Every New Year begins with those cliched promises of a "healthier me", a chance to redeem oneself from the over indulgences of the festive season. Taking full advantage of society's desire to cleanse the body of excess, January is a month filled with the launches of the latest celebrity DVD's and diet cookbooks. It is also now known as "Veganuary", a chance to sample the vegan way of life, even if just for one month. Veganism has suddenly become fashionable again, no longer considered exclusively for sandal wearing hippies, and everyone is getting in on the act including some of the capital's top chefs such as Yottam Ottonlenghi and Bruni Loubet. Food bloggers have played a huge part in the resurgence of veganism too with the Hemsley sisters leading the way. If you're jumping in the Veganuary bandwagon this month or you are a full time devoted vegan, then eating out in London offers an abundance of choice these days and the food is truly divine. These are our top picks:
Tucked away in Primrose Hill, Manna is now in it's 50th year, yes that's 50th year, demonstrating that a meat free menu is most certainly not simply a fad. Dine at this little gem of a restaurant and enjoy a globally inspired menu. Their vegan Sunday roast and weekend brunches are hugely popular so pop along and find out why.
Offering syringe shots of life boosters for breakfast (oh yes, play on the name we hear you cry), and a menu filled with an abundance of choice, Farmacy is the brain child of Camilla al Fayed, daughter of former Harrod's boss Mohammed al Fayed. This Notting Hill eatery has certainly placed vegan restaurants on the map and their Farmacy burger (millet, black bean & mushroom burger served with garlic aioli, goji ketchup, avocado, pickles, tomato & potato chips served in a sourdough vegan bun) is legendary.
Mildreds is leading the way in vegan and vegetarian dining and now owns four outlets in London. It's laid back charm and mouth watering menus are the key to its success and even the most hardened of carnivore cannot fail to be seduced by its charms. Dishes take inspiration from around the world such as the rather British wood roasted mushroom and ale pie with minted mushy peas and fries and the Sri Lankan sweet potato and green bean curry with roasted lime cashews, pea basmati rice and coconut tomato sambal. Oh gosh, we're already salivating at the thought!
The Gate are obviously doing something right as there are now three of them in London – Marylebone, Hammersmith and Islington. Check out their menu and you'll understand why they are so very popular. The Green Dragon dispels any myth that tofu is boring (a delicious salad of glazed smoked tofu, avocado, sweet potato, red cabbage, pak choi, daikon, carrot, peppers, with teriyaki & sesame dressing) and desserts such as the dark chocolate snowball (dark chocolate shell filled with chocolate mousse & salted date caramel sauce) will knock your socks off and rid any notions that vegan puddings aren't as good.
222 Veggie Vegan
One of London's oldest veggie restaurants, there's no denying what kind of eatery they are with a name like that. Perched along North End Road in Kensington, 222 Veggie Vegan has been a long standing fave amongst London's vegan and veggie community. Head Chef Ben Asamani has created an exciting and ever-changing menu but if we are to highlight any dish it has to be one the seitan stroganoff, a deliciously creamy dish with seitan strips, caramelised onions, fresh herbs and pepper cubes in cashew cream is served with organic brown basmati rice. Yummy!
The small London chain of stylish French restaurants are offering a superb value set vegan menu that will not only keep those healthy intentions in check but won't damage that ever faltering January bank balance too much either. Enjoy two courses for just £12.50 including dishes such as roasted cauliflower steaks with turmeric, smoked paprika and pomegranate and poached plum polenta cake served with fresh mandarin sorbet. Menus available across their 8 London venues.
Afternon Tea need not be a calorie laden indulgence with the rather delicious vegan afternoon tea on offer at the Egerton House Hotel in Knightsbridge. For just £40 per person, tuck into delights such as tomato and olove tapenade on sun dried tomato bread or chickpea coronation on granary bread, accompanied of course by a fine cuppa or two.
Japanese cuisine has always included some fantastic options for vegans and Itadaki Zen takes that one step further. This is Europe's very first Japanese vegan restaurant and London is lucky to have it. With the focus on choosing a healthier way of life, everything on the menu is made to order and beautifully presented. Choose one of the set menus if you're not sure what to have a try a variety of dishes. Much thought goes into each process of the food prep and ingredient selection ensuring the health benefits are considered at all times.
You may be surprised to see this one on the list, it isn't a vegan restaurant at all and what's more it's the younger sibling of carnivorous haven Hawksmoor. However, Foxlow deserves a mention, especially for those vegans dining out with meat eating friends. Their menu includes a couple of superb vegan options (the spice-roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, wilted spinach, curried aubergine sauce is actually one of their more popular dishes) so it's definitely one to consider.
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