IT’s not easy being vegan. Even though I wouldn’t change my quote-unquote lifestyle choice, the first few months of my new-found veganism left me a. broke and b. wondering how the hell to cook quinoa and stop kale tasting like cardboard.
With an estimated 542,000 of us in the UK adopting a vegan diet (up from 150,000 in 2006, may I add), the options for vegans are endless- just not necessarily in my native rural Kent, where you’re lucky if the corner shop stocks peanut butter, let alone lentils.
Sick of living off of ready rice and falafel, I headed to the capital to check out the best (by best, I mean what my suffocating bank balance could stretch to) vegan eats:
1. Norman’s Coach and Horses, Soho
Claiming to be “London’s only vegan and vegetarian pub,” I deliberately chose to eat here for mine and my best friend’s birthday meal, after he proclaimed he wanted “pub food,” as if to spite me. What the menu lacked in terms of extensiveness was compensated by its originality- vegan fish and chips anyone?
No, me neither. Until I had to because they were all out of vegan chilli.
The “fish” consisted of tofu, wrapped in seaweed, coated in batter. I know but stay with me. I’m yet to taste tofu that actually tastes of anything, and despite their best efforts, this was no different. I did, however, appreciate the homemade ketchup and vegan tartar sauce. 10/10 for effort.
2. Cookies and Scream, Camden Market and Holloway Road
I’ve been dying to visit this hole-in-the-wall bakery since my best vegan pal sent me a snapchat of her cradling a vegan peanut butter creme pie. That’s like everything I’ve ever wanted. In a pie.
Located in the maze that is Camden market, Cookies and Scream is super hard to find but super worth it when you do (vegans do not, alas, have a sixth sense that enables them to detect vegan food, as my friend implied).
What we thought was just a random crowd of eager tourists was actually a line. A long line. Be warned, this place is popular. So popular in fact, that once I got to the front and discovered they were all out of the pie, I almost collapsed to the floor in devastation. I chose a brownie with soy based ice cream instead, which was delicious if not unremarkable, but I was totally jealous of everyone that ordered a cookie sandwich. With so many shakes and bakes to try, pre the menu in advance. And get there early.
3. Hummus Bros, Soho, Holborn, St. Pauls, Exmouth Market, Gray’s Inn Road, Eastcheap
Hummus is practically its own food group in the vegan diet, so look no further than Hummus Bros to satisfy your mushy chickpea cravings, which is, quite literally, a restaurant dedicated to hummus.
Fresh and Mediterranean inspired, expect hummus, warm pitas and falafel by the bucketload.
It doesn’t just cater to vegans either- you can cater the menu to meet the needs of all your gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, fish-free, celery-free and picky as hell friends.
4. Mildred’s, Soho, Camden, King’s Cross
If you like your vegan food served with a quirky (read ‘edgy’) atmosphere and a warm smile, Mildred’s is the place to go.
If you’re tired of watching your friend devour burgers you can’t have at Five Guys, you’ll delight in the selection of bean, tofu and lentil burgers that are far from boring.
5. Yorica, Soho
One of the first things I missed when I went vegan was not being able to drown my sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream on a Friday night (oh, just me?)
Yorica, with its all-natural range of frozen yoghurt, ice cream and shakes, satisfies your sweet tooth without the guilt.
Choose from classic strawberry to kooky gingerbread cookie and matcha flavours and then proceed to drown them in your choice of toppings.
6. Farmacy, Notting Hill
Perfect if you fancy something a little more upmarket, Faramcy promises “guilt free pleasure” with vegan and vegetarian food sourced from organic UK farms.
Meet with the gals for brunch and try the house pancakes, their signature Farmacy burger or their ‘earth bowls’- filled with goodness and ideal when trying to recover from a night on the tiles.
7. Vida Bakery, Shoreditch
If like me, cake gives you life and you’re kinda over Lola’s cupcakes, VIDA will restore your faith in vegan bakes.
These guys update their menu regularly and probably make just about every variety of cupcake under the sun. They’ll also take orders for Birthday cakes, so there’s no excuse for just giving your vegan friend a slab of tofu with a candle in it.