This bijou Middle Eastern restaurant has only been up and running a few months, but the bright, airy and plant-filled space has already established itself as an unpretentious east London favourite for vegans. It’s the sort of food that’s so brimming with exciting flavours and textures that you’d be hard pushed to miss meat. Chef Helen Graham’s credentials include stints at popular Middle Eastern restaurants in Soho such as the Good Egg and the Palomar, and this shows in the dishes – from the pumpkin tirshy dip with preserved lemons (£6.80), to the silky fried aubergine with date syrup (£7). The menu is 80% plant-based and there’s a vegan set menu of 11 dishes for £30.
• 65 Commercial Street E1, bubala.co.uk
Tibits, Bankside and Regent Street
There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about Tibits – you won’t find hip takes on street food or yet another version of mac’n’cheese, just wholesome dishes that celebrate vegetables. The menu is 80% vegan at all times and totally plant-based every Tuesday. Both branches feature a “food boat”, essentially a large buffet with an extensive range of hot and cold dishes. Food is priced by weight and tallied up at the counter (£1.90 per 100g at breakfast, £2.50 at lunch, £2.80 at dinner, takeaway slightly cheaper), which can be a tad embarrassing when you’ve been tempted by a little spoon of everything. Look out for the unusual – and moreish – dried green bean and walnut salad.
• 12-14 Heddon Street, off Regent Street W1; and 124 Southwark Street SE1, tibits.co.uk
Black Cat Vegan Cafe, Hackney
Black Cat prides itself on being an independent vegan cafe with heart. Everything at the venue is cruelty-free (right down to the cleaning products), it’s run cooperatively and there’s a bookshop selling cookery books and political literature – for perusing as you indulge in one of its homemade cakes. It has a laid-back, cosy feel and the regularly changing menu is delicious and well-priced – try the Caribbean Chick’n Stew with rice and fried plantains (£9.75) or the chickpea and roasted veg pancake (£8). Black Cat is also currently running a residency at Shoreditch bar Roadtrip & The Workshop, with an all-vegan “tapas without borders” menu.
• 76A Clarence Road E5, blackcatcafe.co.uk
In an act of filial rebellion, vegan brothers Alex and Oliver Santoro didn’t let the fact that their family has a 100-year history in the meat industry stop them from setting up this vegan and organic diner. Restaurants that feature a mishmash of world foods are often best avoided (can they really make a decent Som Tam salad and a poke bowl?) but make an exception for Genesis. The menu offers a breakneck world tour, from a seitan shawarma and fries (£14.95) to fried avocado tacos (two for 8.50). What boldly claims to be the only organic cocktail menu in the UK offers interesting, if not quite so healthy, accompaniments –though they do cost £10.50 each.
• 144 Commercial Street E1, eatgenesis.com
The Vurger Co, Canary Wharf and Shoreditch
This is the spot for the vegan burger of your dreams, from £8.45. A squishy bun, cheese and a choice of four patties: classic bean; auburger, made of aubergine and chickpeas; chipotle corn fritter; or the opinion-dividing Beyond Meat patty (an LA concoction so realistically meaty it makes some veggies squeamish). This is very much a fast-food restaurant rather than a place for a lengthy lunch, and the decor reflects that. It serves vegan wine and craft beers – plus indulgent biscoff or salted popcorn shakes (£4.95). Added bonus: all the packaging is compostable and no restaurant waste goes to landfill.
• Unit 9, Avant Garde Building, 6 Richmix Square, Cygnet Street E1; and Unit 1, The Wharf Kitchen, Jubilee Place Lower Mall 2, E14, thevurgerco.com
The Gate, Marylebone, St John’s Wood, Islington and Hammersmith
Tasty enough to seduce even the most hardened of carnivores, The Gate was feeding vegans long before it was trendy, and counts the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow as fans. It serves modern Indo-Iraqi Jewish-inspired cuisine and a menu that is 90% plant-based. The aubergine schnitzel with cashew cheese and pesto (£16) is particularly good, as is the courgette flower filled with ricotta (£9.50). For Veganuary, celebrity chef Ken Hom, has developed a special vegan menu for the Gate. Look out also for regular vegan supper clubs at the Marylebone branch, featuring five courses and wine pairing for a reasonable £49.50. All the wines are vegan, and many are natural and organic.
Cafe Van Gogh, Oval
Set in a beautiful building in the grounds of an old church, this all-vegan cafe uses locally foraged and community-grown veg, and aims to produce zero waste. It also serves exceptionally good, hearty food: a knockout Sunday roast (£14) can be followed by a cashew chocolate fondue pot with mango curd (£5). The Van Gogh theme extends to the starry night painted on the ceiling. Owner Steve Clarke runs the cafe as a not-for-profit social enterprise, employing local people with learning difficulties or mental health problems, and running “cooking on a budget” classes for low-income families.
• 88 Brixton Road SW9, cafevangogh.co.uk
Amrutha Lounge, Earlsfield
Despite having been open less than two years, Amrutha Lounge managed to top Tripadvisor’s list as London’s favourite restaurant last Veganuary. It has since dipped to number four on a list of over 19,000 restaurants – still an impressive ranking for an independently run, BYOB, 11-table restaurant. Former Clapham schoolfriends Arvin Suntaramoophy and Shyam Kotecha drew on their Sri Lankan heritage to create a menu of “vegan soul food”, from crisp mushroom and broccoli pakoras (£4), to a no-bake mocha cheesecake (£5). They operate a fair price policy, where people can pay what they think their dish was worth. And under its “no man goes hungry” scheme, customers can volunteer their time in exchange for a meal.
• 326 Garratt Lane SW18, amrutha.co.uk
Kin Cafe, Fitzrovia
Kin Cafe is the ultimate central London vegan brunch spot, cooked up by charmingly named father-and-son team Peter and Charlie Meadows. The interior is clean and bright with a Scandinavian feel and a bar topped with big bowls of colourful salads. Although predominantly a vegetarian cafe, there’s always a strong plant-only offering on the frequently changing menu. Look out for sweet potato and kale hash with smashed avo and tofu (£9) and banana and almond butter pancakes with fruit compote (£7). There’s also an extensive range of cakes, many gluten-free as well as vegan. Note: Kin is currently a daytime and weekday-only venue, opening bright and early, but closing by 5.30pm most days.
• 22 Foley Street W1, kincafe.co.uk
Jai Krishna, Stroud Green
Most London vegans will have dined at the famous Rasa curry house in Stoke Newington, whose deliciously pink and frilly interior could almost be part of a Wes Anderson film set. Jai Krishna’s decor is a little drab by comparison, but the curry is arguably even tastier and the prices are low by London standards. Non-vegan dishes are clearly marked and there is plenty to choose from. One of the best- value options is the thali (£7.50), with mixed vegetable curry, tarka dal, chickpea curry, rice, poppadom, a choice of chapatis or poori and mango chutney. It’s also BYOB (corkage free).
• 161 Stroud Green Road N4, on Facebook
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