If you’re still eating non-vegan cheese this month, you’ve clearly missed the memo. The plant-based putsch is rampant.
In Westminster Greggs sold out of its new range of vegan sausage rolls within hours of rolling them out.
A quarter of a million people signed up to “Veganuary”, the New Year’s pledge to abstain from animal products this month. There’s even resistance, championed by Piers Morgan, tweeting an order for “a large meat sausage roll on room service”.
Here’s how London has gone green.
Table for tofu
A raft of restaurants especially catering to vegans open this month. Today, food writer Gizzi Erskine and nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson open a plant-based junk food restaurant called Filth Foods in Shoreditch at the Dirty Burger site there. January will also see SpiceBox, the UK’s first all-vegan curry house, open in Walthamstow at the end of the month, featuring an Anglo-Indian menu stuffed with spicy hot takes: chicken tikka masala, the creamy curry house classic with tandoori chicken pieces (that’s a soy-based chicken alternative) and crunchy green peppers; jackfruit jalfrezi, a spicy curry cooked with peppers, onions and jackfruit; and the brinjal bhaji, charred smoky aubergine and peas in a rich tomato gravy.
Meanwhile, the fuchsia-pink facade of Kalifornia Kitchen opened its doors in Fitzrovia in November, rolling out burrito bowls with black beans and beetroot purée on sourdough. In Islington, Wild Food Café expands northwards from Neal’s Yard, bringing pulled jackfruit sandwich bites and “scallops of king oyster” — made with oyster mushrooms — to the table. Cambridge’s award-winning Stem + Glory opens a second restaurant in the Barbican on January 14, plating up kimchi pancakes and Thai coconut ramen.
EartH kitchen, opening at the end of the month in Stoke Newington, arrives with a signature vegan toastie filled with harissa, sweet potato, aubergine, red onion and spinach.
At Peckham Levels, Joseph Ryan’s Wildflower canteen serves an ephemeral menu of dishes such as swede fondue with focaccia croutons, pickles, radishes and apple, wildflower onion bhajis, curried yoghurt and chilli oil and coconut dal with pickled chilli, coconut yoghurt and toasted flat bread.
The Spread Eagle, London’s first vegan pub, rounds off the month with Club Mexicana’s veganuary menu, featuring pazole rojo (braised jackfruit in a tomato, jalapeno, coriander and lime broth), sticky glazed achiote “ribs” with triple-fried potatoes, pan-seared greens and classic creamy slaw. Delight in a dark chocolate orange tart and East London “cheese” board with white cheddar and cranberry.
Get your junk-food fix
Sure, it all sounds holier than thou, but vegans can be filthy, too. Honest Burgers has rolled out the Plant Burger (which uses Beyond Meat’s burger, incorporating a “bleed” effect owed to the beetroot) across the UK after successful trials in King’s Cross. Biff’s Jack Shack serves juicy deep-fried jackfruit burgers, wings served on “sugarcane” bone and sides nominally in Shoreditch, but also popping up in pubs across London. Similarly, Young Vegans Camden Town seitan pies and creamy mash boxes are a smash hit, worth scouring Deliveroo for. American meat-free “bleeding burger” company Impossible is leading the way.
Pizza Hut’s jackfruit pizzas are wild and in play this month, adding to the vegan cheese toppings that have been a feature since 2017. For breakfast, by CHLOE.’s Veganuary line-up includes the launch of a plant-based twist on the “Full English”, loaded with feature maple carrot bacon, jack fruit sausage, scrambled tofu, smoky cowboy beans, roasted plum tomatoes and whole shiitake mushrooms, served with a toasted buttered vegan English muffin and house-made beet ketchup.
Chipotle has begun serving a braised tofu dish, with slow-cooked sofritas made with onions, garlic, cumin and paprika. For dessert, Ben & Jerry’s have launched a non-dairy range with Veganuary in mind, such as Coconutterly Caramel’d, swirled with vegan caramel and cookies.
