I’ve been obsessed with England since I was a kid. I’m not entirely sure why, but a few reasons come to mind. When I was younger, my favorite weather was cloudy and dreary days, and there’s no shortage of that in London. I also loved the accent. I think I do a pretty good British accent that might rival many natives. Whatever the reason my love affair with the country across the pond exists, my dreams of one day visiting came true when I went to London in February. The fact that I was traveling there as a vegan made it even more exciting. This isn’t specific to LDN (oh, and by the way, be prepared to see “London” replaced with “LDN” for the majority of this post– not because it’s a useful abbreviation, but because I love calling the city LDN), but I’ve decided that anytime I step foot outside of my hometown, it’s an opportunity for me to explore the vegan scene wherever I land. And that’s exactly what I did in LDN.
All the LDN Vegan Nomz…
The first day I arrived, it was raining and cloudy. Hmmm– raining in London, what a surprise. But I knew exactly where I was headed. My first stop was Shoreditch, a neighborhood that is borderline what we’d call “hipster” in the states. It’s chock-full of amazing street art and graffiti, cool vintage shops and a bunch of vegan noms. I had plenty of options, and a lot of people rave about vegan places in Shoreditch, but I wanted to go to one specific spot. This place was both my 80’s and favorite childhood breakfast dreams come true. It was the Cereal Killer Cafe. This cute place is a giant cereal bar. They have tons of yummy cereal options, many of which are vegan, along with vegan milk options. They also have a vegan loaded hot chocolate, and that’s what I went for due to the chilly weather I was facing outside. You can enjoy your meal in front, facing an entire wall of cereal boxes, or in back, and have a seat on one of several twin sized beds from you brightly colored childhood bedroom. I could live there, like seriously.
So, I basically had a warm dessert as my first vegan meal in LDN. Next, I hit up the Shoreditch location of The Vurger Co. for my main course. The menu is filled with creative, meat-free substitutes for burgers, and many of them don’t use traditional, sliced-cheese substitutes either. They simply focus on fresh and interesting flavors.
I went for the “Auburger”, which is a tabasco chipotle patty made with aubergine (or eggplant as we would call it in the states), red onion and chickpeas. The burger is topped with gherkin, pickled red cabbage, tomato, vegan cheese and house cumin mayo. Instead of fries, I decided to switch it up a bit and get a side of slaw. It came topped with pickles and tortilla chips, and it actually reminded me of traditional American BBQ sides in its presentation and flavor (and the pickles). The burger was insane. So filling. Not only because it was filled with a hearty amount of toppings, but the patty was t-h-i-c-k, and really flavorful. This was an amazing intro to vegan food in London, and I was excited to try so much more. After my yummy burger and slaw, I made my way out of Shoreditch and headed to my LDN digs for the rest of my stay. Fun fact: I got lost heading home on my first night, my phone died while I was trying to find the air bnb, and when I went to get my portable charger, I realized I’d left it at home– in the states. I had to rely on the kindness of a store clerk to let me charge my phone for 15 minutes, and I ended up having to buy a new portable charger while in London. Welcome to my life.
And it Just Keeps Getting Better! But Literally, it Does.
The next day, I trekked over to Southbank Centre Food Market. This place is a burgeoning outdoor market that has food of all kinds, and also has more than enough vegan options. I actually arrived so early that most of the tents were still setting up. That didn’t bother me one bit– I wanted to get my hands on the vegan noms, and early; I had a lot of sight-seeing to do. I hit up Ethiopiques, an Ethiopian place that vends at the market and also has a spot on Brick Lane.
