Even as recently as five years ago, a round-up of the best vegan restaurants in London would have made for an awkwardly short list. But it’s 2020, and Veganuary isn’t going anywhere fast. Studies have shown that as many as a third of Britons have made serious steps towards reducing their meat intake, while the number of people committing wholeheartedly to veganism has increased four-fold. Hell, even Greggs got on board with the introduction of that infamous not-sausage roll (and now a meat-free steak bake as well). And, if you’re lucky enough to call our capital city home, there are a host of exceptional restaurants ready to cater to the insatiable appetite of plant-based Londoners, and convince the ‘flexitarians’ that a change in diet needn’t mean a dip in quality.
So, whether you’re a lifelong convert, or simply dipping a curious toe into the ‘clean eating’ pool — these are our top picks of the restaurants which prove just how versatile good old fruit and vegetables can be.
Best for ‘junk food’: Biff’s Jack Shack
This North London haunt bills itself as being “less vegan preachy, more Venice Beach-y”, and seeks to challenge the notion that vegan food begins and ends with a healthy salad or sad-looking bean burger. Burgers topped with ‘bacon’ and blue ‘cheese’ offer all the satisfaction of your favourite indulgent flavours, but it’s the team’s signature crispy fried jackfruit that’s the real standout here: the jackfruit is braised, double dipped in a panko crumb and fried to create a meat-like texture.
The ‘wings’ are even served on a sugarcane bone for an authentic feel. “We’re hell-bent on making the world’s filthiest, most indulgent vegan junk food,” reads the restaurant’s mission statement — and it’s all served without the guilt. There’s even a constantly changing menu of vegan beers, spirits and soft drinks – including the first vegan Brewdog – to wash it all down.
Biff's Jack Shack
Best for bragging rights: Redemption Bar
Why should socialising always be at the expense of your health? This was the question the founders of Redemption Bar asked themselves when they fell upon the idea to create the world’s healthiest bar/restaurant. The menus at its three sites in Shoreditch, Notting Hill and Covent Garden serve up vegan, sugar-free and wheat-free food — while the bar is well-stocked with innovative, alcohol-free alternatives.
Founder and chef Andrea Waters seeks to delight even the most sceptical meat lovers and to challenge the convention that healthy food is boring or lacking finesse. To this end, she has even created an impressive dessert menu (albeit a super-healthy, raw one). Spoil yourself without spoiling yourself!
Best for fine dining: Gauthier Soho
Chef Alexis Gauthier’s history with vegetables is well documented. He first created a plant-focused ‘garden menu’ back in 1997 at his restaurant Roussillon — long before plant-based eating became de rigueur. Today, you would be hard-pressed to beat his latest restaurant Gauthier for plant-based fine dining in London. This Soho critics’ favourite became the first Michelin-starred venue in Britain to offer a vegan tasting menu in 2015, and won ‘Best Vegan Menu’ at the PETA Vegan Food Awards in 2016.
Its decadent seasonal plates remain consistently impressive, with highlights this season including ‘faux gras’, truffle tortellini with golden Enoki mushrooms and rainbow Swiss chard parcels — accompanied by an optional wine pairing flight. Plus, if you’re visiting with a confirmed carnivore, there’s a range of meaty options to choose from too.
Best for a pub lunch: The Spread Eagle
Opened in January 2018, The Spread Eagle in Homerton is London’s first fully-fledged vegan pub. Everything here — from the bar stools to the drinks and the food — is 100% vegan. While seeking to keep the tradition of the Great British Pub alive, this is also the place to come and celebrate the best that modern culture has to offer. The food offering is headed up by Merial Armitage, founder of vegan street food truck Club Mexicana, with dishes like jackfruit tacos and Californian-style burritos stuffed with ‘beer’ battered tofish.
The bar itself features 14 draught lines to offer a wide range of cult brews such as Beavertown Gamma Ray and Five Points XPA — as well as a carefully curated cocktail list with innovative vegan twists on all your favourite classics.
The Spread Eagle
Best for pizza: Purezza
As the UK’s first fully vegan pizzeria, Purezza is on a mission to prove that vegans don’t have to miss out on great pizza. Based in Camden, having initially made a reputable name for itself in Brighton, Purezza prides itself on its innovative cheese alternatives, which will have even the most militant dairy-lovers impressed. The team here have created their own vegan mozzarella in-house from fermented brown rice milk, and also offer raw cashew cheeses, a ricotta-style cheese and a creamy coconut cheese.
Toppings-wise you’ll be spoilt for choice: options range from shaved aubergine to truffle and wood smoked tofu, all placed on top of a tasty sourdough base, with gluten-free or hemp flour substitutes also available. Plant-based meat firm Jack & Bry even launched a world-first jackfruit ‘pepperoni’ pizza here. Vegan versions of popular sides are also on offer, including mac’n’cheese and dough balls, as well as a number of tasty desserts – we recommend the famous Oreo pizza.
Best for fried “chicken”: Temple of Seitan
Any foodie worth their Himalayan rock salt will already have Temple of Seitan on their radar, thanks to the ruckus they caused back in 2017 with the opening of their hip fried “chicken” joint in Hackney. Set up by Melbourne couple Rebecca McGuinness and Patrick O’Shea back in 2016, the inspiration came when Rebecca (who used to work for KFC before turning vegan) wanted to find a satisfactory replacement for the chicken she was missing so badly.
Three years on and this vegan fast food joint really has engendered a religious following — with queues regularly forming around the block thanks to a loyal following of return customers. Alongside its world-famous fried chicken substitute, the sides here are also great. They include a delicious gluten-free organic coleslaw and a stand-out mac ‘n’ cheese which you’d swear could never be dairy-free. Temple of Seitan has in fact proven so popular that it has now opened a second restaurant in Camden.
Temple of Seitan