Updated: Jul 30, 2019
A beautiful city in every way, London, England captivates visitors and locals alike even with their vegan culinary scene. Though it seems impossible to visit every restaurant, café, and pub, it only takes a handful of the best to realize how delectable London truly is.
It's been only a handful of days since I've returned home to Toronto, on what will likely be my last big trip of 2019 (I've got a lot of people coming to stay with me in Canada over the coming months), and I still feel like I've got sugarplum faeries dancing in my head. For nine days, I was exploring the big and beautiful city of London, gallivanting around the city with one of my best friends (and newest magazine copy editor!), Kat.
Though I've been to England before, this was my first time in the country's capital... It was also my first time in the country as someone who doesn't needlessly murder animals. As with any of my trips, delving into the local food scene is always a must, and this time I was able to do it quite thoroughly with the help of Kat. Having been an official 'local' for nearly a year now since making her big move to the United Kingdom from Canada, she was able to show me all of her favourites places to eat in the city. I was very impressed that basically all restaurants have a vegan and vegetarian menu options, pubs included, and that there are countless fully plant-based eateries to check out, as well.
I've only included the best of the best vegan restaurants below, all of which I would highly recommend. Though not every single restaurant is fully plant-based, they all have a solid vegan and vegetarian menu available. Of course, I'd be happy to answer any and all questions that you may have about these eateries in the comment section at the end of this post.
Wild Food Café (Islington and Covent Garden)
With two locations in London, Covent Garden and Islington, Wild Food Café is an amazing spot for either brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Regardless of which location you find yourself at, all of their juice is freshly cold-pressed to order, using a slow extraction method that keeps all the nutrients of their fresh organic produce right in your drink. Their water has been filtered through a state of the art filtration system, consisting of ten levels of natural media mimicking nature's incredible cycles. It is then 'activated' even further by using leading-edge vortex and infrared ceramics. This same water is what is served on your table in glass decanters to keep your refreshed and hydrated throughout your meal.
Their Covent Garden (Neal's Yard) location features a seasonal menu, which we went to for dinner one evening. We began with a glass of Forgotten Ecstasy (made with cacao, algarroba, maca, shilajit, rhodiola, he-shou-wou, and coconut) for myself and a bottle of Gusto Organic Kola for Kat. We started off our culinary adventure with delicious sweet potato wedges drizzled in cashew aioli, which we nibbled at while trying to save the majority of our appetites for the incredible entrées that were on their way.
For our mains, I delved into a delicious Rainbow Bowl (made with a butternut squash and chive purée, wild rice, roasted vine cherry tomatoes, raw pickled slaw, purple sprouted broccoli, wild green leaves, squash wedges with smoky horseradish mayo, olives, and sprouts), while Kat opted for the Trio of Dips (consisting of dulse and hemp taramasalata, golden za’atar hummus, and olive tapenade, with kale stalk crackers and crudités). She went on to talk about the dulse and hemp taramasalata for the next couple of days, it was so good! The meal was then completed with a chocolate, neroli, and orange tart for dessert, which we split. It was very tasty, while not overly sweet, which was nice.
At Wild Food Café, it's instantly obvious that they embrace the choice to eat in a way that causes the most benefit and least suffering to the inhabitants of the Earth (just as we all should), in a way that is not only nourishing, but also fun, delicious, and empowering to everyone. Because of this, they strive to find the most nourishing, inspiring, wild-crafted, and foraged foods from pristine ecosystems, small organic farmers, and ethical local suppliers. Everything on their ever-changing seasonal menu is created to nourish one's body, heart, and mind in the most scrumptious, creative, and healthy way that you can imagine.
We started off with a shot each; "Wild Berry Libation" made with elderberry, bilberry, goji, golden berry, mulberry, and hawthorn for myself and the "Probiotic Awake" with sea buckthorn, ginger, orange, coconut, baobab, and cayenne for Kat. We followed this directly with kale chips and poached saffron fennel (pictured above, centre), both which were absolutely amazing.
