Their meat-free larders have a whole lot more kicking about than just cauliflower florets and cheese sauce, let me tell you…
What exactly is it about the phrase ‘vegetarian option’ that makes restaurants immediately reach for rice and fungi? Yes, mushroom risotto (in its many nigh-on-identical forms) is rather pleasant, but it’s been done – many times over. These impressive vegetarian restaurants can please meat-free diners and carnivores alike with their imaginative veg-based dishes. Veggies: take this list, go forth and dine, safe in the knowledge that your halloumi hasn’t been grilled between two steaks, and that your ‘vegan’ vegetable bake won’t come out smothered in grated cheddar. Carnivores: just give me the benefit of the doubt for a sec, won’t you?
Greens – Didsbury, Manchester
Opened by TV’s Simon Rimmer and his business partner over 20 years ago, Greens is the veggie destination in Manchester. A true Didsbury staple, this dining room exudes effortless style; its menu meanwhile displays careful thought, attention to detail and hard work. The bill of fare has evolved over the decades into a collection of inspired dishes focussing purely on achieving maximum flavour without a sliver of meat to speak of. Par example: gnocchi in tapenade sauce with a blue cheese crumb, served alongside a bean and crouton salad and salsa verde dressing. Sorry meat, there’s just no place for you here.
Vanilla Black – City of London, London
The guys at Michelin have enthusiastically endorsed this high-end vegetarian eatery. The Vanilla Black chefs see far beyond the alleged ‘limitations’ of vegetarian cooking – their cuisine is every bit as exciting, sophisticated and flavour-conscious as the grub you’ll find in the capital’s finest carnivorous establishments. When you don’t even realise the menu is meat-free, then you know you’re on to a good thing – I mean, can you spot anything missing in the double-baked Ribblesdale cheese pudding with smoked croquette, served alongside pineapple pickle and a poached hen’s egg? Nope, nor me.
Terre à Terre – Brighton
Terre à Terre aims to blow any other vegetarian experience you’ve ever had right out of the water – and make any fond meaty memories disappear with a puff of smoke, too. Terre é Terre’s menu is sure to put paid to any lingering doubts you may have about an all-veggie restaurant, and prove that you don’t need meat to push the culinary boundaries. Vegans and hardcore raw-only diners will also be suitably impressed with this inclusive, up-market establishment. The ‘better batter’ and lemony yemeni relish, and the black bean cellophane frisbee are two dishes from the current menu that put a trip to Brighton firmly on the cards.
Cranks – Devon
Having originally opened its doors over 40 years ago in the capital, Cranks has now retired to the rural South West – more specifically, The Cider Press Centre near Totnes. As niggling as the temptation may be, the chefs do resist the alluring call of cider, keeping their sights set solely on their fresh, local homemade food. And the results are top-notch; the ‘famous Cranks homity pie’ earned its title for a reason, you know.
David Bann – Edinburgh
Meat has no business on this culinary excursion. On David Bann’s internationally inspired menu, you’ll find everything from risotto with roasted red pepper, asparagus and poached egg (not a mushroom in sight there) to aubergine, chick pea and cashew koftas and stir-fried vegetables with udon noodles and smoked tofu. With this exciting and exotic bill of fare, diners can partake in some gastronomic globetrotting from the comfort of the laid-back and stylish restaurant.
Café Paradiso – Cork
Cork’s most renowned vegetarian offerings come from Café Paradiso – a well-established staple of Cork’s dining-out scene. Café Paradiso cooks up cuisine that’s nothing if not unique, and has had no less than four veggie cookbooks published since being founded in 1993. These guys are BFFs with their local suppliers, who make sure they get the ingredients they need to create a vegetarian storm. Get comfortable in a relaxed dining room blending elegant decor with a relaxed atmosphere, and order yourself lime-grilled halloumi with spiced carrot purée, braised lentils, walnut crumb and harissa sauce perhaps. Follow that with roast aubergine parcels of spinach and blue cheese with rosemary and squash broth and polenta chips. Pure culinary satisfaction – no meat required.
Mono and Stereo – Glasgow
These two effortlessly trendy hangouts serve as stylish music venues as well as cool watering holes and vegan-friendly restaurants. A distinct bohemian air runs throughout the cool decor, the well-stocked bars (organic beer, anyone?) and the rather broad-ranging menu of tasty, fresh, home-cooked food. Breakfasts, tapas dishes, burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and scrumptious desserts keep the kitchen team ever-occupied, with not an animal product or ready-made morsel in sight.
Demuths – Bath
Not only can Rachel Demuths, founder of this West Country treasure, serve you some top-notch veggie cuisine, but she can show you how to cook your own, too. As well as her restaurant, she also runs a cookery school and has published a collection of recipe books – she’s certainly doing a grand job at spreading the meat-free word. Creations like the shallot tatin with blue cheese mousse, port-poached pear, celeriac fondant and braised red cabbage set Demuths on the culinary map. Championing vegetarian cuisine since the early 80s, Rachel ensures her restaurant is stocked up with the best of local, organic, and fair-trade ingredients, so the only pangs you’ll feel at the prospect of a slap-up, three-course meal at Demuths are ones of hunger, not guilt.
Maitreya Social – Bristol
This homely, mellow vegetarian restaurant and bar doubles up as a vibrant arts space which hosts live music performances and art exhibitions – a top hang-out for Bristolians of any dietary preference. The menu is a vibrant celebration of all things veggie, with dishes like sundried tomato, pistachio and almond stuffed cabbage rolls served with red wine sauce, and spiced halloumi spring roll with roasted beetroot, herby puy lentils and pickled carrot.
Saf – London
From the daylight that illuminates the airy dining room to the wines chosen by Saf’s expert sommeliers and the selection of organic raw cuisine, everything about this refreshing restaurant is natural. Those that think vegetarian, vegan and raw foods are dull are proved entirely wrong at Saf, where the menus, decor and ambience display a distinct urbane edge. The healthy and nutritious meals on offer such as the asparagus and courgettes served in a chickpea crêpe, with lemon-tarragon aioli and side salad are practically served with a halo glowing above them. With one of the largest collections of organic spirits in Europe, Saf leaves cocktail lovers wanting for nothing, too.