Food & Drink: Top 10 UK vegetarian restaurants
As part of our National Vegetarian Week special with the Vegetarian Society we ask: where are the best vegetarian restaurants in the UK? Committed veggie and fine dining perfectionist Abi Silvester reveals her top 10...
You can find great vegetarian food in all decent eating establishments nowadays, but any veggie will tell you there's no treat quite like a trip to a totally meat-free restaurant. In fact, many admit that it can be almost overwhelming to be confronted with so many menu options! It certainly makes a change from choosing between a goat's cheese tart and a mushroom risotto... ;). Here are my favourites of all time!
Terre à Terre, BrightonTerre à Terre was the first vegetarian restuarant in the UK to be recommended by the once meat-obsessed Michelin Guide. Its creative vision is evident in every dish, and it prides itself on serving up intense flavours, sublime textures and a combination of ingredients that few have the imagination or daring to put together.
Two surprising things to know about Terre à Terre are firstly, how reasonable the prices are, and secondly, how informal a dining experience it is - both far from what you'd expect from establishments in the Michelin Guide! Its lunchtime deals are legendary in their quality, imagination and value for money as are their sharing platters: a fantastic way for two diners to experience the whole amazing menu in one go for the price of a very average meal elsewhere!
Best for: flashy and flamboyant dishes to enjoy with friends and family
Vanilla Black, London
The Michelin-recommended Vanilla Black offers one of the finest dining experiences to be had anywhere in London - whether you're a vegetarian or not. Head chef Andrew Dargue
doesn't tend to use the word 'vegetarian' to describe his food,
choosing instead to focus on flavour, and the creative challenge of
cooking without meat in his dishes. Quoted recently in the Independent,
he explains that food comes first at his establishment - the label is
not important. This commitment certainly comes through strongly in the
food, which is creatively made, adventurous and delicious - the service
is also second-to-none.
Greens, Didsbury (nr. Manchester)Greens is a delightful place for top quality vegetarian food. Set on the pretty leafy streets of Manchester's southern quarter, it's well worth making the trip if you're staying in the city for any length of time.
The food is delicious and varied, spanning various cuisines from Moroccan to Italian and classic British: perhaps most memorable is its vegetarian black pudding, which tends to cause much confusion among carnivores! I don't want to give too much away about how it's made, but I will say it absolutely must be tried! Best for: a long and leisurely lunch
David Bann, Edinburgh
David Bann is an elegant and stylish place to eat, based in the heart of Edinburgh and highly convenient for those who flock to the city to attend fringe events at the nearby Pleasance Courtyard in August. The chefs have a somewhat 'nouvelle' approach to cooking that adds a note of chic to your plate - but you won't be left unsatisfied by the portions.
The wine is also worthy of mention, as I've tried many wines here that have endured as long-term favourites: a small selection biodynamic wines are sold here alongside a host of other interesting and unusual varieties. Best for: a classy night out
Food for Friends, Brighton
Food for Friends is probably the veggie restaurant I've visited most often, because it just has such an excellent all-round appeal that leaves you wanting more every time. Based in a beautiful and light building a short walk from the Brighton sea front, it offers diners a friendly and welcoming experience as well as a cracking meal.
Its classy yet unpretentious setting sets the tone for fantastic food from a wide range of influences. Signature dishes stick around, but the menu changes fairly regularly offering a fresh range of options on most visits. There's a great choice of wines, including relatively local English options. Best for: all occasions
Dishes are inspired by international cuisine of all sorts and the chefs put together some interesting and unusual combinations that work really well and are beautifully presented. The restaurant is set in an old building bursting with character in the centre of Bath, with intimate, candle-lit table setting. Best for: special occasions, romantic
The Gate, London
The Gate, based in Hammersmith, West London, was founded by brothers Adrian and Michael Daniel back in 1989, and until this year remained solely in its original location: an upstairs dining room hidden away in a small courtyard that's very much off-the-beaten-track for London. The brothers started The Gate with modest resources and catered mostly to friends and family at first, but it's become one of London's most highly rated restaurants, picking up a Time Out award along the way. It still has a bit of an arty, boho-chic feel about it that harks back to its roots.
The food is up there with the best vegetarian fare in London or indeed the rest of the UK, and tends to be very satisfying: it's one of a set of veggie restaurants where I've known quite a lot of meat-eaters to rave about the dishes. Ingredients are always very fresh - organically produced where possible - and imaginative. Best for: omnivorous groups, occasions
The Gate is opening a new branch in Islington on the 1st June
Mildred's is an upmarket and trendy bar and restaurant that is Soho through and through. Menu options change quickly, with 'specials' on a blackboard that regularly rotate, and as you'd expect from an establishment with high stools and and a well-stocked bar area as you walk in, the drinks are first rate, too. The food is all made daily on the premises and tends towards a laid back vibe with burgers and pasta dishes featuring regularly.
Mildred's is one of the less 'outwardly vegetarian' restaurants in this list, as it doesn't conform in any way to what one might expect of a veggie eatery. I wouldn't be surprised if many of its diners come in entirely unaware that it doesn't serve meat. Be sure to set off with time to spare because it's not huge and gets busy very quickly.
Food for Thought, London
Food for Thought is a bit of a vegetarian insititution, based in the heart of London's bustling Covent Garden. More a cafe than a restaurant it's a popular spot for office workers and tourists alike - or anyone hoping for quick and cheap veggie grub in the city.
It has more of a 'hippy' ethos than many of the other establishments listed here, which really reflects its heritage. Some are put off by the queues that inevitably form at the door at mealtimes, but these are an indication of the great value, nutritious food you'll find within! Take-away. Best for: a filling and wallet-friendly lunch
Gone, but not forgotten...
Red Veg, London & Brighton
We miss this awesome vegetarian fast-food joint that served up tasty burgers, hot dogs and other gloriously unhealthy grub at great prices. Nobody quite does anything like it since the two branches closed their doors last year, but if you're anywhere near Brighton you might want to give Grubb's a try - they do a mean veggie burger.
One to try...
We're also hearing lot of good things about Aloka in Brighton; a restaurant and treatment centre offering a complete wellbeing experience. I'll be checking it out soon and will report back!