Traveling around Europe can sometimes be difficult as a vegetarian or vegan. Germany is known for its heavy meat dishes like schnitzel and bratwurst. Spain has Jamón Ibérico and chorizo. France, of course, has escargots. Knowing all this before coming to London, I believed it would be just as difficult to find options that suited my vegetarian diet in Great Britain, while still getting an authentic experience of the culture. I was pleasantly surprised when I found this to be completely untrue!
The biggest surprise when I arrived in January, was that London’s restaurants were participating in something called “Veganuary.” With vegan in the name, I was already sold. After looking into what “Veganuary” really was, I found that it was a nonprofit organization that promotes a vegan lifestyle. Many restaurants were participating in Veganuary with special menu items that were completely vegan. However, I found that there were plenty of restaurants that were fully vegan year-round, even after Veganuary ended with the start of February.
One highlight for vegans with a sweet-tooth was Yorica!, a year-round dessert place that specializes in vegan and allergy conscious desserts. Located in the Soho neighborhood of London, their menu hooked my interest with vegan soft-serve and ice cream. However, they also feature gluten-free waffles or crepes to complement the ice cream. I was very impressed with their ability to create such tasty treats with all of these dietary restrictions in place. It was a great place to have a quick bite, but they also have vegan ice cream tubs to take home if you’re craving it later! To learn more about Yorica! and their nutritional information, you can find it at yorica.com/menu.
I expected pub food or food at tourist hot-spots to be particularly difficult in trying to find meat-free options. So, when my friends suggested going to the Sherlock Holmes themed-pub for dinner, I expected not to be eating a full meal. My thoughts were again disproved when they had a full veggie burger meal option – and it was delicious! It was fun to enjoy the tourist spot to the fullest along with my friends who didn’t have the same dietary restrictions. Though there have been some places that I’ve had difficulty with finding options, such as uber-traditional English pubs or restaurants that only specialize in fish and chips, it has not been as hard as expected.
For vegans and vegetarians looking to do some at-home cooking, there were a few bumps in the language difference between American and British English that are essential to know when shopping for veggies! I spent about thirty minutes wandering the local ASDA grocery store in search for zucchini when I finally found it under the label “courgettes.” Another change is American English’s eggplant to British English’s aubergine. I had seen aubergine before shopping for groceries, on menus at London restaurants, but I hadn’t ordered it because I had no idea what it was!
London seems to have even better options for vegans and vegetarians than I’ve found in some US cities. I don’t worry when going out with friends if I can find something that would work for me. Before coming, I predicted that I would have to give up my vegetarian lifestyle in order to live in London for a semester, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a bucket-list of vegan and vegetarian restaurants to try all over London because there are just so many options. I can’t wait to try more of the food London has to offer for the rest of this semester!