Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Vegan London

My hubby and I enjoyed a quick getaway to London for four days during the holiday break.  This is the second year in a row that we have done a European vacation together over the holidays.  The timing with the holiday break works out perfectly because we get to spend time with our family until Christmas and then we head out the day after until New Year's Eve so we can be home to ring in the new year with our kiddos.

Given that it was only my second time in London, (the last time was 15 years ago), I soaked up all the sights and wonders that the enchanting city had to offer.  Visiting as a vegan this time also gave me the chance to eat my way through London, and that is exactly what I did!  Thank goodness that we walked everywhere!!  As I do any time I travel, I did a lot of research about where and what to eat.  Click here for my Pinterest London board to see what I gathered.  

With only four nights to spend, my husband chose two restaurants for dinner and I made selections for the other two nights.  Manna and Mildred's were my top two choices (my first choice, Vanilla Black, was closed during the time were were there).  I made reservations for Manna two weeks in advance (Mildred's doesn't take reservations).  Both restaurants were lovely, fine dining choices.  My husband, who teases me that every vegan restaurant I take him to has people wearing Birkenstocks and playing save the eels videos, approved.  I highly recommend both restaurants.  Here's what we ate:

We ate here our first night in London.  Their website said to expect a wait if you arrive after 6:30 p.m.  We got there around 8:00 p.m. and the place was hopping.  The restaurant is located in Soho - a fun part of the city.  The place is intimate, with a trendy vibe.  I loved it.  We stood around the bar and had some drinks while we waited only about a half hour for our table.

We started with a delicious artichoke appetizer.  For dinner, I ordered the special - a beetroot, fennel and apple burger with sweet potato fries.  Amazing!  My husband ordered a vegetarian ravioli that I didn't try because of the cream sauce, but he equally enjoyed his meal.  We shared a yummy dessert.  The restaurant also has a nice selection of organic, vegan wines.  I was a happy gal.  It was a great place to kick off our London dining experience.

Vegan dinner at London restaurant, Mildred's

This restaurant was elegant and laid back at the same time.  I loved the setting (in Primrose Hill/Regent Park area).  I ordered dishes from the special holiday menu, and my husband ordered two appetizers to make a meal, which is often done there (canellini bean slider and jalapeƱo cashew cheese croquettes).  We ordered two desserts - the bread pudding and a tiramisu cheesecake, because I couldn't decide between the two.  Both were outstanding.

Vegan dinner at Manna in London

My husband's choices were Patara, a great Thai restaurant in The West End (theater district), and Mint Leaf, a popular Indian restaurant.  We went to Patara before seeing Once, (one of the highlights of the trip), and they were great at getting us in and out on time.  I ordered some amazing appetizers and a vegetable curry.

Vegan thai dinner at Patara in London

At Mint Leaf, we ordered a variety of dishes.  They were very gracious about adapting some vegetarian dishes I wanted so that they would be vegan, but they also had several that didn't need modification.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was chic.  

Vegan dinner at Mint Leaf in London

And then there was tea!  Afternoon tea is one of my favorite things to do.  I started going with one of my best friends about eight years ago and it is an indulgence I still enjoy and do a few times a year.  My husband, however, has never been, so I wanted him to experience a fancy tea in all of its English splendor.  I narrowed my choices to The Ritz and Fortnum and Mason.  Since we can do the Ritz here, I opted for Fortnum and Mason.  After a few clicks online, I discovered they have a Diamond Jubilee Room built for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  I was sold!  I made a few more clicks to check out the menu and was ecstatic to learn that they have a special vegan menu (as well vegetarian and gluten free versions.) 

And let's not forget the cupcakes!  During my research about where and what to eat in London, I came across a blog post on Chloe Coscarelli's website (famed first vegan winner of The Food Network's Cupcake Wars.)  She raved about a cupcake shop called Ms, Cupcake, so I knew I had to make that a stop.  We visited the day before we left so we could bring some home.  It was a bit of trek (located in Brixton) and the neighborhood wasn't fantastic, but the cupcakes were worth it.  The Ferrer Rocher and  Tiramisu were the best cupcakes I have ever had - vegan or not.  I am still dreaming about them...

I also made some other great finds...

Jamie Oliver's Recipease in Notting Hill: A cute cafe sits atop a bustling cookware shop and demonstration kitchen.  We didn't get a chance to sample the food, but the menu featured several vegan friendly breakfast and lunch items that looked delicious.

Ottolenghi: A friend of mine who lives in London gifted me with one of this chef's cookbooks last time she came to stay with us.  They have several restaurants, but we were lucky that one of them was around the corner from our hotel.

- Granger and Co.: A very good friend from graduate school lives in Notting Hill.  She took us here for lunch during our visit.  Their food was delicious - several vegetarian/vegan options.  

 - The Coach and Horses Pub: This was a random discovery as we were wandering Soho after the theater.  It is a vegetarian pub!  Sadly, we didn't have time to test it out, but it's on my list for next time!

- Borough Market - An open-air market that puts every farmer's market I have ever been to shame.  Walking this market overwhelmed me with glee.  I wish I could shop there every week.  Upon entering, we were greeted by a raw vegan stand with salads and quinoa burgers.  It was one of the best lunches I had during the trip. 

- The Falafel Burger at St. Stephen's Tavern Pub: We popped into this pub after a morning of museum hopping.  It is right across the street from Big Ben.  My burger was delish, as was the cider.

Vegan cupcakes and eats in London

As you can see, I really did eat my way through the city.  What a wonderful trip!