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 Michelin-recommended to cheap and cheerful, 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.

Beatroot

For a fast wholesome lunch, try this long-time favourite tucked next to the veg stalls of Berwick Street Market. Cartons come in three sizes, to be filled with a mix of tasty, freshly made salads and hot dishes (ten of each), on display behind a glass counter. Stalwarts include creamy coconutty dahl, lentil and mushroom shepherd’s pie, organic rice salad with tamari soy sauce and seaweed, mini ‘sausage’ rolls or simple blanched broccoli – it’s surprising how much you can cram in.

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Soho

Ethos

Venue says: Ethos is a self-service restaurant moments from Oxford Circus, specialising in satisfying, deliciously different dishes. Come in for our signature aloo Scotch egg with spiced tomato ketchup, our finger-lickingly good BBQ seitan ribs, our vibrant healthy salads and of course our indulgent cake pops and other sweet treats! We are open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, drinks and dinner as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Ethos is moments from Oxford Circus but our silver birch tree-filled interior will have you feeling like you're miles away. Catering available upon request, and we also take orders for our famous cake pops!

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

Food for Thought

Celebrating its 40th birthday in 2014, Food for Thought is a phenomenon – still occupying the same cramped Neal Street premises, still serving an array of nourishing, flavourful grub at low prices, still packed out every lunchtime. The pine furniture...

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Covent Garden

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

Comments

6 comments
Hils J
Hils J

Can't believe that Tibits in Heddon Place is again not included on your list of best vegetarian places to eat in London.


But maybe it is intentionally Londoner's best kept vegetarian/vegan secret - indeed it is often pretty busy despite being tucked away, just off Regent Street. 

In good weather the large outdoor seating is a joy as the area is pedestrianised so no traffic fumes .... sunny in late morning/early afternoon (earlier/later in high summer). 

Your 2012 review described the food as unappetising which isn't the experience of ours or friends or numerous people (including fishing/shooting types) we have taken there.  Indeed it has won awards. 

So though you should re-review it, perhaps keeping it a best-kept-secret is best.  

http://www.tibits.ch/en/home.html

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!

Hazel Krause-Gayle
Hazel Krause-Gayle

I second the Tibits comment, by far my favorite restaurant in London, so good we had it for our wedding buffet which was loved by all our guests!

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