One of the
cleanest, brightest and most flavorful places is Country Life, 3-4
Warwick Street, near Piccadilly Circus. A buffet, it charges by
weight at lunch, with a maximum of $10, and a flat $11.50 at dinner.
All the food is vegan. This is a no smoking, no alcohol establishment
operated by Adventists. There's a vegan food shop upstairs.
The best Asian buffet I found was the Tai Vegan Restaurant at 10
Greek Street in Soho. That's Tai, not Thai - the food is Chinese.
All you can eat for $8.50 for lunch, $10 for dinner. Tea or other
beverages are about $1.50 extra. Or you can fill a large take-out
box for $5.
For a quick veggie burger, try Red Veg at 95 Dean Street, just off
Oxford Street in Soho. They also have falafel, oriental noodles,
noname nuggets and more, all under $5.
For veggie groceries and eat-in deli items, Fresh and Wild has one
of the best selections. They have branches in a number of locations.
In the West End, try the one at 75 Brewery Lane (Brewer Street),
also close to Piccadilly Circus. It's one of the few places open
late in the evening and all weekend.
Covent Garden's Neal Street used to be the center of veggie food,
but the place been taken over with fashion boutiques. There are
still a few of the old places left, and Food for Thought is the
best of them. A crowded downstairs counter lets you see the food
and have it put on your plate, with vegan items clearly labeled.
Tiny Neal's Yard has three places, but they seem more like tourist
stops than veggie restaurants. Chi, at 55 St. Martin's Lane, is
a branch of Tai Vegan, with the same offerings and prices.
For authentic Indian food, try Woodlands, part of the largest chain
of vegetarian Indian restaurants in the world, with three in London.
Set meals are about $23, but an ala carte menu will fill two stomachs
for less. Try the one at 777 Marylebone Lane, just off Marylebone
High Street, not far from Sherlock Holmes' famous Baker Street and
Although it also serves meat and fish, Wagamama, a Japanese fast
food and noodle house, has ten London locations and serves some
excellent vegetarian food. There's one at John Lewis, near the Knightsbridge
tube station and Harrods.
The financial district, called The City, has one of London's better
known places in the crypt of St. Mary-le-Bow Church, called The
Place Below. I found it overpriced and lacking in flavor. And only
two dishes were vegan. There are a number of much better places
in the district, including Carnevale, Futures, a number of Crazy
Salads (with 40 dishes including pasta and other treats for $5)
and CTB, a vegan Chinese buffet.
Probably the best value is the Indian Vegetarian Bhelpuri House
at 92 Chapel Market near the Angel tube station. One of the first
places to serve organic brown rice, they have 3 kinds of curries,
three rice dishes, many sauces and lentil dishes, all you can eat
for less than $6. And it's open from 11 am to 11 pm, much later
than most places. Not all dishes are vegan, but there's enough to
satisfy a hungry traveler.
If you go to the overcrowded and touristy Portabello Road market
on Saturday, you'll find a good vegetarian restaurant and bakery
near the bottom of the road. But for best shopping bargains is Sundays
at Pettycoat Lane and nearby Spittlefields, a huge covered market,
where organic vegetarian and vegan foods and wonderful baked goods
I was taken by a group of vegans to a unique and very interesting
vegan restaurant in West Hamstead. VitaOrganic, at 279c Finchley
Road (close to the Finchley Road tube station), is a buffet of Malaysian,
Thai, Chinese and Japanese foods, as well as many Japanese ala carte
items. The owner-chef is a raw foodist, but many of the dishes have
been at least partially cooked. All the food was delicious, and
it was the only place where very low fat food was the rule.
For those following an Ornish or McDougall plan to reverse heart
disease, beware. Almost all the food was somewhere between very
high fat and floating-in-oil. I rented a small
flat with a complete kitchen (often much less expensive than
even a modest hotel ) and was able to make breakfast and one meal
a day without added oils. The vegetarian and vegan prepared foods
in the markets is nearly always made with hydrogenated oils, often
the first or second ingredient. It pays to read labels carefully.
That caution aside, London is one of the most exciting cities in
the world and the number of musicals, plays, concerts, international
music offerings and exotic films is almost without limit. Buy a
copy of TimeOut as soon as you arrive for detailed information on
everything that it happening that week (and give yourself a few
hours just to read all that's on).
The best transportation bargain is a Visitor's Travelpass for unlimited
travel in zones 1 & 2 on the underground, all buses anywhere
in London and the Docklands Rail. It also allows you discounts on
rail travel in the UK and 20% most tourist attractions. The pass
must be bought on the internet, at least three weeks prior to leaving
home. At Heathrow, show the card at the tube station and ask for
an extension to central London, and you'll save
half the fare.
Places to change Dollars to Pounds are everywhere, but rates vary
widely and most charge a hefty commission. The best place to exchange
money is in any Marks & Spencers store, with one in almost every
neighborhood. The have the best exchange rate and charge no commission.
Most of M&S stores have a food section with many vegetarian
items and some of the best jams and marmalades in Britain.
If you're looking for a vegan gift for someone special, get a copy
of Vegan Stories, edited by Julie Rosenfield. Published by the Vegan
Society, it contains 95 stories and poems from around the world.
And visit Julie
and Brian's VeganLondon website for lots more information.
Britain has a 17.5% VAT (value added tax) included in everything
you'll buy. For large purchases ask for a VAT rebate receipt, save
them and collect a 15% rebate at the airport when you leave.
I've quoted prices in dollars, rounded off to the nearest 50 cents,
based on an exchange rate of $1.60 to a Pound.
You may not be able to understand the language, but you should never
go hungry in this vegan paradise.