This is authentic Ethiopian food, a lot of which is naturally vegetarian; and they have a big ol’ vegan plate– that’s what I had. This was my first time trying this classic vegan plate that is served in many Ethiopian restaurants; at first, I wanted to save this meal for an NYC spot– I’d been meaning to go to an Ethiopian restaurant in New York for the longest since going vegan, but hadn’t yet. But then I thought: “dude, I’m in London– when is a better time to try it than now?” And I’m glad I did. So much flavor in that plate, and it got better with each bite. And the injera, the traditional and very popular Ethiopian bread, was sooo good. Soft and fluffy, but sturdy enough to pick up the sides with. Such an interesting texture also. And there was a great mix of pickled veg with more savory veg– each little component filled with it’s own flavors. I don’t even like okra unless it’s fried (at least I thought I didn’t), and I stuffed my face with the okra on this platter like nobody’s business.
For dessert, I headed over to Crepes a la Carte. I absolutely love crepes so I couldn’t leave without trying a vegan one. I got mine filled with banana, strawberry jam and chocolate. The crepe itself was nice and soft and had a hearty flavor from the buckwheat mix they use as a base, but it wasn’t overpowering. I would have really loved to try it in a savory crepe, but mine was insanely good– it hit my sweet tooth perfectly. Also, the folks at the booth were so nice. They spoke French and entertained my menial French skills by having a little conversation with me while they made my crepe. Great people always make good food even better.
So Much More to Come…
Next, I ventured out on the Underground to the Old Street area. It was beautiful and hectic out there– it was the weekend and from what I saw, this was a popular nightlife area; there were a few bars around and the streets were filled with people partaking of the nightlife vibes. On my way to my main destination, I stopped to pick up a few doughnuts at Doughnut Time UK. Although they aren’t exclusively vegan, they always have several vegan selections, which is great. I decided to get a “safe” doughnut and a “rebel” doughnut. I ended up getting a jam filled sugar variety and another called “Sia Later” (perhaps named after the singer?), a red velvet cake doughnut, topped with buttercream frosting and freeze-dried raspberries. Both doughnuts were ah-mazing.
The jam-filled tasted like your average jelly doughnut– but the jam tasted really fresh and the doughnut was so soft. The red velvet doughnut was unique and a bit more dense due to it being a cake doughnut and not a classic, doughy one. The buttercream was really sweet. I loved that so much. But the sweetness was slightly balanced out by the red velvet doughnut. A perfect ratio, in my opinion.
But I saved those for later. After picking up my sweet fix, I kept on trekking until I got to Unity Diner. I took a risk going out there on the weekend, during dinner, with no reservation– but I got a seat. And yes, it was already pretty packed, but I couldn’t leave LDN without trying the food here, for several reasons. If you’re big on veganism, you likely have heard of Earthling Ed. He’s popular here in the states, but he’s mega popular across the pond– he’s a vegan activist, speaker and educator and Unity Diner is his creation. All profits from the restaurant go to funding an animal sanctuary in the U.K as well as an animal rights organization called Surge. Knowing that made my food taste even better, although it didn’t need much help because the food here is ridiculous, and I mean that in a very good way.
I had the surf ‘n’ turf dog, which was part of their Veganuary menu. Sea and land flavors are always a great combo– when they’re vegan, of course. Plus, this dog was pretty hearty. The crispy “shrimp” were delicious and having them alone or sharing them with a bite of the sausage was really good. Even the bun was great– lightly toasty and not soggy at all from the delicious saucy goodness happening on top of the hotdog, but also on the bun, which had a flavorful sauce and lettuce spread across it on one side, and tomato on the other side. I actually ate pieces of the veg, sauce and bun alone, and it tasted like a yummy veggie sandwich.
I also had the mac and cheese and it was piping hot, so cheezy and absolutely delicious. One of the best vegan macs I’ve had yet, and that’s saying a lot because there are a lot of vegan macs out there. Unity did not disappoint in any arena– the food, the hospitality, the service– everything was absolutely stellar and more than I could have imagined.