To drink with our mains, I ordered a "Blueberry Dreams" smoothie, made with wild blueberries, brazil nut milk, camu-camu, coconut, and cacao nibs. Kat (wisely) went for something less filling: a glass of their Twisted Orange juice, made with blood orange, pomegranate, and ginger. Both were super delicious!
As our entrées, I ordered the courgette pappardelle (pictured above, right) with macadamia feta, tomato sauce, capers, pine nut parmesan, basil, garlic, olives, wakame, and chive oil. Kat went with one of their twelve-inch Italian pizzas, made with marinara sauce, cashew cheese sauce, cherry tomatoes, wild leaf pesto, sun-blushed artichokes, pink olives, rocket, basil, and nori. Despite feeling completely stuffed from this, we couldn't find it in our hearts to pass on dessert... and thankfully we didn't! We decided to spit a slice of pink rhubarb cheesecake with a rhubarb jelly, a tangy coulis, and crunchy rhubarb bites on the side (pictured above, to the left).
Not only do their restaurants have amazing food, they also host plenty of events that the community can capitalize on to promote personal well-being and health. You can even cook some of their incredible recipes right at home, using their plant-based cookbook (coming in October of 2019).
Wulf & Lamb (Chelsea)
Situated in the beautiful borough of Chelsea, tucked away in a mews just off Sloane Square, Wulf & Lamb is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Along with our undeniable craving for some comfort food, we opted to make our way here after discovering them on Happy Cow's list of the Ten Best Vegan Restaurants in London. Even Vogue said that they are "well worth a visit" in September of 2017, leaving us thrilled to try out a restaurant that doesn’t compromise on quality while striving to make eating an experience of pure, cruelty-free indulgence. True to their word, each dish is stacked with flavours and surprising ingredients that work together with seeming effortlessness to make a swoon-worthy meal capable of wooing any and all palates.
Their name stems from the lupine and the ovine, traditionally not the best of friends and typecast as 'the enemy' and 'the innocent', as predator and prey. As per their website, they explain that these days, thinking is not so black and white; indeed, we see strengths and vulnerabilities in everyone. Both their story and their aim is about sweetly slaying misconceptions, as well as a surprising harmony amongst people, flavours, and our overall place in the world. As for why "Wulf" is spelled with a U? It’s an ancient and softer sounding way to spell "wolf". Softness out of savagery is something worth celebrating, isn't it?
Kat and I came face-to-face with their pretty, bricked façade and modern interior building for dinner on my last full day in London. It's located in this beautiful nook in the borough of Chelsea, located on Pavilion Road, and surrounded by other incredible restaurants, cafés, and pubs. We sat on the second floor of the restaurant, just inside the small outdoor patio to avoid the heat of the mid-July sun.
In an attempt to cool down from the afternoon of adventures we had just had, I began with a glass of Isle of Harris Gin and Fever-Tree Tonic served with a grapefruit peel, and Kat ordered a glass of the Chilean Vicuña Sauvignon Blanc. Along with this, we split the mac n' "cheese" starter (at the recommendation of our super friendly and helpful waitress), as well as a small bowl of roasted white and sweet potato wedges with rosemary and thyme. Both were to die for!
As our mains, I opted for the green coconut curry, made with sweet potato mash and seasonal vegetables, aromatic Thai roots, spices, and coconut cream, served with a side of jasmine rice. Kat chose the mushroom and spinach sourdough pizza, made with baby spinach and chestnut mushrooms. We took our time eating, as the rich and savoury flavours of our meal made it well worth the time it took in order to allow the flavours to linger long enough. We definitely made it last.
