideas (their take on prawn toast is a must-have), you’ll need to pay Mao Chow two visits to really get to grips with their modern Chinese menu. Tangy, vinegary smacked cucumbers and super spicy, palette-searing cauliflower will keep you coming back to the former, while the latter boasts fusion ‘beef’ jerky fried rice and fluffy, cloudlike char siu buns. Heaven.
159A Mare Street, E8 3RH
2-10 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GY
Dalston’s Andu Cafe might not be the fanciest establishment on this list, but what it lacks in Instagram glam, it makes up for in hefty, authentic Ethiopian flavour. Its menu is small and traditional – six dishes served together with either rice or injera, an Ethiopian pancake – but as is often the case, the more concise the offering, the more expert the results. Dig into their combo plate of garlicky collard greens (gomen), spiced zesty lentils (misir wot), turmeric-infused split peas (ater kik) and more, and emerge satisfied – with change from a tenner to boot.
528 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH
OK, so Bubala isn’t wholly plant-based; based around a set ‘Bubala Knows Best’ small-plates tasting menu, you can pick from either a vegetarian or vegan option. But before you go calling the plant police, bear with us: if you can shut your eyes to the odd bit of halloumi kicking around the table next door, their vegan picks truly are the stars of the show. Here, carrots are treated with the love and care normally afforded to the finest cuts of wagyu beef; Middle Eastern dips are elevated to the realms of the gods; and sweet and smoky flavour profiles duet like Torvill and Dean at the ‘84 Olympics. So yeah, just rip up the vegetarian section of the menu; you won’t miss it anyway.
65 Commercial Street, E1 6BD