London embraces its thriving vegan population with plant-based restaurants, markets, and social groups.
London is home to 22 percent of the vegans in the UK, making it something of a plant-powered Mecca. The city can be seen as a glowing beacon of phosphorescent light, guiding all to its center, where the streets are paved with seitan and the Thames runs white with almond milk. Perhaps not literally, but London is fantastically vegan-friendly, boasting an impressive number of eateries, markets, and shops.
As England’s capital and home to the UK’s parliament, London has always been a hub of political innovation and social change, so it is unsurprising that the city has embraced plant-based living. This is demonstrated by the meteoric rise of vegan food shops, vegan restaurants, vegan beauty salons, and vegan clothing stores. As well as its socio-political trailblazing, London is also a fashion trendsetter. In 2018, the city championed cruelty-free clothing by hosting the first ever fur-free London Fashion Week, while London designers such as Stella McCartney offer chic vegan couture.
Home to the West End and fringe theater scene, London has its own edition of global arts and entertainment magazine, Time Out. A recent report from the publication, called the Time Out Index revealed that a heartening five percent of Londoners are vegan, while 20 percent are vegetarian and a further 11 percent are meat-reducers. That means over a third of the 8.85 million people in this bustling metropolis are leaning towards a plant-based lifestyle.
A Very Vegan History
While the Vegetarian Society was founded in Ramsgate in 1848, The London Vegetarian Society became a breakaway group in 1888. The group quickly gained its own local affiliates but was still closely associated with the Vegetarian Society. In 1889, The Vegetarian Federal Union was founded in London’s Farringdon, with the intention of unifying all the individual Vegetarian Society branches. The Vegetarian Federal Union was the hub of the UK’s vegetarian and vegan population; distributing news, organizing conferences, spreading the word about going meat-free and welcoming special guests such as a young Mahatma Gandhi during his student years.
After being founded by Donald Watson, Elsie Shrigley, and associates in 1944, the Vegan Society was faced with the task of finding a suitable alternative to cow’s milk. After placing an advert in The Vegan newsletter to rally support, the Plant Milk Association was founded in 1956. The first meeting of the dairy-free group was held on Euston Road, London, and the event was covered by a local newspaper. The London Evening News publicized the debut meeting under the headline “Now your milk may come from a plant.”
Top 11 London Vegan Restaurants
According to helpful online service Happy Cow, which helps patrons find vegan-friendly cafes, takeaways and hotels, London has 1.3 vegan restaurants per 100,000 people. The Telegraph revealed that London is the third best city in Europe for plant-based gourmets, offering everything from vegan kebabs to plant-based fine dining. Whatever type of eating experience you’re in the market for, here at the nine top options.
This vegan and vegetarian eatery has three branches in the capital and is renowned for its meatless bourbon Buffalo chicken burger served on a vegan charcoal brioche. Mildred’s also serves a vegan full English breakfast, other savory entrees like meatless burgers, and dairy-free sweets.
2. What the Pitta
If you’re craving something a little bit grubby, What the Pitta has three London locations and serves up mammoth meaty vegan kebabs and even tempts its customers with vegan baklava.
Founded in Hammersmith in 2004, 222 is fully vegan and offers a lunch buffet as well as a dinner menu, crammed with dishes such as Seitan Stroganoff and Pumpkin and Pine Nut Risotto. For lunch, it offers a vegan buffet where you can fill your plate with as much as you want.
Originally founded in LA, Manna has stood on London’s Primrose Hill for 50 years. Originally vegetarian and now completely vegan, Manna is a slightly more upmarket dining experience, with dishes like Basil Cashew Cheese Croquettes and Mushroom & Garden Pea Risotto Strudel.
5. Norman’s Coach and Horses
Nestled in tireless Soho, the Coach and Horses has been credited as London’s first vegetarian pub and is almost entirely vegan. The establishment serves hefty vegan Sunday roasts and is famed for its signature Tofish and Chips.
6. Deliciously Ella Deli
Opened by London-based vegan chef and blogger Eleanor Laura Davan Mills, the Deliciously Ella Deli serves recipes from Mills’ own cookbooks, with everything on offer from fresh juices to Tuscan Bean Stew and an impressive selection of desserts.
