This week Sainsbury’s launched of 7 new vegan cheeses. Although not everyone was over-the-moon hearing this news , I did a mini yelp of joy! Not only does this mean that vegan cheese is readily available in one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK – making veganism much more convenient – but it helps with people who think it’s not “normal” or a weird, niche diet. As well as the cheese, Sainsbury’s now sell vegan lasagne. I am stoked about this. *over-excited Nic Cage GIF*
I’ve noticed that even in the short time I’ve been vegan – only 7 months – that chain restaurants are cottoning on to the power of vegan pound. This is thrilling. Here are some of my top high-street spots:
This week Zizzi launched a new – and extended – vegan menu. This makes me feel like doing a victory lap around my flat. As well as having an online/hard-copy vegan-only menu (weirdly I love having a menu I can hold in my hand and peruse knowing everything on it I can eat) but they have exciting options for veggies at every single course. Argh! As well as olives and nuts they have a new bruschetta to start. Their pizzas are made with Mozzarisella – which I love – and can be pimped up with 3 beautiful toppings. There’s now a new lentil ragu alongside the Spaghetti Pomodoro and alongside the beautiful dairy-free gelatos they’ve introduced a new dessert calzone – a warm sugared dough filled with banana, carmamlised pecan and blueberries and served with coconut and chocolate ripple gelato. Their vegan booze is clearly marked too. Amazing. I cannot stress how excited this makes me and how much more likely I am to eat at Zizzi as a result of this. Take a bow Zizzi, take a bow.
There is no coffee’n’sandwich shop that comes anywhere close to matching Pret’s track-record on catering to vegetarians and vegans. In Pret right now you can get dairy-free birchers or five-grain porridge for breakfast, veggie tagine or pea and mint soup and the Mushroom & Avo Sushi Salad or the Chana Chaat Flat Bread for lunch/dinner. Oh and the Chocolatey Coconut Bites (think of verrrry soft Bounty bars) are the bees-knees.
You may also have been following the fortunes of ‘Veggie Pop-Up Pret’ in Soho, London. The veggie-only Pret opened in June and was expected to operate for a month and give Pret chefs a chance to explore new recipes. The CEO, Clive, said that “we predicted our Veggie Pret shop would see sales drop by up to 30% and the project was expected to be an investment (i.e. a loss maker).” However, “sales at Broadwick St, far from falling, are up over 70% on last year”. The CEO describe the shop as being “packed” and like a Beyonce concert. *Crazy in Love!* The biggest sellers were 8 vegan goodies leaving Pret to conclude “that either vegan dishes can be just as delicious as veggie dishes, or we have underestimated how strong the vegan movement is” and they noted that the Cacao & Orange Pot were especially popular. Seriously I could wade in the cacao and orange pot all day – SO GOOD. As a result of all of this Pret have taken the decision to keep Veggie Pret open for ever and to probably open more Veggie Pret shops in the future. *CRAZY IN LOVE!*
OK, there are two things that have me miffed about Wagamama: the lack of a specific vegan menu and that there is no vegan-friendly Katsu curry option… yet. However, they do make banging fresh fruit juices and are fast and friendly. For starters there’s edamame and veggie gyoza. Lots of the veggie dishes that can be veganised like the Yasai Pad Thai – which can have the egg removed and replaced with tofu – or there’s the Yasai Itame which is already vegan. I feel like Wagamamas could get even better at catering for vegans but for now they’re not too bad at all.
Another easy filling dinner, the vegan option at Chipotle is dead simple – swap the meat, sour cream and cheese for more veggies, beans, rice, and guacamole. You can get salads, tacos, burritos and tortilla chips on the side too.
Itsu is a weensy bit overpriced but make lovely, healthy, beautiful-looking food. I’m a big fan of the gyoza vegetable dumplings with teriyaki dipping sauce and obviously the edamame. The veggie box – containing avo baby rolls, veg club rolls, vegetable gyoza dumplings with a pinch of schichimi pepper – is my go-to fancypants option if I don’t have a packed lunch. In the evening (after 5pm) select stores also sell dumplings veg udon – made up of 5 vegetable gyoza, udon noodles, toasted seeds, green leek, edamame & a dash of coconut milk in a vegetable broth. They have free bananas when you buy a coffee, miso soups and, to my mind, ruinously expensive soft drinks. I’d always welcome more options but itsu is A-OK by me.
Sometimes there’s nothing you want more than a delivery-pizza. Typically if you’ve been painting and decorating, moving house, running a long way, are hungover or too lazy to walk beyond your front door. Dominos use milk in their dough so are a no-go but Papa John has your back. Also the special garlic sauce is *drum rollll…* VEGAN! Ask for no cheese and (pro-tip) more sauce and all the veggies you love. I’ve been known to add vegan-cheese at home and a shit-load of sriracha sauce. Good times. For more on this read Jen’s hilarious and extremely helpful blog on ‘MAXIMISING YOUR PIZZA POTENTIAL (OR HOW I LEARNT TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE CHEESELESS PIZZA)’.
Love it? Hate it? I’m a lover when it comes to IKEA. Sure I don’t NEED more whimsically-designed glasses or reindeer-shaped cookie cutters and my flat probably has enough stuff in it.. but.. but.. what joy it is to dodge the arguing couples and stroll around IKEA Croydon. Holla to the tram ride home where everyone is wincing with over-stuffed bags. So not technically on a high-street, yet, (I’ve read loads of articles saying they will be opening smaller shops soon) but worthy of inclusion as it’s a place where a lotta people eat. I’m looking at you horse balls. IKEA have now unleashed vegan “meatballs” called grönsaksbullar which are made from chickpeas and a variety of vegetables, including carrots, green peas, red pepper, onion and kale. They are slightly cheaper than their meaty counterparts: Köttbullar. IKEA sell around 150 million Swedish-style meatballs, made from beef and pork, in its cafes each year. But they’re also one of the least environmentally-friendly items on the menu. On releasing the new item IKEA said: “The veggie ball has a lower environmental impact…this is a natural step for Ikea, building on the vision of creating a better everyday life for the many.” Served with a really nice warm veg salad, I was very impressed with the grönsaksbullar. As always I want more, more MORE! vegan options but this is a great step in the right direction.
Where’s your favourite chain-restaurant to eat vegan food? Where do I need to go next? Lemme know, yo.