Again, despite being very full, we found space in our very separate 'dessert stomach' (haha) for a sweet plate to end our evening. We split the brownie and ice cream dish, a warm peanut butter brownie with cashew-based "honeycomb" and toasted pine nut ice cream, in a bed of coffee caramel. Unfortunately, as with most desserts, I find it hard to control myself long enough to savour the flavours... between the two of us, it was devoured in a couple of minutes.
Overall, Wulf & Lamb was one of my all-time favourite fully plant-based restaurants in London, and I would return here time and time again when coming back to visit London in the future. Not only is the food mouth-watering, but the entire staff here is friendly, attentive, and full of incredible food recommendations for their guests.
Naturally, Wulf & Lamb are true to their word: It's "just veg, with edge."
Pied à Terre (Fitzrovia)
Anyone who knows me, knows that beautiful food can literally bring a tear to my eye. When I first decided to cut meat and fish from my diet, I was worried that my opportunities for gourmet dining would dwindle down to nothing. After all, it's one thing to make a meal's presentation look pretty, and quite another for it to taste like angels dancing on your tastebuds.
Thankfully, this has not been the case, and Pied à Terre is the optimal example of this divine intervention in the city of London. Established in 1991, the restaurant has gained some of the highest awards and accolades possible, beginning with its first Michelin star in 1993 and becoming a two Michelin star restaurant in 1996 (it currently retains one star). Operated under the guidance of restauranteur David Moore, he is the founding Director and the longstanding creative force behind Pied à Terre, who can regularly be seen at the ‘Front of House’. We had the pleasure of meeting him in person, sitting down a while to talk to him about the history of the restaurant, his take on the culinary scene, and the best ways that one can live a healthy lifestyle.
As with all of the best restaurants one could possibly dine at, Pied à Terre's exceptional gourmet food is meticulously prepared with heart and passion, something that is evident in every bite that touches your tongue. Ingredients are sourced from small, independent suppliers who both live and breathe quality. What better way to eat abroad, than while supporting the local economy, as well?
Though the restaurant caters to all diets (not just vegans and vegetarians — they have plenty of food for my omnivore readers, too — although, I truly feel that everyone should give their vegan menu a try, not just because it's more ethical and sustainable, but because it's one of the best things that I have ever tasted). In fact, they were recently voted the third best vegan eatery in Europe, and the only noted restaurant in all of London, by BigSevenTravel. Talk about an accomplishment!
And now, what I know everyone is waiting for: exactly what culinary adventure did we delve into, in the ten course vegan tasting menu?
Course 1 (Appetizer 1): A selection of three delicious canapés, and a side of radishes in black olive 'soil', served in a terracotta flowerpot. We were also given a selection of breads and a small bottle of smooth, extra virgin olive oil.
Course 2 (Appetizer 2): A salad of spring leaves and fresh zucchini flowers, with olive oil and Greek verjus.
Course 3: A divine carrot velouté with ginger and pickled celery, and a layer of rich olive oil at the bottom of the bowl.
Course 4: Braised tomato stuffed with rice and topped with sprigs of dill. Served in a small bowl of broth with olive oil.
Course 5: Jerusalem Artichoke, served three different ways: crushed, puréed, and in the form of crisps. Served with sauternes, shimiji mushrooms, and pain d’epices.
Course 6: A dollop of crushed potatoes served with baby artichokes, morel mushrooms, burnt lemon, and a perfect stalk of asparagus.
Course 7: Crispy charcoal lavoche served with sweet coconut "cheese" and an incredible onion chutney.
Course 8 (pre-dessert): A cube of sweet and juicy seedless watermelon in a bed of sugar and toasted coconut flakes.
Course 9 (dessert): Sweet garriguette strawberries served alongside a small orange cake and 100% chocolate mousse with dollops of cocoa. Accompanied with a strawberry and basil sorbet, whose aromatic flavour brought me right back to my recent trip to Italy.
Course 10: Coffee or tea, served with petit fours.