7. The Gate
With three locations in London, The Gate serves vegan and vegetarian fine dining daily. The 30-year-old restaurant specialises in a wide range of dishes from Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes to Beetroot Burgers and brunch.
The UK’s first vegan pizzeria was founded in 2015 and its London branch is based in Camden. All of Purezza’s wood fired pizzas are topped with its bespoke vegan mozzarella made from brown rice.
9. The Spread Eagle
This gastro pub in Homerton became London’s first vegan pub in January 2018. Offering up food by vegan company Club Mexicano, tacos, burritos, and nachos smothered in vegan cheese are on The Spread Eagle’s menu.
Based in Mayfair, Tibits is an international vegan and vegetarian chain which offers a pretty extensive buffet. Patrons load up their plates and pay by weight.
11. Temple of Seitan
Now serving up its wares in Camden and Hackney, the Temple of Seitan uses the well-known wheat protein to create all kinds of Friday night classics, including vegan chicken wings and its popular BBQ bacon burger.
The Top 5 Vegan London Bakeries
With the pace of life in London being consistently hectic, a sweet treat is sometimes absolutely necessary. With traditional baking usually relying on ingredients such as eggs and butter, the vegan baking world has developed some incredible alternatives with delicious results. While vegan cakes and treats are becoming more commonplace throughout the capital, here are the five best retailers for 100 percent plant-based indulgence.
1. Cookies and Scream
Based in the popular riverside destination of Camden, Cookies and Scream is not only fully vegan, but also gluten-free. The stall has been serving up gargantuan cookies, squidgy pies and thick Scream shakes since 2010. For an especially grown up kind of treat, a shot of vegan bourbon can be added to your beverage.
2. Vegan Sweet Tooth
This travelling stall can be found at Walthamstow Market every Saturday and also caters private events. Vegan chef Giancarlo Roncato has spent several years perfecting his zebra cake and best-selling vegan Nutella slices.
3. Rubys Of London
Also available online, Rubys of London sets up shop at Greenwich market every weekend and delights customers with hefty slices of vegan Victoria sponge, baked doughnuts, and cupcakes.
4. Ms. Cupcake
Based in Brixton, this bakery proffers vegan cookie sandwiches, brownies, and muffins alongside its namesake baked good. Founded by Canadian baking entrepreneur Mellissa Morgan, Ms. Cupcake also offers seasonal products such as its exclusive vegan creme eggs.
5. Nora and Nama
Another string to Camden market’s plant-based bow is artisan bakery, Nora and Nama which opened in December 2018. Founded by two Israeli chefs Nora Bergman and Nama Klein, the bakery specializes in vegan patisserie including vegan cream horns and croissants.
London’s Vegan Shops and Markets
While dining out is exciting, London is also a haven for vegan shops and supermarkets where you can stock up on weekly wares or try new brands.
1. Greenbay Supermarket in West Brompton
This completely vegan supermarket was founded as a London start-up in 2015. It stocks everything from toothpaste to chocolate and everything in between. The store has its own vegan fish section, vegan meat counter and over 60 vegan cheeses.
2. Broadway Vegan Market in London Fields.
Launched at the end of 2017, this vegan food market is held every Saturday and showcases over thirty vegan companies. As it says on its Facebook page:
“London’s first original weekly vegan market every Saturday, bringing together London’s best vegan food stalls in one place. Expect plenty of street food from the likes of Queen V, Eat Chay and Oh, My Gulay, take home produce from Norah’s Brownies, Breadwinners and Moist Bristol, as well as vegan beer, wine, spirits, and coffee stalls.”
3. Vegan Route Christmas Market in Wood Green
This annual market is framed as a ski lodge, although if preferred diners can enjoy their meal in a (stationary) double decker London bus. The market offers vegan foods, homeware items and plenty of vegan booze to get people in the Christmas spirit.
Vegan-Friendly British Supermarkets
With the number of UK vegans having risen by 700 percent in just three years, and a reported 91 percent of the UK following a flexitarian diet, the great British Supermarket has adapted its wares to meet the growing plant-based demand. Yorkshire supermarket Morrisons launched its own vegan line called V Taste in November 2018, while Marks & Spencer is consistently adding to its vegan offerings with new dishes like vegan Caesar salad.
