There was a time when being a vegetarian diner at a London restaurant meant your only choice was to resignedly and politely order an obligatory mushroom risotto or an overdone goats cheese tart; but long gone are those days! London's veggie scene is now home to innovative, international and creative cuisine with some of the best businesses in the capital promoting food trends that are not only meat free, but dairy free, gluten free and even cooking-free! Have a look at our guide to the top 10 veggie hotspots in London. You need never eat Quorn again.
Delighting diners with their fresh and inventive vegetarian cuisine for the past 30 years, Mildreds has built its reputation as a Soho institution; and rightly so. Making its debut on Greek Street in 1988, the owners aimed to drag vegetarian food out of the 'drab 60s vibe', and step it up a gear. You can expect Asian and European organic treats with fragrant seasoning and spices. And if you're feeling a bit more traditional? Take a look at their daily-changing 'Soho burger' menu or one of their hearty pies on offer. Expect a warm welcome and a lively and buzzy atmosphere. There is a no-bookings policy and can get crowded at peak times, but it's most definitely worth the wait.
Set in the heart of theatre-land, this pan-Indian restaurant has a beautiful and rich past, dating back to their first venture in India in the 1930s. After decades of success they ventured to London to put South Indian vegetarian food on the map - and the rest is history. The interior is contemporary and cool with elegant wooden carvings and stylish parquet flooring, while a choice of either wooden chairs or banquettes adds to the relaxed atmosphere. The menu is full of exquisite delights, accommodating for vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and Jain (garlic and onion free). Make sure to try the South Indian Thali - perfect to share and the flavours are simply beautiful.
The Gate in Islington is the newest venture from Adrian and Michael Daniel, who opened their first restaurant in Hammersmith in 1989. This modern, bistro-style restaurant (formerly a Victorian butchers) combines the diverse backgrounds from the owner's heritage; Indo-Arabic and traditional Jewish. Even though it's busy and bustling, with often every table full, the space feels airy and modern, with an open kitchen and bar. The food is inventive and international, transforming old favourites like baba ganoush and falafel into the most sophisticated of treats. Their cleverly named Meditterasian salad is a must-try, a fusion of their Jewish and Arabic heritage on one plate.
A unique and quirky co-operatively run vegetarian restaurant, Bonnington Cafe is perfect for the eco-conscious eater. Initially a squat cafe in the 1980s known for providing cheap meals for the community, it has evolved into a community-run establishment, maintained by a group of active member cooks from all over the world. Part of the charm is not knowing what the menu will be, but you can guarantee that it's going to be excellent veggie home-cooked food at amazing prices. It's tucked away in beautiful community gardens in the heart of Vauxhall. The friendly and bohemian atmosphere makes it perfect for relaxing with friends and family (and make sure you bring your own wine - there's no corkage fee!).
Legend has it that this chic, popular hotspot holds the title of 'Europe's oldest gourmet vegetarian restaurant'. And having been serving their vegan British classics to the health-conscious of London for the past 50 years, Manna is definitely still holding its own in NW3. The menu is fresh and creative, and with Manna running a catering service in L.A, you can expect to find Californian trends making an appearance throughout. While this isn't the easiest on the wallet, you will definitely not be leaving with an empty stomach. Be sure to sample from their organic, vegan wine list - it's clear a lot of love has gone into it.
Located in the fashionable Heddon Street, this modern, self-service vegetarian diner ticks all of the lunch-boxes; delicious and healthy food, a buzzing atmosphere and friendly staff. Whilst they also serve hot foods, soups and desserts, the salad bar is the centrepiece of the room; displaying large and tempting bowls full of health. Note for the hungry: You pay for everything by weight so make sure your bank balance is looking good. Feel free to bring the children along with you as an array of toys and books are provided to keep them entertained while you catch up with friends, or enjoy a moments peace with a book. The aim of the owners was to create a venue that was "Cosy as a corner café, but speedy as a fast-food joint". And they've definitely hit the nail on the head.
Health food blogger and best-selling author Ella Mills, a.k.a. @DeliciouslyElla, teamed up with her husband, Matthew, to open MaE deli-café. Ella and Matthew wanted to show how delicious and fun natural foods can be, focusing on ingredients that are meat, wheat and refined sugar-free. You walk in to a huge blue-tiled counter, home to a selection of colourful and inviting salads, curries, cookies, cakes and muffins. The décor is wonderfully simple; a light and airy space, full of pastel blues and big homely cushions. Ella is known for her healthy yet hearty dishes and MaE Deli delivers just that. Despite the presence of a lot of "free-from" ingredients, you definitely don't come away feeling denied of luxuries.
Don't be fooled by the shocking pink theme inside and out, this restaurant is both cosy and welcoming. It's the original restaurant in the Rasa chain (the first of now eight) and where Keralan Chef Das Sreedharan initially perfected his winning formula. Rasa N16 has bundles of charm and personality and is clearly an old favourite, full of repeat customers. And quite right too - the food is simply superb; beautiful flavours, healthy and very good value, with most dishes being under £5. Looking for an authentic and affordable tour of vegetarian Keralan cuisine? Then Rasa N16 is the place to go. There are no fancy gimmicks or over-the-top service, the food it the focus. Just as it should be.
This self-service vegetarian and vegan buffet transports you from its Oxford Street location on an exciting world tour of cuisine. It truly does cover the globe, serving delights from Japan, Southeast Asia, Italy, Korea, India, Mexico and Lebanon. Its minimal and stylish décor, complete with indoor trees, is inviting and relaxing, making it a welcome haven for tourists, shoppers and workers looking to refuel. You can build your own healthy and delicious meal, before having your plate weighed and then paying at the counter. Although popular as a lunch venue, make sure that you check out their breakfast selection. It's a peaceful place to have some time out before work - besides, their kale and sweet potato breakfast hash is a must-try.
Camilla Al Fayed decided to venture into the restaurant world with a menu and vibe that supported nutrition and wellbeing; and didn't she do just that? Farmacy is an oasis of health, with a look and ethos that wouldn't be out of place in California. With no vegetarian clichés to be found, there are many exciting things to try. Their aloo scotch egg comes highly recommended as does their signature 'Farmacy burger' - a flavourful mix of mushroom, millet and black bean. Not to mention their range of plant based ice cream sundaes. Make sure that you visit the Alchemy Bar; their 'clean indulgence cocktails' contain ingredients with medicinal benefits, such as flaxseed oil and cayenne pepper, for that extra health boost.