Hold the kale: London’s biggest foodie trend is the rise of vegan junk food. From conscience-soothing doughnuts to meat-free pie and mash, we road-tested five cult dishes.
Set in a railway arch, Cookdaily is a coolly urban affair, with hip-hop tunes, a laid-back crowd and cool merch (T-shirts, ’zines) for sale. On the menu, 15 filling, veg-packed vegan bowls happily flit between English, Caribbean and Asian influences, running from curries and stir-fries to an ingenious, tofu-based full English.
Veg-out: The vegan jerk ‘chickn’ packs a fiery punch; the milder kaffir lime-spiked coco soup bowl is equally delicious.
There’s always a queue at London’s first vegan pie and mash shop, set in Camden Market.
The pastry may be dairy-free but it’s flaky and buttery-tasting, while the fillings are hearty and substantial. Try the all-day breakfast; scrambled tofu, caramelised onion, vegan sausage and smoky baked beans. Pies are served with a scoop of mash, crispy onion and red wine gravy – not bad for £7.
Veg out: The homemade seitan and ale pie is delicious, even if you’re a carnivore.
With temples to fried treats popping up all over town, this plucky bakery’s come a long way since its market stall days. Light and soothing, the Marylebone branch is an all-vegan outpost with plenty to tempt aficionados.
Its bait-and-switch tactics leave nothing to be desired: the dough’s rich with coconut butter and silken tofu makes for airy filings and glazes.
Veg-out: The coconut and lime number, made from spirulina dough and plump with tropical custard.
Plant-based comfort food never looked so good. Sure, influencers come here mainly for the ‘gram – and who could blame them when there’s guac-themed neon on the walls. But there’s plenty of substance in the grub, too.
Bypass the pasta and opt for the burgers instead: scrumptious tempeh or black-bean patties, laced with on-trend quinoa and chia, topped with beet ketchup and cashew mozzarella.
Veg-out: The spicy Thai salad bowl with crispy wontons and peanut dressing – you won’t even notice you’re being virtuous.
If the vegan revolution began with street-food stalls, this Chelsea address is much smarter, and set on a quaint, car-free mews just off Sloane Square. There are various virtuous salad bowls, but it’s known for its indulgent comfort food, from chilli ‘non’ carne and burritos to the signature seitan burger.
Veg out: The dairy-free take on macaroni cheese, which is made from cashews, is creamy, crunchy-topped and moreish.
Followers flock to this East London address for its ‘fried chicken’, made from a seitan-tofu blend. It looks and tastes just like the colonel used to make it.
It’s no surprise, given founder Rebecca McGuinness is ex-KFC, though the crunch-crumb and homemade sauces put his efforts to shame. In fact, it’s so convincing, visiting vegans occasionally freak out. Veg out: Order the two-piece with chips, soy-milk mayo and dips.
This place started out as a pop-up, and soon found a cult following. Now, it’s doing a roaring trade in Shoreditch’s buzzing Boxpark. Portions are huge, while the soya kebabs are messy and surprisingly meaty, with a secret, 23-spice marinade.
They come with lashings of home-made sides, from tzatziki to tangy burger sauce; for dessert, there’s vegan baklava (though we seriously doubt you’ll have room).
Veg out: The döner box is terrific; a GMO-free soya kebab with chips, soya-yoghurt tsatziki, pickled cabbage and homemade houmous.
This is one meat-free club that even sworn carnivores want to join, headquartered in a neon-bright booth in Camden Market. The all-vegan menu riffs on Mexican street food, with colourful small plates that pack a serious flavour punch.
Jackfruit puts on a surprisingly convincing show as ‘pulled pork’, while jalapeño poppers filled with chipotle cashew cheese are satisfyingly gooey.
Veg out: Ale-battered tofu ‘fish’ tacos with vegan sour cream, salsa verde, pickled cabbage, chilli and herbs.