The 5 Best Vegan Restaurants in 2020. You have to do more than batter a bit of tofu to get on this list. The choice and variety of vegan dishes in London has never been stronger. The number of vegan only restaurants has never been greater. But there's quite a lot of noise out there.
Too many places that make dishes that look the business, but taste bland or too sweet or too salty. They've been made to look generous and indulgent online, but come off as stingy and showy in real life. Focusing on vegan-only restaurants in London, we're listing the 5 Best Vegan Restaurants in 2020 that best bear repeat visits. The 5 Best Vegan Restaurants in 2020 that show off London's contemporary vegan dining scene. The 5 Best Vegan Restaurants in 2020 that aren't riding a commercial wave, that'll still be around if the Big Green Bubble bursts. Including...
- A tiny Sichuan-facing place that no one has a bad word to say about
- That vegan chicken shop you've been hearing about
- The best of the old school-style vegan caffs
- And more...
We first tried Mao Chow when it was but a pop-up in the eye of a meat-free Londoner’s dreams. Back then it was a part of Pamela, a cocktail bar on Kingsland Road that’s obsessed with Ms Anderson. Pamela and Mr Zedong made unusual but fruitful bedfellows, one the busty slow-mo beach runner, the other Pamela Anderson. One the Chinese communist revolutionary whose Great Leap Forward lead to the deadliest famine in the history of the world, the other…
The dish that really stuck out during that first taste of Mao were the dan dan noodles. It’s the kind of dish that you don’t usually see veganised. We imagine because it’s a flipping hard one to do, with little room for manoeuvre. Getting enough power in the ‘mince’ to enliven but not overwhelm the sweet and savoury nuttiness of the sesame-licked noodles…that’s not the kind of balancing act most places want to spend their time mastering. Thank Mao then, for taking the time and pulling it off, nailing the textural landing with a flourish too. Crisp cucumbers, pak choi that gently ceases to resist and joins the silkiness in the bottom of the bowl for the final slurped denouement. Thank Mao too for bringing the dan dan noodles over to their new perma-home on Mare Street, Hackney.
Mapo tofu is regularly a vegan saviour on non-vegan Chinese menus. It’s also regularly rubbish. So-what tofu in a crassly hot red water. Mao Chow’s Mapo Doufu is the antidote to such disappointments. It’s a Sichuan pepper assault, yes, but a complex one, measured and strategic. Cool yourself down with the fresh and fluffy jasmine rice and a plate of sweet, sour and salted smacked cucumber.
Usually just six dishes long, Mao Chow’s Little Red Book of Dishes (menu) is certainly little. So too are the premises. While the former should stay small for as long as possible, the latter is sure to grow pretty soon. Have you seen the press? It’s like The Chairman himself were in charge of it.
159A Mare St, London E8 3RD. For more details, head HERE.
Comptoir V, or CV to its friends, is open for (a pretty late) breakfast, lunch and dinner. If that sounds like a small West London vegan restaurant stretching itself too thinly, you obviously haven’t met a small West London vegan restaurant like Comptoir V before.
This is confident, wholesome plant-based cooking, with an inventiveness and generosity when it comes to its ingredients and spins on (primarily) Moroccan, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. From the main menu, it’s the smaller plates section that you should be eyeing up. Sure, indulge over on the larger plates section and you won’t be disappointed. The hearty tagine and curries from across the globe are giving and a little luxurious; the use of koftas in the tagine is a particularly free-handed, indulgent move. But small plates are the main event at CV, particularly if it’s your first visit.
From these our picks are the hummuses (or hummi?), available as a trio or separately, including a much-loved spicy beetroot hummus. The aubergine zaalock is homestyle luxury in a dish, silky and wonderfully spiced and herbed. And then there’s the dynamite shrimp. The dynamite shrimp is perhaps the most famous dish on the menu. They might not be the fishiest fake fishes in the fake fish sea, but they are among the tastiest. Order these with some vegetable dishes and flakey traditional moroccan ‘ghife’ bread and you’ll be handing in your CV at CV, willing to work there in any capacity, just to be near such meat-free feasting.
After the mains, if you still have room or access to a second stomach, try the cheesecake. You will regret nothing.
Keslake Mansions, Station Terrace, Kensal Green, London NW10 5RU. For more details, head HERE.
