14 September 2012

London, Vegan Mecca

So I spent a few days in London, visiting friends, and had such an amazing gastronomic experience that I had to share!

First, it's worth mentioning that England is actually the birthplace of modern/western veganism, so it's no surprise that there is an abundance of veg-friendly establishments. Also, by law, packaged foods must list all ingredients and possible allergens. Add to that, they almost always have a label indicating "suitable for vegetarians and vegans"  !!  Makes life so much easier.

I don't know if this is part of their food labeling requirements, but all of the restaurants included ingredients under their menu item descriptions, and usually had a "V" next to vegetarian options.

OK, now for the good stuff. The food!!!

My first official "meal" was a salad from M&S, a chain store that has many grocery outlets around the country. They have lots of vegan/G-F options, including salads, hummus, crisps (chips in American), nuts, bottled drinks, fresh fruits & vegetables.... etc. I shopped there twice, both times opting for for a 2-for-£4 salad deal. I got a bean salad with a mint-parsley dressing, and a garden salad with a french-mustard vinaigrette. (Make sure to check your label for ingredients, as some of the dairy/egg-free salads do not include vegan dressings.)

I had the benefit of staying with friends who took me to the tastiest, veggiest restaurants around London. (Before arriving I had done some research, but honestly I found HappyCow to be a bit overwhelming in this circumstance!)

First, we had dinner at Yalla Yalla. FIFTEEN HUNDRED STARS!
"Beirut Street Food," tucked away in Soho. The space itself is super cozy and the food & service were great. After we explained that I have a gluten intolerance, the server offered to bring a plate of carrots for me instead of pita for the hummus. She also informed us of the items that had dairy or gluten that I should avoid. And of course, most ingredients/allergens were already clearly marked on the menu!
For dinner we shared hummus, falafel, batata harra, & fatoush (which usually comes with toasted pita on top, but they served it on the side). Everything was incredible. I've had a lot of these dishes many times before, but they really know what they're doing at Yalla Yalla!

For lunch the next day we checked out In Spiral, in the Camden neighborhood. So tasty!!! Mostly vegan, gluten-free and raw. They had a really great "pick and mix" option, so I got a medium plate with curried chick peas and plantains, wild rice, vegan caesar salad, and sauteed veggies. Typical, delicious vegan comfort food. There's something about the way all the flavors mix together, it reminded me of my many vegan potlucks at Calvin. So lovely. I also got a bottle of kombucha, brewed in-house, and came back later for the grand finale, homemade vegan ice cream! Mint chocolate chip. I believe it was cashew-based. They had a whole cooler of options, I wanted to try them all! So delicious and satisfying!

My last London food experience was equally delightful: dinner at Dim T. I don't remember exactly what I ordered, but it was rice noodles with a coconut-curryish sauce, tofu, lemongrass, peppers, tasty tasty goodness. Lovely, flavorful sauce. I gobbled it all up!

I left London with a belly full of tasty food... the only thing keeping me from buying everything I laid eyes on was the crazy exchange rate. Come on USA, give the dollar some strength, please!


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