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London's best restaurants for vegetarian food

A new generation of vegetarian and vegan restaurants featuring meat-free menus has left London's veggies spoilt for choice

© Jael Marschner

Limp lettuce and tasteless tofu are a distant memory for London's vegetarians. From the very best restaurants in London to London's best cheap eats, check out the creme-de-la-creme of London's veggie scene. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

Ethos

Venue says: Come and try our brand new spring menu including aubergine meatballs, pumpkin fritters, farfarelle à la crème, Cuban salad and more!

There are reasons why Ethos might make you wary. It’s near Oxford Circus, it’s vegetarian, it’s a self-serve buffet and you pay for your food by weight. (That’s the weight of the food, not your weight.) Adding to the gimmicky potential, on any given day the main menu might include more than a dozen dishes from the diverse cuisines of Japan, Southeast Asia, Italy, Korea, India, Mexico and Lebanon – and anywhere else that does brilliant vegetarian dishes – plus a few of their own creations. You can choose as few or as many as you like, building your own bespoke meal, before having your plate weighed and then paying at the counter.

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Soho

The Gate

The only thing not modern and breezy about this vegetarian restaurant (a former Victorian butcher’s) is the ornate, listed tiling on one side of the room – a unique feature that reflects the equally original menu. Food here has a Middle Eastern twist, far more ethnic than its Hammersmith sister. Pick from either the meze menu – fritters bursting with salty feta flavour; tart mushroom ceviche; featherlight artichoke tempura – or the carte, which refreshingly avoids using meat substitutes...

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Clerkenwell

Itadaki Zen

Japanese, vegan, and organic? No wonder Itadaki Zen is the first of its kind in Europe. But despite operating from a narrow pool of ingredients, the predominately noodle/tofu/seaweed menu impresses with its range of tastes and textures. Grilled spring rolls with soft mashed tofu filling were a welcome change to the usual greasy, stringy sort, while the ‘kakiage’ tempura for main had the same salty, crisp, golden, gorgeous smack as chips on Brighton pier, and came with fluffy rice.

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Clerkenwell

Kin

This small vegetarian café, opened in summer 2014, has plenty to recommend it: a bright, pleasant space with skylight at the back, a display counter at the front bearing the photogenic food offerings of the day, friendly and attentive staff. And the promise is partly made good by the food itself, which majors on salads, sandwiches and baked goods both savoury and sweet. 

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Fitzrovia

Manna

Critics' choice

Even on weekday nights this relaxed yet rather formal restaurant has several tables reserved by off-duty Primrose Hill: friends catching up, yoga bunnies sharing boyfriend woes, romantic dates and birthday get-togethers. Few customers are confirmed vegetarians, which is tribute to the quality and heartiness of the cooking...

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Chalk Farm

Mildreds

Critics' choice

Only Lady Luck can get a table at Mildreds during peak hours, so if, like the rest of Soho, you want dinner at London’s coolest vegetarian restaurant, be prepared to wait – you can’t book. It’s more the style of the place that attracts the crowds than its food; laid-back (but quick and friendly) waiters sport funky hairdos and tattoos, and noisy diners sit elbow-to-elbow on squishy banquettes.

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Soho

Orchard

Orchard is a spin-off from Vanilla Black, the accomplished and upmarket vegetarian restaurant near Chancery Lane. Orchard’s more casual, cheaper, more everyday, and the food’s less show-off than its big sister. The interior’s been decorated in a homely style, from the mismatched crockery to the vintage recipe cards pinned to the walls. Big wicker baskets of vegetables used as the window display, evoking a small town café on market day.

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Midtown

Rasa

Critics' choice

The original branch of the Rasa chain is still going strong, serving the vegetarian dishes from Kerala with which it broke the anglicised curry-house mould in 1997. Get stuck into the unusual dishes, such as the wonderful moru kachiathu – a turmeric-infused, sweet-sour runny yoghurt dish made with mango and green banana – or a simple rasa kayi: mixed veg in a full-flavoured gravy.

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Stamford Hill

Sagar

Critics' choice

Popular with students and aficionados of South Indian vegetarian cuisine, Sagar has gained renown for its keenly priced homely cooking – so much so that the owners now have four outposts across London. Unlike many cafés on King Street, this, the original branch, is an attractive, upmarket-looking place, furnished with blond wood fittings and a restrained display of Indian artefacts.