Try this at home
Staying in? No problem. Rebecca Seal, the food writer behind Leon’s new vegan cookbook, Fast Vegan, has a series of kitchen tips. Nutritional yeast sounds awful and looks like fish food but does a decent job of replacing parmesan in cheese sauces. “It’s very rich in umami flavours so you can sprinkle it onto stuff — Coal Rooms restaurant in Peckham uses it as a seasoning on some of its outrageous good vegetable sides”, says Seal. If you’re doing Veganuary, she adds, it’s worth getting hold of chickpea flour (amazing for replacing eggs in brownies, but also for adding protein when cooking pancakes or any batter), ground flax seeds (to use instead of eggs in baking and also to add omega 3 and other nutrients), and then lots of flavourful ingredients such as chillies, soy sauce, or ginger, so that the food you’re cooking really sings. Ackee, a relative of the lychee, is “brilliant at pretending to be scrambled eggs”. For vegan pastries, try Chantelle Nicholson’s vegan cookbook, Planted, while Matthew Kenney’s hero recipe book, Plantlab, is packed with plant-based desserts from cinnamon chocolate cake to coconut sorbet.
The Dirty Vegan airs this month and is a four-part mini-series, presented by former Dirty Sanchez star Matthew Pritchard and based on his vegan cookbook of the same name. Think of it as the BBC’s answer to Netflix’s Salt Fat Acid Heat, minus the mountains of meatballs and piles of parmesan.
Pritchard is a convincing mentor. The former MTV stuntman adopted a vegan diet two years ago and insists it’s been key to his endurance trainin. In each episode, he shares his recipes with an unlikely new group, from cooking up a plant-based banquet for a rugby team to eggless cakes for the Women’s Institute. Tough crowds, but his attempts are clearly convincing: viewers are already calling the 45-year-old “the new Nigella… just with more tattoos”.
Veganism as high-end entertainment is gaining a cult following. Peta’s appetising vegan cooking videos garner an average of 2.75 million views a day and more than 65,000 people subscribe to Bosh TV’s cinematic YouTube videos of vegan buttermilk fried chicken and plant-based steak bubbling away in a pan. It’ll get the taste buds tingling.
Make Veganuary the perfect excuse for a BNO, and what you save on meat you can spend on booze. An impressive 70 per cent of M&S’s wine range is vegan, from dry whites to full-bodied reds. The hero bottle is a shiraz called Star Catcher (also certified organic and fair trade). Veganuary brings a range of plant-based cocktails: Fu Manchu in Clapham is mixing White Russians with cashew milk and amaretto sours with vegan egg-white substitute, while Piano Works in Farringdon has a rainbow line-up, from a vibrant green matcha martini to a rich red Golden Beat, made with Bacardi and beetroot juice.
Cutting out dairy is certainly scary if you’re a coffee addict, but mercifully we live in a post-milk generation. If 2018 was the year of almond and soy milks, 2019 will be the year of oat milk, according to Peta. Oatly, Pacific Foods and Happy Planet’s oat milks are already favourites in the capital’s coffee shops and on supermarket shelves. Quaker launches its own oat milk this month. Last week vegan dairy brand Silk announced the launch of Oat Yeah, a new range of oat milk flavours in plain, vanilla and chocolate.
Old (hot) dogs, new tricks
It’s not just new kids on the block trying something fresh. Kricket Brixton went wholly vegetarian for one month yesterday, plugging vegan dishes such as leek and potato puri.
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar is launching a vegetarian “Pita-Off” between chefs including Ali Borer (Smoking Goat), Meriel Armitage (Club Mexicana), Neil Cambell (ROVI) and DJ BBQ. Dinings SW3 has launched a menu for January which focuses on soba noodles, featuring two vegan dishes: soba noodle salad (buckwheat soba noodle, mixed leaves, mixed cress, sesame vinaigrette) and buckwheat soy milk risotto with fresh truffle (Japanese mushrooms, soy milk and kelp stock, fresh winter truffle).
Dishoom brings in the new year with tidings of a vegan black pudding in its new (and vegan) Bombay breakfast. Udon noodle aficionado Koya boasts a vegan dashi broth as a substitute to the usual fish broth this month. At Scully, in St James Market, winds of change whisper of vegetable XO (minus the fish paste, but same taste) and a vegan meringue dessert (made with aquafaba, a chickpea reduction).
Burmese food is set to become more popular with the publication of Mimi Aye’s Mandalay. Lahpet, which opened in Shoreditch last year, serves delicious Burmese food and makes its traditional Shan tofu in house. It is made with yellow split peas, so that it’s more sustainable than regular tofu.
Radio Alice, the sourdough pizzaria in Hoxton and Clapham, has unveiled a menu written with cookbook author Alexandra Dudley, featuring onion squash, charred broccoli, pickled onions, a tarragon and cashew pesto and piquant chillies. Book now.