Next up, I went to a vegan pub called Norman’s Coach and Horses. I found out about this place before I even left for the trip and I was so excited to visit because I could already feel that it was one of those hidden gems that doesn’t seem super popular, but if you know, you know– you know? It’s the first 100% vegan pub in LDN. I wanted to get there bright and early, so I traveled into SoHo, stopping first in China Town– and by the way, China Town in London is gorgeous. I marveled at everything I saw there while waiting for Norman’s to open. I started to walk over to the pub, and with about 10 minutes left, I noticed they were already open– my first clue that this place was definitely here to serve the locals. There were a few folks in there already enjoying a nice pint and chatting it up. I already knew what I was getting, because I couldn’t go to a proper British pub and not have the Fish ‘n’ Chips– or in this case, Tofush and Chips!
The meal, the ambiance and the people here were so great. The tofu “fish” was marinated in lemon and you could taste it in every bite. There was also a great crisp on the fry batter and it had seaweed on it to give it that kelp-y, sea flavor. The house-made tartar sauce was so delicious, and I used up every bit of it to dip my tofush in– it was nice and chunky and flavorful. The chips were nice and thick– not steak fries but somewhere in the middle; just perfect for the dish. And the peas were your regular peas, but also delicious. Being that I love to balance every meal out with veg these days, they were probably more spectacular to me that they would be to anyone else, and most folks could maybe do without them– that is, except a native Londoner who orders Fish ‘n’ Chips at any pub in London.
After my meal, I had a long conversation with some of the locals about a few struggles Norman’s is going through– by summer 2019, Norman’s could be shut down– a corporate entity may not renew their lease. Norman’s has been run by a father/daughter team for over a decade and the pub thrives off the support of some tourists, sure– but more so (and more importantly) off the support from locals who love this place so dearly. I signed the in-house petition while I was there, but I have recently found out about the Change.org petition for Norman’s. If you can sign it, that would be amazing. If you are able to donate any funds to help keep it going, that would be even more amazing. Let’s help keep this vegan pub alive and thriving!
And Even More Proper British Grub — with Dessert!
Next, I headed out to Camden Town to check out Young Vegans. This was a looong time coming– I’ve been following them for awhile and I was so excited to go there and try proper British pie and mash. This was by far one of my favorite trips while I was in LDN. I’m obsessed with Camden Town. As soon as I got off the Underground, I knew I was in love with this place. It’s an alternative wonderland and it was packed with so many people and it was just sensory overload in the best way possible.
When I finally made it to Young Vegans, I got the classic meat pie and mash with gravy. Yes, yes and yes. The crust was perfect. And the flavors of the seitan meat were so great– I assume they marinate it with magic (don’t quote me on that but it tasted like it was marinated for days!). The crispy onions on top were the perfect addition to add a nice lil’ salty crunch to the mash also. And the gravy was so flavorful but not thick at all. It just glided over the pie and mash and right into my mouth — which is currently watering while writing this description. And eating great food in an atmosphere that is amazing just adds to the greatness of the meal– Young Vegans is a quaint lil’ spot on it’s own that basically has “hole-in-the-wall” charm, if you will, but the quality of the food and the chill all around made me feel like I was eating in a tiny, cool British pub in town that no one knows about but everyone that matters knows about.
It was already dark outside when I left Young Vegans, and the plan was to head back to my air bnb– I strategically headed out there at a time where I’d be getting back a little later so I could see Camden Town at night 🙂 But as I was leaving, I looked around at the other shops and noticed there was a vegan dessert booth right across from Young Vegans. It was Nora and Nama— a 100% vegan bakery. I’d just had dinner, so, I had to get dessert right? This was an impromptu addition to my vegan food tour, and I also had a budget to stick to, so, although they had several delicious desserts staring at me, I went with a cute and delicious Alfajores— a traditionally Argentinian cookie, made vegan. It was delicious, with cream and coconut centered between two cookies. I’m actually not a big coconut fan but it wasn’t overwhelming in this cookie at all. And the cookies were soft but crisp at the same time–a difficult feat to achieve. I chowed down on mine while walking back to the underground and taking in all the beauty that Camden Town at night had to offer. You can say that I definitely left there a happy girl.
And Another Vegan British Pub? Yes!