Along with the incredible ten course vegan tasting menu, you can accompany it with a selection of sommelier suggested wines. We had the opportunity to sample a wide variety of wines with each course, our knowledgeable and kind sommelier thoroughly explaining each choice he made after the conclusion of each dish. As per his suggestion, we tried a sip of each wine prior to beginning our course, and drank the remainder of the glass along with the meal itself. Without fail, each and every wine-and-food combination was absolutely perfect. The mingling of flavours brought out the best in both the drink and the dish itself. I would not have had it any other way.
Coming to Pied à Terre truly was an experience of a lifetime, one that I hope to partake in once again, on my next visit to London. In the mean time, thoughts of this brilliant meal will remain in my mind for a long time coming.
Bread & Butter Café (Haggerston)
Loving this place so much that we returned for a second brunch during my stay, Bread & Butter Café offers an array of food options for all diets, but also has its own vegan-friendly menu. Admittedly, I strayed from the fully vegan menu on my first visit and ordered Halloumi and spinach on toasted sourdough with mushrooms, avocado, vegan sausage, and a poached egg, along with my cup of English Breakfast tea.
The food always arrives fresh and hot, regardless of the time of day or how many customers are dining at the restaurant. Whether you choose to seat yourself inside the cozy eatery or outside under the warmth of the London summer sun at one of their outdoor tables, you'll be surrounded by the cozy and casual feel of Bread & Butter.
Thanks to their attentive and kind staff, you won't have to fret over waiting for your decanter of water to be refilled, that your food will take eons to arrive, or for someone to pop over to see if there are any additional food items you would like to order before you head over to the front counter to pay for your meal.
Pretty much every pub! (Across London)
Yep, you read that correctly — London is amazingly a vegan's paradise, even in the pubs where I never expected to find a selection of food that I could eat.
Aside from the plethora of cocktails and drinks offered, pretty much every single pub in London featured multiple vegetarian and vegan food items on their menus, from bar snacks to main entrées.
These places are incredible spots to pop into for a meal, as they are often chock-full of rich history and have been welcoming in thirsty and hungry patrons for centuries. Some highlights for me included Princess Louise and The Ship Tavern, both in the district of Holborn. The former still contains segregated sections surrounding the bar, intended to separate rich patrons from the common working class people who frequented the pub. Built in 1872, Princess Louise is best known for its well-preserved 1891 Victorian interior, featuring stunning wood panelling. The Ship Tavern is even older, having been established in 1549 and remaining at the heart of Holborn's social scene for nearly half a millennia. Initially intended to welcome in the exhausted labourers of nearby fields (some of which are a part of Lincoln's Inn Fields today), the original tavern was only half of its modern-day size, and had constructed mostly from timber. You can see a glimpse of its exterior in the image below, to the left.
Of course, London's hidden gems don't just stop there. In Islington, at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, you can find multiple vegan and vegetarian options on the rotating menu of this Victorian-music-hall-turned-pub.
Similarly, Notting Hill's The Elgin is a renovated Victorian pub home not only to stunning wood panelling and stained glass interior (see image directly above, to the right), but also a relatively extensive menu with plenty of food options for both vegetarians and vegans alike. Here, I opted for the mouth-watering vegan Thai burger with a side of chips (see above, centre), after starting off with a bag of Tyrell's sweet chilli and red pepper hand-cooked crisps.
The bottom line is that regardless of which quintessentially English pub you find yourself in, you're extremely likely to find cruelty-free, plant-based food options for yourself to accompany whatever delicious drink you opt for.
Bottoms up, and enjoy your meal!
And there you have it. Though it's only been eight days of plant-based culinary experiences in London, this short time here allowed me to explore the beautiful city and its plethora of eateries. Without a doubt, I would love to return and sample my way further through the extensively unique restaurants, cafés, and bistros that they have to offer.
Have you ever been to London? Where is your favourite place to eat there? If you haven't yet been, which of these eateries would be on the top of your list? Let me know in the comments!
To read more of our posts on London, click here.