Thanks to the stellar efforts of great chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Simon Rimmer, vegetarian food in the UK is finally getting the positive recognition it deserves.
Long gone are the days when meatless food was dismissed by gourmets. Instead, food lovers are now embracing the imagination of vegetarian chefs around the country.
And there’s no better place in the world to taste great vegetarian food than Britain. Keep reading for the lowdown on the UK’s best vegetarian restaurants.
Contemporary British cuisine
Well before being vegetarian became cool, London was at the forefront of the veggie revolution. In fact, historical sources reveal that vegetarianism caught on with some Londoners as long ago as the Victorian Era. Today, one of its best and well-established vegetarian restaurants is Manna. A cosy eatery that’s called Primrose Hill home for over 50 years, Manna focuses on seasonal ingredients and is a consistent favourite with London vegetarians, as well as meat-eaters looking for something different.
Elsewhere in the capital, The Gate – which has two outlets, in Islington and Hammersmith – consistently delivers first-rate meatless meals, blending modern-day elegance with a fusion of international flavours. And Mildred’s in Soho serves up fantastic Eastern-influenced meals in a casual yet sophisticated eatery.
Away from London, Brighton’s Terre a Terre is at the forefront of vegetarian innovation – and the imaginative names of their dishes make reading their menus a treat. Cambridge’s Rainbow Cafe is a gem too. Recommended by The Vegetarian Society, you can expect a wonderful atmosphere here with great food to boot. Better still, its wine, beers and ciders are suitable for vegans too.
In Manchester, TV chef Simon Rimmer has been running Greens for over 20 years – well before he hit the small screen – and it’s still a firm favourite with locals today. Look out for their acclaimed take on a meaty Lancashire classic: a vegetarian black pudding, which is truly a blood-less wonder.
And in Scotland, David Bann in Edinburgh is consistently voted one the best vegetarian restaurants in the UK. Be sure you save room for one of their famous, Scottish-inspired desserts, which usually feature vegetarian whisky.
Think of Indian restaurants in the UK and you’ll most likely picture a chicken tikka masala or a lamb bhuna – neither of which are options that entice vegetarians or vegetable-lovers. However, India is home to one of the world’s biggest vegetarian societies, where the majority of the population abstain from meat-eating. And some Indian chefs have carried this ethos with them over to Britain.
Sagar in London is one of the capital’s best and most affordable South Indian vegetarian restaurants. With branches in Covent Garden, Hammersmith and the West End, their specialities include huge dosas (thin rice and lentil pancakes), uthappams (described as “lentil pizzas”), vada (fried lentil doughnuts) and idli (steamed rice pancakes), all accompanied by tantalising vegetable curries and coconut chutneys.
Another great South Indian restaurant is Rasa, which boasts six restaurants in London and one in Newcastle. Rasa focuses on Keralan cuisine so expect bold flavours tempered by sweet coconut and sour chutneys, with banana-based desserts to finish off.
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