The next stop on my vegan food tour took me out to The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker. This is another 100% vegan British pub. Although Norman’s has the history, this place has certainly carved out it’s own spot in the hearts of Londoners. It was a rainy day when I went, and that actually felt perfect. Once I got there, I was greeted by the folks working and also by Stella, the cutest pub dog ever (forgot to mention that I met an awesome pub cat at Norman’s).
Their menu is also hella cute– a piece of brown paper posted on a wooden clipboard. So frickin eco-friendly… once I saw that, I was already in love with the place. I didn’t know what I wanted to get because I’m indecisive, but once my eyes ran across the spicy chorizo sandwich, I knew that was it. It was the most perfect pub sandwich I’d ever seen. The description alone screamed: “eat me after you’ve had a few beers or shots”. I knew I would be having neither, so I was hoping it would live up to my expectations being 100% sober; and boy-oh-boy, did it. The house-made, spicy chorizo was so delicious. Perfectly spicy, with the heat level just slightly off-set by the refried beans, but the spice was kicked right back up by the jalapenos. There was also cheddar which always makes everything better. All this goodness was sandwiched between two slices of pressed sourdough. OMG.
I also got a side of mozzarella sticks and what did I do that for? I wanted to order 100 more after trying them. And that cheeze pull though! They were perfectly crispy on the outside and so gooey on the inside. I haven’t had too many vegan mozz sticks since going vegan, but so far, the ones at Blacksmith are by far my favorite, and they were the most reminiscent of the mozz sticks I’ve had pre-vegan. The food was so good and the chorizo was so filling that I actually didn’t finish the sandwich– I took half home with me, tucked away in my bag for a late-night snack.
But I Didn’t go Home Without Dessert, of Course
The rain had let up a bit, so I decided to go to another destination right after leaving Blacksmith– a spot I was planning on getting to at some point while in LDN. I headed over to Yorica! , a 100% vegan ice-cream shop, to get dessert. Not only are they all-vegan, but they’re ice creams are also free from all 14 major allergens. Although I’m indecisive, I already knew what I was getting before I even walked in the door. Anyplace that let’s me combine caramel, waffles and ice cream has a special place in my heart.
They have several combos, and I got a waffle and ice cream combo, with the salted caramel and caramel popcorn flavors. I actually swapped out one of the the original combo flavors for the caramel popcorn one because more caramel, duh. Yorica! is also awesome because they let you have free sprinkles with everything. So, although the sprinkles didn’t necessarily go with the flavor profile I was creating, they were free, so on they went and delicious they were.
And Finally– I Couldn’t Leave London Without Going to This Place…
My final stop was the one and only Temple of Seitan. I think they’ve achieved cult status in LDN, and for good reason because their food is frickin amazing. I knew it was gonna be good, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that good. I had the chick’n bacon sandwich combo with fries and a cola. Even the cola was insane– it was organic, so that could be why, but dang! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this was one of the best chick’n sandwiches I’ve ever had, vegan or not. The outside of the chick’n patty was perfectly crispy and the bacon was just salty goodness. The inside of the patty would absolutely fool any meat-eater, and I’d dare them to challenge me on that. Not to mention the sandwich was slightly greasy and filled with mayo — such pure, unadulterated, vegan fast food goodness. I was kinda peeved that I couldn’t try the burger also but my appetite and budget wouldn’t let me. And the wings– oooh, those wings. I would fly back to London just to try the rest of their menu. Every taste bud in my mouth was thrilled that I left London with Temple of Seitan in my tummy.
Until Next Time London!
So, that’s it. That was my #veganfoodtour of London. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The food supplemented all the amazing things I got to see and do while I was there. I saw a show at the theater, got pics of some amazing street art, wandered around so many cool neighborhoods, got to see some classic London tourist destinations, went to some dope museums, got to ride the underground, met some cool people, and got to experience the amazing vibes of a super chill city. So yes, it will bear repeating for many years to come: #takemeback! Check out more awesome pics on my Instagram page and stay tuned for more vegan travel reviews!