December 2018: We've added Wildflower, a stylish veggie and vegan canteen at Peckham Levels – once a multi-storey car park, now a multifunctional cultural space. Several existing venues have also sprouted young siblings: Tibits (part of a Swiss veggie and vegan chain) has an offshoot in Southwark, while a branch of Covent Garden’s Wild Food Café recently arrived in Islington.
Limp lettuce? Tasteless tofu? Fear not, the bad old days of London’s vegetarian restaurant scene are over. Instead, the city’s best restaurants, street food stalls and cheap eats are eager to create something classy and a bit different for those wanting to feast without flesh.
Even better, London’s veggies can plunder just about every cuisine and culture in search of meat-free thrills: there are sunny Aussie riffs, healthy Med-influenced ideas and a whole host of exotica from India, Japan, Vietnam and elsewhere. Veggies also love their salads and there’s no shortage of amazing global ingredients to bump up that famous ‘five a day’.
Hell, the whole scene might even convert a dedicated carnivore or two. Look below for our round-up of the crème de la crème of London’s veggie scene.
Got you in the mood for something even greener? Check out our roundup of the best vegan options in town.
Get 50 percent off at nine of the best vegan-friendly restaurants in London
The best vegetarian restaurants in London
As you’d expect from the name, everything at 222 is 100 percent vegan. It’s also deliberately low in fat and salt. So if your fancy turns to almond cheese, kale and tomato salad with tahini dressing, seitan medallions with parsnip mash or banana cake with coconut whipped cream, this is just the place to get it. The lunchtime buffet’s a bargain, too.
A Scandi-chic veggie café serving a creative global menu and Climpson’s coffee in serene surroundings, Bühler + Co is primarily a brunch spot, serving gingerbread French toast, bulgur cakes, meatless fry-ups. There are specials and a lunchtime counter too, plus more ambitious small plates for supper (Thurs-Sat) – think purple potatoes with dukkah and Penang sauce. A slice of the good life in Walthamstow.
A self-service veggie buffet that comes up with the goods from breakfast to lights out, Ethos scours the globe for culinary inspiration. Start the day with a gluten-free egg and spinach protein pot plus a turmeric latte, lunch on Japanese miso-glazed aubergine, seitan sausage casserole or salads exceeding your five-a-day quota, and finish with some raw coconut hearts. You pay for your food by weight.
Owned by well-connected glamour-puss Camilla Al-Fayed (of Harrods fame), Farmacv sells ‘clean indulgence’ to an eager audience of moneyed Notting Hillbillies and aspirational hedge-fund wives. It’s a happy, joyful, ‘free-from’ kind of place (no dairy, no sugars, no additives), with plant-based treats ranging from ‘clean curries’ to macro ‘earth bowls’. Even the most virtuous dishes taste luxurious, especially when eaten in such chic surroundings.
If the very idea of ‘healthy eating in Notting Hill’ fills you with dread, fear not: this cute café from Aussie-born ‘farm girl’ Rose Mann is a little ripper. Colourful interiors and non-stop sunny service are matched by a menu that promises everything from acai bowls to superfood salads and BBQ jackfruit tacos. Veggies can happily bypass the odd piece of chicken. Branches also in Chelsea and Soho.
Located opposite Sadler’s Wells, this branch of veggie innovator The Gate puts on a breezy modern face with pendant lights, bare black tables and bare wooden floors. Share a meze platter (salty feta fritters, mushroom ceviche, featherlight artichoke tempura) or plunder the global carte for aubergine schnitzel, raw pad Thai or wild mushroom risotto cake. Outlets also in Marylebone and Hammersmith.
The Hemsley sisters are spiraliser-wielding rock stars on the ‘clean eating’ stage, and their first café – a chic, sleek vision in brushed gold, blonde wood and herb-green upholstery – is resolutely on-trend. It’s also a snug fit for Selfridges Body Studio. Buy into the H&H brand via organic gluten-free dishes without refined sugars or hydrogenated fats, and raise a cheer for their health-conscious vegan cooking.
Café by day, wine bar by night, ‘east London’s answer to delicious wellbeing’ champions holistic dining, ‘natural’ tipples and organic ideology without over-egging the eco issues. Apart from the odd slice of smoked salmon, the menu’s largely vegetarian and vegan, so expect superfood combos and tempeh sandwiches alongside rice and tofu tortillas, halloumi wraps, quinoa-based salads and raw cashew brownies.
Attached to the Hornbeam Centre (a thriving community hub), this cheery café keeps it local by buying most of its ingredients from the OrganicLea box scheme and growers in the area. Cakes and snacks feed the daytime crowd, while veggie/vegan lunches bring everything from tofu and chickpea patties to chard and potato pie. Also check out the ‘Spice Box’ curry-house suppers.
A popular Indian vegetarian spot on Islington’s Chapel Market, serving an all-you-can-eat buffet in karmic (some might say preachy) surrounds. Since the buffet’s the only option, vegans should tread carefully, although everything ticks the veggie boxes – think vegetable curries, dhals, colourful salads and feather-light parathas. A stalwart for cheap dates, early-evening carb-loading and bargain lunches (cash only).
