Where to eat vegan food in London: The Veganuary top five
Forget ‘Dry January’ or the latest detox – these days going vegan is the only way to start the year. The Veganuary incentive – where people pledge to go plant-based for a month – is more popular than ever; over 14,000 people signed up last Sunday alone, and with awareness of the health, environmental and ethical benefits of veganism increasing every day, the plant-based movement shows no signs of slowing down.
Whether you’re looking to make the switch or are just interested in sampling vegan cuisine, we’ve got you covered. You can check out our 2018 guide to London’s best plant-based food joints, but with Veganuary in mind, here are five of our favourite restaurants to eat vegan in 2019.
The Apple Tree
Vying for London’s coolest new plant-based spot is The Apple Tree in Clerkenwell, a quirky non-conformist pub where the mainly-vegan menu will impress even the most ardent omnivores. Skilled chef Steve Wilson has created a show-stopping roster of vegan dishes: start with small plates like Spanish garbanzo tortilla in a gram flour omelette, then feast on crunchy-yet-fluffy truffled mushroom croquettes. Make sure you save room for the incredible cashew burrata with heritage tomatoes, sardinian flatbread and basil; slicing through its smooth, velvety consistency is a treat in itself.
If you fancy something hot, try the To’fish n’ Chips – crisp kelp tofu with homemade chips, smashed peas and pink onions – or glossy aubergines layered with cashew cream and tomato marinara, sprinkled with cashew parmesan. The beautiful Rainbow Sliders, packed with black bean and sweet potato, pulled jackfruit and avocado, or melted vegan cheese, are another firm favourite. Desserts are equally impressive: choose from smooth almond crème brûlée or chocolate torte with pistachio ice cream.
On the more upmarket spectrum there’s Bōkan, the award-winning 2 AA Rosette restaurant that soars 37 floors above London’s iconic skyline. Situated among the buzzing industrial dockyard, this is the place to get your plant-based fix while admiring unrivalled city vistas. While in the past Bōkan was known for its innovative yet traditional pan-European menu, the restaurant has been quick to catch onto the vegan craze, and Bōkan’s vegan menu was first unveiled last year. This year promises to be just as exceptional.
Head chef Aurélie Altemaire effortlessly proves that not only can vegetables be the stars of a dish, but you don’t need to rely on any animal products to create rich, flavoursome and complex plates. The vegan tasting menu is seasonal, but diners can look forward to dishes like tangy Cornish beetroot salad with rainbow radish and pomegranate, glazed kohlrabi with white swiss chard ragu, and plump, handmade orecchiete pasta with wild mushroom and garlic. The desserts – including roasted pineapple with pina colada sorbet and fresh coriander – are also divine.
Baos – Taiwanese steamed buns – are such a pleasure to eat; there’s something so moreish about these squidgy, pillowy pouches that can be stuffed with all manner of fillings. While pork traditionally made up the filling, the interest in plant-based food has lead to a serious increase in the number of veggie baos, and leading the UK charge is Baby Bao. Situated in Central London’s Haymarket, it’s the perfect place to fill up on these gorgeously soft, cloud-like mouthfuls.
There are three vegan baos to choose from: crispy fried smoked tofu with nori, ginger soy sesame mayo and pickled veg; katsu squash with slaw, katsu mayo and coriander; and grilled aubergine with kimchi, and green chilli. The sides are also delicious: order the sweetcorn and nori poppers – crunchy nuggets loaded with hot sweetcorn and a light dusting of seaweed. The roasted aubergine with soy and sesame is also excellent, but don’t leave without trying the donut bao with peanut butter ice cream and jam!
Indian food is known to be a safe option for vegetarians, but things are a little trickier for vegans due to the prevalence of ghee. Luckily, the head chef across the celebrated Cinnamon Collection, Vivek Singh, has created a mouthwatering vegan menu using quality seasonal ingredients. I tried the menu at Cinnamon Kitchen City, aptly located in the former East India Company spice warehouses of Devonshire Square, but you can dine at the Battersea brand or Cinnamon Bazaar if you prefer.
The £35 per person, four-course vegan tasting menu takes you on a journey of Old World and modern Indian cooking: begin with chutney potatoes in a semolina shell before moving onto starters of tender grilled aubergine with sesame and peanut, or palak patta chaat – spinach and carom fritter. Mains include crisp zucchini flower with marrow and lentil sauce and tamarind glazed vegetables, or garlic tempered green pea ‘kichri’ with broccoli and cauliflower. Finish with aromatic desserts like saffron poached pear filled with dried fruit and zingy sorbet.
Café Forty One
If you have a sweet tooth, London’s only Vegan French Pâtisserie is a must-visit this January. Just a short walk from Portobello Market and right beside Hyde Park is the lovely Café Forty One at La Suite West. This unique eatery offers a decadent vegan twist on classic treats, perfectly straddling the balance between traditional fine dining and laid-back café ambiance. This is the place to take your skeptical friend who thinks vegans only eat salads and lentils!
Head chef Clarisse Flon has devised a varied menu with a focus on fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. For breakfast, try the full English with sausages, roasted portobello mushrooms, baked beans, avocado, sourdough toast and roasted tomatoes; and for lunch, truffle polenta, root vegetables and wild mushrooms in a cream dijon sauce will hit the spot. But it’s the sweet treats that are the real draw: the chocolate and praline millefeuille – layers of caramelised puff pastry with chocolate and praliné crème pâtissière – is out of this world.