Vegan on the highstreet – Food and Restaurants

(aka “where can vegans eat?”)

Going into town with your friends? Not sure what to do for lunch? Birthday bash at a restaurant? Never fear, there are options for you! Assuming your friend’s don’t want to go to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant/cafe (you can also take them when it’s your birthday, right?) there are plenty of places that do have vegan options on the menu, you just have to know how to ask.

Most restaurants keep a close eye on the allergens present in their food and can advise you as such. Ask if they have an allergens menu that they can provide for you. Most do, either at the actual restaurant or online, so you check before you go. However, here’s a list of some I’ve researched in advance. All of the information is collected/valid November 2013. Ta-dah 🙂

ASK – According to their allergen menu (here), they do have some fully vegan options. The fettuccine con verdure sound delish. Add a side of zucchini fritte and follow with a nice sorbet to complete your evening dining out. The menu also indicates that their pizza bases don’t contain milk, so you might be able to get away with ordering a veggie pizza without cheese, but double check with your waiter.

Bella Italia – Not as clearly labelled as ASK, but their allergen menu does have a small note on vegan dishes, saying that all pizza bases are vegan, as is their pasta is vegan (except the tagliatelle). You can then add a pomodoro sauce and vegetables. It doesn’t sound like there is any combination on the menu that is vegan, but it seems that the restaurant will make provisions.

Chiquito – Did you know that Chiquito breakfast egg on toast is vegan if you exclude the egg?! :O Sorry, but that made me laugh when I saw that on their allergen menu. It’s good that they give you the information, though. Better is that their veggie full English is vegan, minus the eggs. Mmmmmm, full English brekkie. Unfortunately their main meals are not so vegan friendly and you will be pretty much limited to sides, but 5 sides makes a main meal, am I right? You can even have their ice cream trio for dessert, excl. the ice cream. Gotta love that allergen menu. Points for trying, at least.

Giraffe – To start: hummus & red pepper tapenade. Main: phod malay noodles. Side: herby green rice. Dessert: Sorbet Sundae. At least, that’s what my choices would be. Unfortunately there aren’t many other options, but you can view the list here.

Holland and Barrett – ah, the old standard for a quick snack. Their ready made chilled items aren’t my favourite on this list, but if you’re peckish and watching the pennies, good old H&B has got your back.

Nando’s – shocking but true, vegans CAN eat at Nando’s. I found this out when celebrating a friend’s birthday and this was her location of choice. The very helpful waiter brought over their very extensive allergen menu and I had a browse. From what I remember, it’s a case of asking for a certain veggie burger and asking for no mayonnaise, but your waiter can advise you best.

Pizza Express – From their FAQ:”Our pizza dough is suitable for vegans and, as all of our pizzas are made to order, you can tailor-make your own pizza from our ingredients exactly how you want them.”

Pizza hut – their pan and gluten free pizza doughs are vegan, according to this list, but remember to specify without cheese. I had a non-vegan Italian friend who asked for pizza without cheese, so if she can do it, so can we!

Pret a manger – their avocado bloomer is vegan, as are plenty of their soups. If all else fails, grab a pretzel from their bakery section. Check out their allergen guide by clicking here and scrolling to the vegan section. Also, their soya hot chocolate is delicious and, unlike many other coffee chains, they don’t charge you extra for soya milk 🙂

Wagamama – Wagamama have a few vegan options to fill you up (and I do mean until you are stuffed, I was so full!), from their vegan salads to their yasai gyoza (vegetable dumplings) and coconut and vegetable noodle soup. You can filter their menu here and clicking on dietary menu filter. vegan is the first box to tick 🙂

Wetherspoon’s – If your friend’s want to go to a Wetherspoon’s pub for a meal and a few drinks, perhaps suggest going on curry club night, when vegan sweet potato curry is on the menu (no naan bread). However, the last time I went to a Wetherspoon’s I spoke to the manager and he gave me the curry anyway, even though it wasn’t curry club (so nice of him!). They do have a dietary requirements page on their website here, which seems to have more options, including chips and jacket potato.

Yo! Sushi – although Yo! Sushi doesn’t have a vegan section on it’s nutrition menu, all the allergens are clearly labelled, so picking a veggie dish without eggs or milk is your best bet, though obviously your chef tell you all you need to know and even make you something right there and then. Check out their nutritional booklet here.

This is not a comprehensive list, but I’ve tried to include everything I can think of. I’ll try to include some more “grab and go” food places as I can remember them.

The most important thing is preparation. If you know you are going out to eat, look at their allergen menu in advance. If there is nothing on the list, or if they don’t have one, ring them up and ask. Also, if you ring them up in person, the chef will sometimes make something especially for you. These chef’s specials normally turn out to be delicious, because the chef has had chance to plan in advance. If you just turn up on the night, then it will probably just be a case of making substitutions here and there, but don’t be afraid to ask your waiter, they are normally (yes, normally) happy to help.

What are your experiences when eating out as a vegan? Any favourite places or dishes? How about any bad experiences? How did you deal with that?

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3 thoughts on “Vegan on the highstreet – Food and Restaurants

  1. Good tip on the Pret hot chocolate! It wouldn’t have occurred to me.

    My main advice would be to echo your ethos throughout this post that it is always worth asking. On holiday in Cornwall we were in a pub that didn’t have anything remotely vegan on the board but I thought they might be able to do me some chips and beans or something, so I asked the landlord if they had anything suitable and he whipped out a tasty lentil shepherds pie from the freezer!

  2. I’m so pleased that restaurants have become more allergy and vegan friendly. It makes life so much easier when eating out with friends (in the past I used to have to resort to salad every time we went out :/)
    I’ve been to quite a few of the restaurants on your list and found them to be really accommodating. ASK do a lovely roasted vegetable ciabatta, which I order without the goats cheese. In Pizza Express, I have the Giardinera pizza without cheese. I don’t miss the cheese on it at all… the veggies have great flavour and sometimes the chef adds some chilli oil or flakes to boost the flavour even more.
    I haven’t been to Wagamamas yet, but I’ve heard great things about it. One opened in Bath a while ago so I must check it out x

    • Definitely check out wagamamas, I’ve generally had a good experience with them.

      I still find the occasional restaurant where they’ve no idea what vegan is and have to order a garden salad, but it’s happening less and less as time goes on 🙂

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