Oh, England. Last month Chris and I spent a week in London for a much needed vacation and it was everything I thought it would be and more! It was my first time in Europe and we were traveling with two of our friends and now that I’m looking back on it, it was all a blur! While we did a ton of sightseeing, walking, and briefly traveled to Paris for a day trip, what stands out to me now is all of the delicious food I ate. I didn’t even make a dent in my list of vegan places I wanted to visit (which I knew would happen, especially given that I was traveling in a group of omnivores) but the food that I did manage to eat was so worth it. It’s worth noting that I ate a lot of sugar/gluten/fried food on this vacation, which I try not to do in my normal life in order to reduce the inflammation in my body. But in order to fully relax and experience another country, I decided this was worth it to me. Here are my favorites:
Oh man. The key to my heart? Vegan doughnuts. I rarely have them anymore since giving up gluten but they’re my favorite treat. They beat out cupcakes, cookies, candy, EVERYTHING! We found Crosstown Doughnuts while we were wandering through Camden Market and lo and behold they offer two vegan flavors on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Their doughnuts are made from sourdough and they use chia seeds instead of eggs, coconut butter instead of dairy butter, and oat milk in the glaze. Ummm yes please. I tried the (seemingly) simple vegan vanilla glazed and it was SO good. So good in fact that I went back at the end of the afternoon and got another…
A week later, as we were getting ready to leave our hotel and head for the airport, I decided to go out on one last adventure and got more doughnuts from Crosstown. This time I tried the vegan chocolate truffle doughnut and the vegan strawberry & elderflower. They were both fabulous but the chocolate one was a little bit to rich for me. The strawberry and elderflower one reminded me of the strawberry frosted doughnuts I used to get from Dunkin Donuts when I was younger! But obviously so much better. Crosstown has locations all over London and they’re even opening up a 100% vegan location this month! Guess I have to plan my next trip to London…
Yup. Zero shame here. Once I heard that Pizza Hut was offering vegan cheese in the U.K. I was intrigued, then once I heard that they were using Violife cheese I knew I had to hit them up. The pies may not look like much in pictures but holy crap they tasted soooooooo good! I went twice. And got the same exact thing both times – basil and tomatoes on thin crust. The cheese melts extremely well and it tasted like a normal pizza! Still dreaming of it and hoping that Pizza Hut in the U.S. hops on the vegan train soon.
We ate at The Gate in Hammersmith for our fancy schmancy Valentine’s Day dinner that Chris organized (he’s the best) and it was a 5-course tasting menu that featured all vegan dishes, revolving around vegetables. What’s not to like?! We LOVED the amuse bouche (a plantain fritter with lime and coriander chutney) and the miso-glazed eggplant, which had toasted cashews, micro coriander, and a ponzu sauce. It was a lot of food and we were stuffed by the end of the meal! The restaurant itself is also really cute and cozy and the Valentine’s Day crowd had it packed. Definitely a great place to have a special, fancy meal.
I found Club Mexicana at KERB Camden Market and got the BBQ pulled jackfruit burrito. The line to get food was longggg and the food took quite a bit of time but it was definitely worth it. It had black beans, guacamole, shredded lettuce, salsa verde, pickled cabbage, salted chiles, dairy-free sour cream, and an ancho chile sauce. I managed to eat my burrito as we walked around the market and it was the perfect fuel for a long afternoon of wandering around London. The nachos and tofish tacos also look spectacular so I wish I could’ve ordered more!
Our friends Grace and Cord found this place when they were exploring one day and we hit it up for dinner. It’s similar to Sweetgreen in that they offer health-focused salad and grain bowls but what makes it super cool is their decor. Once you walk in you actually feel like you’re in a treehouse! I had the Ginger Spice bowl (because how could I miss the opportunity to have Spice Girls themed food in London?!) which had tofu, quinoa, spinach, beets, sweet potato, shredded red cabbage, mixed seeds, avocado, and a carrot ginger miso dressing. The tofu was completely bland which was disappointing, but the rest of it was really good. We all enjoyed our meals here so it’s a great place to go if you’re in a group that has different dietary needs. They have some hot drinks on their menu right now that look amazing, like a reishi hot chocolate and a turmeric latte that I wish I could’ve tried!
I think this burger takes the prize for the best thing I ate in London. It was completely unexpected as it wasn’t even on my list of places to try, but we stumbled upon Big V in Borough Market and immediately it drew me in. I don’t enjoy meat substitutes that taste like meat, and I don’t miss hamburgers or cheeseburgers or anything resembling beef. So a lot of fancy vegan burgers these days don’t appeal to me because they’re trying too hard to taste like traditional burgers. Which, don’t get me wrong, can be super appealing to other people. Just not me! But when I saw that the burgers from Big V use healthy ingredients for their patties (and aren’t soy or seitan based) I got excited. I got the facon cheeseburger, which had a house tomato relish, burger sauce, pickles, red onion, vegan cheddar, and maple “bacon” on a soft, seedy burger bun. Holy shit. Everything about this burger was AMAZING. I was speechless as I ate it, and even Chris took a couple bites and declared that it was really good food. Not “really good vegan food.” Just really good food. I really wanted to try all of the burgers but alas, I would’ve had to be rolled back to the hotel!
Waitrose and Whole Foods
I love wandering the aisles of grocery stores. No matter where I am, I can spend a good chunk of time trying to find products that are new to me and it gets me really excited. So I knew that being in London, it would be a whole new ballgame. Our hotel was close to a Waitrose supermarket and I was able to find loads of vegan prepared foods and packaged snacks. Some of their wraps in the prepared food refrigerator were clearly labeled as vegan and I had a Mexican spiced butternut squash wrap. It was definitely a nice option that I kept in my backpack to eat during a busy day of walking around. I also found Coyo yogurt which made me so happy because I’ve seen it all over social media but still hadn’t found it near me in the U.S. It’s legit the best dairy-free yogurt I’ve ever had. It’s super tangy, nice and thick, and not too sweet. Ugghhhh just thinking about it makes me sad that I don’t have any next to me as I write this. The vanilla was my favorite flavor. I also really loved the raw millionaire bites from Livia’s Kitchen. They were little bites with a gluten-free shortbread layer, a date caramel layer, and a thin chocolate shell layer. They’re made from super wholesome ingredients so they made for a nice treat that didn’t leave me feeling sluggish after. I also found some incredible dairy-free milk chocolate bars at Waitrose by moo free that blew me away. The hazelnut one had actual candied hazelnuts crushed on the bottom, not mixed in, so it had a nice crunch to it. I brought back a few of these bars with me but gobbled them all up in a week…
I also hit up Whole Foods (a few times) and had to resist doing a happy dance down the aisles. Even their produce section was gorgeous and offered so much! I got the Smoky TTLA sandwich (tempeh bacon, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and roasted garlic vegenaise on ciabatta) three times in one week I think? I don’t know, I lost count! I know other Whole Foods locations in the U.S. offer this sandwich but I hadn’t seen it until I got to London. It was everything I wanted a sandwich to be! I also loved this brand of vegan spreadable cheese, Happy Cheeze, and spread it on these delicious gluten-free super seed oatcakes from Nairns. I tried the garlic cashew cheese and the herbes de provence cashew cheese and they were both fabulous. The selection of vegan yogurts and cheeses at Whole Foods was insane – I only wish our hotel room had a refrigerator so I could have tried more!