Post-Royal Wedding Fever Got Ya Suffering from Withdrawal?
Me, too! I was already fondly reliving our trip to the UK during my 21 Days of Tea series, since it was inspired by Fes.Tea.Val, but all the hype over the Royal Harry-Megan Wedding got me feeling really nostalgic about our first trip across the pond. Though it’s been a summer or two since, I thought it wouldn’t really be cheating to do a throwback post for those of you who may be considering a trip to England.
If you’re a complete veg like me (and not flex- or pescatarian), you might fear that London cuisine only consists of fish-n-chips or meaty pasties. But, had you gone to spectate the recent royal nuptials, you could have rest assured. Great Britain offers veggie fare just about everywhere, beginning with the flight.
We had a missed-flight horror story that I won’t recount here, because it didn’t end as delightfully as this couple’s misfortune and didn’t involve mistaken geography. Instead, weather mishaps and separate trip purchases (don’t do this, because you likely will just lose your money) resulted in our being stranded in New York. We didn’t have a great experience with a certain airline and ended up switching to Virgin Atlantic Airlines for our flight from NYC to London. This was the best decision we could have made! Neither of us had ever flown in such luxury before, and we’ll never opt for another airline again when Virgin Atlantic is an option.
What were the perks? Well, when we flew, headphones, cover, eye mask, and socks were all complimentary, and we had the choice of about 300+ hours of in-flight entertainment. But that wasn’t even the best part! The meals definitely win the title of best perk.
As you can see, this is a substantial meal unlike what most of us see anymore, even on longer flights. They offer a great little menu that includes a main meal, complimentary beverages, tea and coffee breaks, as well as a second smaller meal. Because of the time of our flight, our smaller meal was an Afternoon Tea.
Once we were there, we were delighted that most every restaurant we went to was vegetarian friendly. But there were also SO MANY exclusively vegetarian restaurants we never worried about what was for dinner. I should mention that we frequented many street vendors or smaller restaurants whose names we didn’t think to remember, but there wasn’t one that disappointed us.
In particular, you’re going to encounter a number of Cornish pasty shops located in many of the train and bus stations. A very popular snack (and especially perfect if you’re about to enter the tragic Triwizard Tournament maze), vegetarian Cornish pasties can have any number of fillings, from cabbage and potatoes to peas and…potatoes. You’re looking for a perfectly flaky pastry that’s full to the brim with veggie filling but not soggy.
Near our flat on Mare Street in Hackney was a hip little spot on the corner called…The Corner. On-the-nose name notwithstanding, the food was really good here, and this was actually our first encounter with the Full English Breakfast (vegetarian style) and tea served with cream (“Like coffee!” we gasped). So yummy! We recreate this meal all the time!
We later visited one of many cute little breakfast places whose name I didn’t jot down, but there we started with a sweet floral cake and a coffee. Then we topped off our breakfast with soft-boiled eggs in little egg cups and toast soldiers (slices of toast that you can dip in your soft eggs), along with salted cucumber and tomato slices.
By far our favorite brick-and-mortar restaurant (and the only one we revisited during our trip) was Ethos. This sustainable-minded pay-by-weight buffet is chock-full of delectable meatless cuisine. The menu changes, but on our visit we enjoyed, among other terrific dishes, Scotch eggs and halloumi cheese, both firsts for us. I’ve been trying to recreate the Scotch eggs, and promise a post when I come up with a good recipe. The ambiance is also really great in this place–there are several actual birch trees growing inside!
Knowing that everything on the menu is veg allows for a really carefree, enjoyable experience. The area surrounding the restaurant, Oxford Circus, is jumping; street performers, shopping, and so many people make for a really exciting (if not somewhat overly-stimulating) adventure.
Ethos wasn’t nearly the only veg-exclusive restaurant we enjoyed, though. For brunch one day we visited Tidbits, a really posh brunch buffet not far from Oxford Circus, but nearer to Piccadilly Circus on Heddon Street. This relatively calm, quiet street houses a really upscale-looking collection of restaurants with a really fashionable atmosphere. Some of our more savvy restaurant connoisseurs might recognize that street as the home of Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen, among others.
Again, there’s really nothing like seeing a huge buffet spread with the comfort of knowing that you can eat anything, ANYTHING on the menu! Their brunch fare was less eggs and crepes as we’d be used to back home. In fact, the only conventionally Western “breakfast” item was muesli. Everything we had was tasty, and after the hustle and bustle of the past days, it was nice to pause in relative peace and quiet. If you’re serious about your “breakfast” foods, I think Tidbits would be perfect to visit for lunch or dinner, because they also have a full bar, and the area is just perfect for a night out. Tidbits is pay-by-weight and has locations in Sweden, too!
First opened in 2004, Ben Asamani’s 222 Vegan Cuisine was probably our heartiest, healthiest meal. Everything tasted wholesome, real, and fresh. This is a popular restaurant, too, but it didn’t have the same electric energy as Ethos because West Kensington is a bit more chill. I got the vegan roast dish, and Kenton got the seitan stroganoff. Each dish was about £11. They obviously take great care in the procurement and preparation of their ingredients. If you want quality, satiating cooking, 222 Vegan (on 222 North End Road) is the place to go!
Using Happy Cow we discovered the extremely popular Mildreds restaurant. There are several locations, and I’m not sure which we went to, but the wait was super long, and it kind of felt like we were entering a secret speakeasy just for vegetarian food. We got steamed dumplings as an appetizer and then both ordered different burgers. They were super delish, so the wait was worth it, methinks.
We also happened upon several delicious Indian restaurants, some on streets that seemed nothing but Indian restaurants. If you happen upon one of those streets, prepare to be courted by a man in every doorway with the promise that theirs is “the very best Indian food” on that street.
Instead of talking about all of those, I’m highlighting one that was more isolated near Angel Station called Indian Veg. The food was all vegetarian, and you can see from the pictures that the decor consisted of pro-veg, pro-health posters all around. They were really kind and responsive when we asked for things, but they weren’t the waiter-types, and it wasn’t the kind of buffet that people change plates every time they refill them. That said, the food was great, and despite the militant posters, the feel was really homey. It’s definitely a restaurant that locals seem to frequent.
I’m definitely ready for another visit to the UK. In the meantime, I’ll just dream about it with Part 2 (coming soon)!
Have you been? If so, where did you eat?