To celebrate April's Earth Day Sophie Farrah explores the power of plants and takes a look at some of the best local places to go veggie or vegan
Meat is out, and plants are in; this month heralds Europe’s biggest vegan festival, VeggieWorld, arriving in London for the first time. It was recently reported that sales of meat-free and dairy-free foods are up by 1,500% over the last year and more than half a million people in the UK now describe themselves as vegan, whilst a third of the population are ‘flexitarian’, meaning that they’re cutting down on their meat consumption.
Vegans, much like vegetarians, don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but they also avoid all other animal products, such as eggs, dairy and honey. What was once a relatively niche diet made it almost impossible to eat out, but now hip new plant-based eateries are on the rise.
Gone are the days of lentils and tofu; the world’s first vegan fried chicken shop (yes, you read that correctly) The Temple of Hackney opened recently and the queues have been colossal. Other plant-based hotspots include Camilla Al Fayed’s fashionable new Farmacy and the Michelin-recommended Vanilla Black, whose beautiful dishes could convert the hardiest of meat lovers.
Vegan fried chicken!
Closer to home is the new Without Café in Clapham, boasting an entirely vegan menu and vast selection of vegan cakes, brownies and pies. The recently re-opened TWID (formerly known as Little Bay) in Battersea has a dedicated veggie/vegan section on its menu, and even high street chain All Bar One is getting in on the act, having announced that it will be extending the residency of its pop-up vegan menu due to unprecedented demand.
Over in Richmond, Hill Rise is fast becoming an established vegan destination; stylish holistic hangout Bhuti’s vegan café hosts monthly supper clubs. A few doors down is the new Retreat Kitchen which is also entirely plant-based; their loaded pancake stack with fresh fruit, coconut ice cream and maple syrup is a dream come true. By the river is veggie food with a view: Tide Tables is tucked under Richmond Bridge, whilst its sister spot – the Hollyhock Café – is nestled nearby in Terrace Gardens.
Of course you don’t have to go the whole hog, if you’ll pardon the phrase; Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney’s Meat-free Mondays campaign encourages people to have just one meat-free day each week. Either way, it seems that there has never been a better time to get out there and eat your greens.
Local foodie news
Dining Down Under (Top pick for Richmond this month)
The wave of Antipodean-style eateries inspired by the café culture of Down Under shows no sign of stopping as Brew Cafés has just opened its latest Aussie venture in Kew. Antipodea is a stylish all-day brasserie; the daytime menu is breezy brunch and laid back lunch, but dinner is more sophisticated with the likes of squid puttanesca lasagne and whole mackerel.
Taste of Tooting Tour (Top pick for Wandsworth this month)
Led by local foodie Dipa Patel, this delicious food tour visits independent food and drink outlets where you can sample some of their tasty delights and gain an insight into the immigration that has influenced food locally. To celebrate Earth Day this month, there is a Vegetarian Tour.
- April 22, Veggie Earth Day tour, £16.52pp. Regular monthly tours £11.21pp; tasteoftootingtours.co.uk
Ready, Steady, Bake!
Still mourning Bake Off? Fear not, because this month sees the first ever Great Mortlake Bake Off. There are five categories to enter, including bread, sponge, children’s categories and the all-important showstopper, so get baking! Take your bake along no later than 11am, and the winners will be announced at 2pm. There will also be baking demonstrations, cake decorating and cake to eat.
- Apr 29. stmarymortlake.org.uk/bakeoff
Banquets in Balham
Brother Marcus hosts a series of hotly anticipated supper clubs; first up is British celebrity cook Sam Stern, preparing a Greatest Hits menu based on his most loved recipes. Later this month, mother and daughter duo Eve George and Hannah Plimmer, aka Chicory Kitchen, whip up a mouth-watering Persian-inspired feast.
- Sam Stern, April 6-8, £32pp, Chicory Kitchen, April 20-22, £28pp; both at SW12 8JA; brothermarcus.co.uk
Surrey’s Food Festival is back
The foodie extravaganza that is the Surrey Food Festival is back for another year. Explore a plethora of different food and drink stalls dishing up everything from baked goods to BBQs, Spanish cuisine to fresh seafood, and pretty much everything in between. You’ll find foodie treats, products and gadgets, plus live music and a Kids Zone.
- Apr 22; surreyfoodfestival.com
Late night suppers
The original Balans in Soho is well known for its all-day and almost all-night menu (until 6am!). At its new branch in Clapham Common, the kitchen opens until 2am, dishing up breakfast and decadent brunch (think eggs benedict with lobster) through to long lunches, dinner and dessert.
Check out our Food Section for more tasty local morsels
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