The supermarkets below are leading the way in terms of supply and demand.
The world’s largest retailer, Tesco, was founded in 1919 and has become one of the key players in the plant-based development game. The British company carries its own range of free-from chocolate, vegan milk, ready meals, and cheeses made from coconut oil.
Tesco was quick to recognise the appeal of vegan meat ranges and stocks global brand Beyond Meat and the Dutch-born Vivera. It also raised the bar for vegan product development by appointing its very own Director of Plant-Based Innovation, vegan chef Derek Sarno, at the end of 2017. Along with his brother and business partner, Chad Sarno, Derek launched the highly successful Wicked Kitchen range in January 2018.
The range is exclusive to Tesco and includes ready meals such as Nana’s Mushroom Bolognese and BBQ Butternut Mac. Wicked Kitchen also offers a variety of grab-and-go snacks from vegan sausage rolls, to sweet potato pakora wraps.
Founded in London’s Holborn in 1869, Sainsbury’s was crowned the “UK’s Most Popular Supermarket for Vegans” in 2018.
As the British chain reported a 65 percent rise in vegan product sales in 2018, it stepped up its game by launching its own range of “Love Your Veg” plant-based meals. The range includes convenient ready meals such as sweet potato katsu curry, and vegan meat products including fungi based “shroomdogs.”
The chain has also doubled its stock of vegan milks in 2017 and in 2016 it launched its own range of vegan cheeses. The UK’s second largest supermarket also sells its own line of free-from chocolate, ice cream, and biscuits and stocks several vegan brands such as Fry’s and Naturli’.
This British chain certainly knows its customer base and it was the first UK supermarket to unveil a dedicated vegan section in June 2018. Founded in 1904, the Waitrose also introduced vegan labelling in September 2018 and launched its own-brand range of vegan products in October of the same year. The plant-based dishes include classic meals such as vegan carbonara and spinach ravioli. The supermarket’s own wares are in addition to it stocking other vegan brands including dairy-free cheese maker Violife and Booja-Booja.
British Vegan Products
Quorn first hit the UK food market in 1993 after almost three decades of research. The popular plant-based meat has its origins indisputably in Britain, from being developed by Imperial Chemical Industries in London, to being marketed by British food giant, Marlow Food.
Even the Fusarium venenatum fungus which is the base for all Quorn products was discovered in a soil sample in Buckinghamshire in 1967. Originally marketed as a vegetarian range, Quorn’s line of products has developed considerably since the 90s and now contains 16 vegan items which replace the original egg albumen with potato starch.
The mycoprotein has been crafted into products such as sausages, fajita strips, and even fishless fingers. In January 2019, Quorn found itself in the middle of a media storm and 96 layers of puff pastry when Greggs launched its vegan sausage roll. Such was the popularity of the Quorn stuffed snack that many bakeries had to turn customers away and there were reports of the pastries being sold on eBay for twelve times their retail value.
2. Linda McCartney
This eponymous line was created by the American musician and activist in 1991 and has been described as one of the most successful mass-market celebrity brands. PETA spokesperson and wife to former Beatle, Sir Paul, the late Linda McCartney used her notoriety to promote meat-free eating, even appearing in the line’s original adverts.
While most of Linda McCartney’s original range was vegetarian, the brand redeveloped its bestselling burger in 2015 to a fully vegan recipe, and most of the range is now plant-based. Using textured vegetable protein, the company provides tasty wares including country pies, pulled pork quarter pounders, and chorizo.
Originally called Redwood Wholefood Company, VBites was launched as a vegan company in 1993, back when only a select few people knew what on Earth veganism was. As well as vegan meat products such as sausages and slices, the company also offers plant-based quiches, vegan pates, and its signature Cheezly in all its tempting flavors. Now owned by entrepreneur and investor Heather Mills, VBites is Vegan Society approved and its products are stocked in 24 countries.
This vegan company really is a pioneer of plant-based food. Based in Kent, Plamil started its life as the aforementioned Plant Milk Society and manufactured the UK’s first ever soya-milk in 1964.
The company became the Plamil we know today in 1972 when it decided to branch out, using the first three letters of the two words “plant milk” to create its new name. Plamil has been serving up vegan chocolate, eggless mayonnaise, and plant-based spreads for almost half a century.