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Hammersmith

Sakonis

The array of South Indian and Gujarati vegetarian dishes is admirable. Top choices include tangy kadhi gravy tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves, nutty khichadi, a luxuriant sag paneer, thick dahl mixed with vegetables, a potato and bean curry, and zesty sambar. Plentiful chutneys (try the coriander version) and salads add to the mix, and puddings such as thick shrikhand or fruity mango ras conclude the feast. 

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Wembley

Tibits

For the Mayfair location, prices aren’t bad, though the large choice of dishes can make it easy to overload your plate. Thirty-odd salads and hot dishes span the globe in their influences, and could include flavoursome coconut and tofu curry, good, crisp samosas, creamy gratins and pasta bakes made with organic eggs and cheese. Salads were fresh and embraced a varied array of produce from celeriac to chickpeas.

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Soho

Vanilla Black

Critics' choice

Vanilla Black staked out a niche in meatless haute cuisine in 2008 and hasn’t wavered since, in standards or appeal. Diners come to this sophisticated space for business meetings, smart lunches and memorable dinners. Adornments are limited to streamlined...

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Chancery Lane

222 Veggie Vegan

Don’t be misguided by the name – everything at this North End Road eaterie is 100% vegan, and even raw foodists are welcome. For mains, a tropical mix of raw pumpkin and courgette noodles with fresh coconut and zingy lime sauce soon won us over, especially when coupled with such smiley service. It’s hard to escape pungent dairy substitutes for pudding; the chocolate gateau was too far removed from the gooey loveliness non-vegans are used to.

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West Kensington

Wild Cherry

What sort of place is Wild Cherry? Well, it’s run by members of the London Buddhist Centre, and has a noticeboard full of adverts for rooms to let in non-smoking flats. The tranquil garden is the prime summer spot. All-day breakfasts are popular on Saturdays (expect to wait for a table). For our weekday meal, fluffy quiche came full of chunky courgette and yellow peppers, lifted by light pastry around the edges. Salads included couscous, bright leafy greens, and a delicious shredded carrot, parsley and orange mix full of crunchy seeds and celery: sunshine on a plate.

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Wild Food Café

Wild Food Café occupies the premises of the former World Food Café, perched above Neal’s Yard – and it looks little different. It’s fun sitting at the high counter around the open kitchen, watching the chefs at work. Techniques such as sprouting, blending and dehydration are used in the modern raw food kitchen and are slightly reminiscent of a Heston Blumenthal-style approach. The menu boasts an impressive selection of raw-centric dishes.

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Covent Garden
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Comments

12 comments
Ian H
Ian H

New generation?! Wild cherry closed down about five years ago! Some research might be nice next time?


There is a new restaurant in its place now, called The Larder.

Tara M
Tara M

Gujurati Rasoi in Dalston is excellent - fresh, tasty, homely veggie Indian cuisine in a light, airy, kitcheny environment. It's a hidden gem, open Wed-Sat evenings.

Charly L
Charly L moderator Staff Writer

Unfortunately I'd rate Ethos as one of the worst meals I've had in London ... great concept, atmosphere and location, but it was like a cheap party buffet, and the desserts tasted like saw dust :( 

Megan W
Megan W

Food for Thought, obviously. And Riverside Vegetaria in Kingston.

Zoe M
Zoe M

" whole meal"- vegetarian cafe in Streatham! yum yum yum 


its an local legend- having been run since the 70s. my parents took me there when i was little and i still visit now! 

Ami L
Ami L

EZ and Moss on Holloway road does a lovely veggie/vegan brunch

Roman Thomas
Roman Thomas

What about The Karma Free Pizza Co in Harrow?...came in the top 3 of veggie restaurants..actually voted by Londoners..Riviera came 1st and Mildreds came 2nd... The Karma Free 3rd,and are only a year old..but their vegetarian,vegan and gluten free pizzas are mastered to perfection!

the Benj
the Benj

What about A Taste of Heaven in Tulse Hill?! www.atohrestaurant.co.uk It is new vegetarian and vegan restaurant. Fantastic food and lovely staff it's worth a visit

KPI
KPI

MUST try : Chennai Dosa (veg) in East Ham. Unlimited Buffet Breakfast for 5 quids. Chini Chor for the BEST ever Punjabi Veg food in Hounslow West.

Anthony
Anthony

I can recommend Saravanaa Bhavan - an Indian vegetarian restaurant in East Ham. (I think there are also other branches around London.) It's not the plushest of eateries by any means, but what it lacks in décor, it more than makes up for in very tasty and authentic food. It's best to order a number of dishes and share them amongst your party - sort of like an Indian tapas. Make sure you include the Gobi 65 - tandoori-covered cauliflower - which is delicious. http://www.saravanabhavan.co.uk