Friday, 14 October 2011

London’s 5 Most Exciting Vegan Restaurants

We’re talking vegan restaurants in London, and – what a relief! - all mentions of sandals, hemp, beards and ‘boring’ veg normally trotted out alongside the subject are banned. Instead, it’s straight to the good stuff with recommendations for 5 restaurants serving super-delicious cuisine that just so happens to be vegan. How exciting…

1) Lunchtime genius: 222 Veggie Vegan, Earl’s Court
With a £7.99 all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, Earl’s Court’s 222 Veggie Vegan is a bit of a legend in London vegan circles. Armed with a plate and the knowledge that refills are a-ok, tuck in to chickpea curry, carrot tofu and wild mushroom pasta to your hearts’ content. An a la carte menu is available in the evenings (the creamy seitan stroganoff is a favourite), complete with dessert section including vanilla ice-cream wrapped in a wholemeal pancake and topped with hot choc vanilla sauce – who said vegan had to mean virtuous? The dining room itself is a clean white space with scrubbed pine tables and a friendly, café atmosphere. Elbow in among the regulars and you’ll find a steady stream of newbies also here to check out what all the fuss is about.

2) Trendy trappings: Saf, Shoreditch
Slick, stylish and shiny; that’s Saf. Blonde wood and a perch-up bar give the restaurant a dynamic-yet-polished feel, a theme continued in a menu packed with botanical cocktails, vegan wines and raw food (nothing is cooked at a temperature exceeding 48 °C). If you’re making a night of it, start with a Thyme Time cocktail with fresh thyme, vegan Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, celery sticks and orange zest, or get stuck in to a vegan Freedom Brothers’ organic lager. Appetites are satiated with a globe-trotting mix of tasty treats: three-course lunch, dinner and Sunday menus let you try everything from southeast Asian laksa with organic tofu to a spicy Moroccan veg tagine.

3) South Indian specials: Sagar, Fitzrovia
It’s impossible to be left wanting at Sagar in foodie-haven Fitzrovia. Serving up piles of delicious south Indian vegan fare (alongside vegetarian and wheat-free options), Sagar delivers on diversity as well as taste: you can visit once a week for lunch or dinner for months without trying the same starters and main combo twice. A vegan thali is hot stuff, while rice and lentil pizzas (uthappams) topped with coconut, tomato or onion are a fab option you mightn’t have tried before. Best of all is the lunchtime deal, with two curries, salad and a freshly-baked naan on offer for £2.95: unbeatable value in this part of town. Book a table using this form.

4) Cosy treats: The Gallery Café, Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green locals tend to use the Gallery Café as more than just a place to grab a bite to eat. You’re just as likely to park on a sofa with a laptop, hold work meetings across chequered table tops, listen to the strum of live bands or come for a knitting workshop as you are to order from the vegan/veggie menu chalked up behind the till. Daily pastas, curry and soup specials are fresh and seasonal, and a roster of tried-and-tested favourites like tofu stir-frys, falafel wraps and home-made burgers keep lunchtime growls away. Looking for dessert? Try the super-light vegan mango cake for a sweet pick-me-up.5) Japanese zen: Itadaki Zen, King’s Cross
Sushi and fish go together like birds of a feather, right? Itadaki Zen in King’s Cross does a good job of convincing you otherwise with its all-vegan, mostly-organic Japanese menu, including a fine veg-and-seaweed sushi selection as well as soups, rice, noodle dishes and salads. Those in need of a shot of vitamins can select from a ‘healing menu’ stuffed with health-giving seaweed wraps and seasonal veg dumplings. Ingredients are sourced from farms following sustainable agricultural practises, and local artists’ work is exhibited on the walls for free. Book a table using this form.

Isabel Clift is a London-based travel blogger for AnyTrip who loves finding new places to eat in the city. If you fancy visiting London, check out some cheap London hotels.

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