23 August 2014

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London’s best vegetarian restaurants


Ottolenghi_Islington_2010_-__MG_2733.jpgThankfully for veggies, vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants are a growing presence in a city preoccupied with steakhouses and burger joints. Sample the vegetarian eateries the capital has to offer during National Vegetarian Week (21-27 May). Gone are the worthy overtones and limited menus of old-style veggie restaurants; here to stay is a new genre that ushers in global flavours and inventive fusion cooking. Square Meal lists the best vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in London, as well as some vegan options.

Vegetarian-only restaurants

Manna, Primrose Hill

This north-London veteran has the added bonus of being extremely vegan-friendly. Even carnivores cheer the bountiful menu that brims with salads and pastas alongside spicy, flavourful dishes such as basil and cashew-cheese croquettes with homemade chilli jam, or cannellini-bean sliders with smoky paprika potato wedges. Ambrosial puds include liqueur ice creams and a dreamy swirled Irish-cream cheesecake.

Mildreds, Soho

A Soho fixture for nigh on 25 years, Mildreds serves globetrotting café dishes, from char-grilled artichoke crostini, to gyoza dumplings with mirin and soy sauce, to the house signature dish of mushroom-and-ale pie. All wines are organic and a handful are also suitable for vegans, while service is informal but generally smiley.

Orchard_2012_-_Orchard_interior_edited_opt2_13.02.jpgOrchard, Holborn

This venture from the Vanilla Black team is a homely café serving a short, innovative and fully vegetarian menu. Breakfast showcases toasted-oat porridge with lemon-thyme pesto, while lunch could see roasted-shallot-and-hazelnut tart with wilted greens and pickled mushrooms or a rich and filling Yorkshire Cheddar and Savoy cabbage pudding. Decadent cakes come afternoon-tea time are a must. Please note: this restaurant closes at 8pm.

Saf, Kensington

True to the Shoreditch original (now closed), Saf in Kensington goes beyond vegetarian, offering diners a 100% botanical vegan menu with much that is raw or cooked below 48ºC (to preserve nutrients). This translates to intriguing international dishes, from slow-roasted asparagus tips in a chickpea crêpe with lemon-tarragon aïoli, to curried kale crisps, or Saf-style superfood salads.

Vanilla Black, Chancery Lane

Even diehard meat-eaters can’t fault the food at veggie delight Vanilla Black. Instead of holier-than-thou evangelism, the menu is shot through with style and creativity – as well as a sense of mischief and playfulness – think brie ice cream with cracked hazelnuts as a starter, or green-pepper crème brûlée and lemongrass chocolate for dessert.

Vegetarian-friendly restaurants

gauthier soho - 1101_004-01-sGauthier-28May10-_MG_7858.jpgGauthier Soho

Alexis Gauthier’s commitment to refined vegetarian dishes (pictured, right) garnered plaudits at Roussillon and continue to earn him fans at this smart Soho townhouse. Vegetarians can indulge in an inventive eight-course vegetable tasting menu (made vegetarian at diners’ request) which mirrors its meaty counterpart in style and finesse, with dishes such as breadcrumbed tofu with red-pepper marmalade and purple basil, or squash ravioli with artichoke cream and cumin reduction.

L’Autre Pied, Marylebone

Bright, intense flavours are the name of the game at this perpetually polished restaurant. Dishes on the main menu go heavy on meat and game, but an ample vegetarian menu is available for those in the know. Before dessert, the farmhouse cheeseboard is worth exploring, whether you’re a meat-eater or a veggie.

Morgan M, Barbican

This romantic, informal but elegant offering from chef-patron Morgan Meunier serves classic French dishes with a contemporary spin. The menu extends to a six-course veggie-friendly ‘garden’ dégustation, including sweet-potato gnocchi with goats' cheese and roasted pine nuts, or vanilla rice pudding with orange tuile, and there are plenty of options for meat and fish lovers, too.

Murano, St James's

The food at Angela Hartnett’s understated restaurant reflects the chef herself – warm, generous and passionate. Vegetarians can enjoy a dedicated menu, with seasonal dishes such as bruschetta with wild mushrooms, garlic and watercress, or pumpkin tortellini with sage butter, and desserts including apricot soufflé with almond cream.

nopi food 2011 - Nopi_2011-_1.jpgNopi, Soho

The food at this temple to acclaimed chef Yotam Ottolenghi may be light, but it certainly delivers on flavour. Veggies can choose from sharing plates including smoked ricotta with butternut squash and pecan pesto, or pea-and-broad-bean fritters with cardamom yoghurt, while carnivorous chums can take their pic from miniature plates of grilled pork tenderloin or veal meatballs. The Ottolenghi cafés offer yet more vibrantly flavoured, vegetable-heavy dishes (pictured, top right).

This feature was updated in January 2013.

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