Temple of Seitan
The two London branches of Temple of Seitan make this list with their eyes closed. That’s because the chicken they started out selling is still as good as ever. But they’ve got their eyes firmly open at the Temple, expanding their menu and refusing to rest on their laurel-laden popularity. More recent additions include a doner wrap and doner meat box, beef-aping burgers and even some sweet stuff. Plough through the menu if you live close enough for repeat visits.
If you want to indulge in what made this place famous, keep to the seitan chicken items for now. The classic Temple Burger is a must, with ranch mayo and bacon chiming with the burger cheese and pickles. Get some wings how you want them, and maybe a 50/50 popcorn chicken and chips box too. That should be enough to convert you.
Its name and billing as London’s first vegan chicken shop led to plenty of ‘controversy’ when it opened in early 2017. The kind of controversy that’s based on too much ill-informed judgement to be taken seriously by anyone apart from certain newspapers and people for whom complaining is finger licking good.
Such ill-informed chatter arguably helped Temple of Seitan as it started out. There’s no better publicity than some ‘darn vegans’ controversy. But it’s the quality of their seitan and the authenticity of their seasoning which have seen them establish themselves as the best in town at what they do. Dreamed up by an Australian former KFC employee and her husband, the seitan chicken at The Temple is succulent and juicy. It’s good covered in batter and sauce, it’s good all by itself.
With limited seating in each branch, long weekend lines and occasionally not-so-fast-food waiting times, their current service setup isn’t perfect. But the wait, the line, the sitting outside. It’s all worth it.
Camden branch: 103a Camley St, London N1C 4PF. Hackney branch: 5 Morning Lane, London E9 6NA. For more details, head HERE
Cafe Van Gogh
There’s a lineage of London vegan and vegetarian cafes that Cafe Van Gogh happily sits in. Places that serve dishes from across the world, champion vegetables more than meat substitutes and change their menus every month or so. They are a not for profit social enterprise that invests in their local community through training and employment schemes, they make ethical and ecologically sound decisions. They’re on their way to being zero waste. They are an old-school, pre-cool vegan caff. They’re the best of the old-school, pre-cool vegan caffs.
They’re the best, largely because they make the cooking as strong as the message. The evening and lunch menus contain enough innovation to bring people in, and enough quality cooking to make them come back. The butternut squash Mac n Cheeze, the banana blossom fish pie—both recent favourites that balance style and substance.
The Sunday roast is exceptional, considered by many as the best vegan roast in London. There’s no faff on the plate: seasonal vegetables, a jug of gravy and a classic protein-rich main event. All home cooked and tasting greater than the sum of their parts. The Saturday brunch options follow a similar path, doing the classics better than the classics have been done since they became classics in the first place. Scrambled tofu on sourdough which is creamy and perfectly seasoned. French toast with berries, banana and maple syrup. Aubergine and red pepper shakshuka with wonderfully crisp tofu.
Set inside an old church building, it’s dressed up like a Van Gogh exhibition inside. Look up at the ceiling when you go in.
88 Brixton Rd, London SW9 6BE. For more details, head HERE.
A 100% vegan sushi place near King’s Cross. The first vegan and organic Japanese restaurant in Europe. A place that owes just as much to ancient food philosophies as it does to the imagination of its chefs. A restaurant that champions ingredients that possess medicinal qualities. And actually takes the time to make them harmonise with one another and taste great. However you approach it, it’s clear that Itadaki Zen is doing something different.
It’s special, the way they veganise sushi. It takes imagination to dream it up. And care to make it work to the eye, work to the taste. You don’t miss a thing. Not in the look of the spread. Or the combination of textures. Not in the delicacy of each bite or the satisfying union of the whole meal.
They have a great lunch time menu at Itadaki Zen. It’s good value, it’s varied and generous. For an evening meal that takes you across the menu, order from the set meal list. Combinations of soups, sushi and tempura, the set meals are perfectly balanced, generous and varied. They show you all that Itadaki Zen is about.
139 King's Cross Rd, London WC1X 9BJ. For more details, head HERE.
Right, eat up, we've got a table of six coming in 5 minutes and we need you guys out of here. Thanks for stopping by and finding out the 5 Best Vegan Restaurants in 2020. Well, they're our favourites, anyway. Let us know in the comments below if you disagree. Give us your own list of the best vegan restaurants in 2020. Let's have a big fat plant-based, zero waste food fight in the comments. You can find other vegan-related articles on The London Pass here
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