Japanese, vegan… and organic? What’s not to love – and, rest assured, we do love this cool little miracle near King’s Cross station. Only the slurping of noodles disturbs the zen-like tranquillity, as punters dip into a virtuously healthy menu that homes in on a few key ingredients (expects lots of tofu and seaweed). Laid-back staff go with the flow, which helps to make Itadaki even more lovable.
With its offer of pleasantly retro veggie/vegan cooking served in quiet, soothing surrounds on Foley Street, Kin certainly has plenty to recommend it. Come here for pick-me-up breakfasts, coffee and cake in the afternoon or working lunches on the go – think salads, sandwiches, stews, quiches and veggie burgers (Friday only). Service comes with a smile – it’s all very safe and sound.
A slice of California in the City, Malibu Kitchen promotes guilt-free ‘clean eating’ within the swanky surrounds of The Ned hotel. The menu favours veggie and vegan over meat and fish, although there’s something for everyone – think vegetable and mango rolls with spicy nuts, poké bowls and zesty colourful salads. Wash it all down with some lip-smacking green juice for that full-on LA trip.
It's 1967. Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Ravi Shankar are spreading love, peace and good vibrations at Monterey; meanwhile, a modest vegetarian restaurant is taking its first steps in Primrose Hill, England. More than 50 years on, Manna is now a full-on vegan champion, with a host of plant-based goodies on its bountiful menu: check out the lettuce-leaf tacos, the harvest salads, the organic pasta and the rainbow panzanella.
Forget leaden ‘brown’ food and stone-age bread, Mildred’s is all about creative meat-free cookery – an idea it’s been peddling in Soho since 1988. Gyoza, black-bean burgers and Sri Lankan sweet potato curry get the juices flowing, with takeaways at the salad bar adding some extra healthy thrills. You won’t mind queueing for good stuff like this. Branches also in Camden, King’s Cross and Dalston.
Equally famous for the long-gone Norman Balon (‘London’s rudest landlord’) and for Jeffrey Bernard’s booze-fuelled utterances, the Coach & Horses is now a mellow mix of old-time values and progressive ideas – witness the vegetarian/vegan restaurant that now occupies the upstairs room. Where else could you chomp on seaweed-wrapped tofu and chips or celeriac and chestnut sausages to the strains of a pub sing-along?
Plants, plants everywhere… tumbling from the ceiling, sprouting from pots, lurking in corners. If that’s not enough, the menu at Hackney’s most ‘colourful’ café (we don’t mean that as a euphemism) is loaded with plant-based possibilities (‘free-from’ options always available). Expect anything from avocado on toast topped with vegan bacon to spinach dhal, plus a host of cakes, cashew-milk mochas and colourfully jazzed-up coffees.
With its distinctive pink livery and dedication to Keralan vegetarian cooking, the original Stokey branch of Rasa broke the anglicised curry-house mould in 1997 – and it’s still going strong. Get stuck into a chilli and onion rava dosa, the beetroot and spinach achadi or the wonderful moru kachiathu (a turmeric-infused, sweet-sour yoghurt-based dish involving mango and green banana). Outstanding value.
Popular with students and aficionados of South Indian vegetarian cuisine, Sagar has gained renown for its keenly priced, homely cooking, with four outlets now running across the capital. The King Street original is an attractive, smart-looking venue serving a please-all regional menu spanning everything from steamed idli dumplings and bhel puris to dosas galore, uthappams (lentil ‘pizzas’) and assorted veggie curries.
An Ealing Road landmark, this huge canteen-style outfit is a real hit with local Asian vegetarians – and other streetwise punters. Gujarati and South Indian dishes abound, but top choices include vegan pani puris, masala dosas, punchy chilli paneer, Indo-Chinese hakka noodles and zesty sambar. There are loads of chutneys and salads too, while desserts such as creamy shrikhand finish things off nicely.
Proudly located within Persepolis – Peckham’s Persian delicatessen – this colourful, crowded and charmingly bonkers café is a shoo-in for local veggies. Meze and wraps form the bedrock, but the menu plunders Iran, the Levant and North Africa for inspiration (adding some local tweaks along the way). To finish, go for the ‘hot paklava meltdown’ or the divine Turkish delight sundae with Afghan green tea on the side.
A global buffet is the main attraction at this branch of a small Swiss veggie chain, and there’s always a staggering amount of wholesome stuff to choose from. Expect around 30 salads and hot dishes ranging from curried quinoa and marinated silken tofu to chestnut, wild mushroom and cashew roast or nasu dengaku (miso-glazed aubergine). Vegan alert: every Tuesday, the ‘food boat’ is 100 percent plant-based. There’s another outlet in Southwark.
The sophisticated Vanilla Black carved out a niche in meatless haute cuisine back in the noughties and diners love its challenging, modernist take on veggie cooking. Full-on vegan options are flagged up on the menu, while ‘normal’ veggies can partake of seaweed broth with fermented turnip, nori, cured quail’s egg and noodles or vanilla-roasted salsify with raspberry, hazelnut and vegetable juice. All very clever.
As you’d guess, this dinky first-floor café throws in its lot with the foraging brigade, leavening its menus with sacks of wild greens, fungi and other pickings from ‘pristine ecosystems’. On the plate, WFC’s organic, veggie and vegan offerings are pretty decent – so drop in for a saintly smoothie and a bowl of ‘living’ laksa or worship the ‘autumn goddess’ bowl spiked with kimchi.
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