Vegan and gluten-free food guide to London
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As you may have read, I was lucky enough to be sent to London to cover the reopening of the United Kingdom to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 2, 2021. As someone who is both gluten- and dairy-free, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to document some of my favorite food spots I found during my visit, and was curious since how the food scene had changed since I studied abroad in London during college in 2013.
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I am admittedly not vegan — in fact, I am writing this after consuming a bacon, egg and tomato breakfast sandwich topped with truffle oil, sandwiched between two crispy pieces of Trader Joe’s gluten-free Italian bread, crispiness compliments of the bacon fat in which they were pan-fried. I do, however, adhere to an entirely dairy/gluten-free diet thanks to a colon disease.
Nonetheless, I oftentimes find myself eating vegan, at home and out, as vegans similarly do not consume a lot of dairy. Also, for the sake of our planet, I’d say I eat plant-based 75 percent of the time, minus this morning of course. As a result, many of the below options feature both vegan and GF options and one is entirely vegan/GF.
With four locations across Camden, King’s Cross, Dalston and Soho, Mildreds has been a Soho staple since they opened in 1988 with the goal of “serving good value, fresh and colourful international vegetarian food.” This was by far my favorite restaurant I ate at during this trip. I liked it so much I went there twice for dinner, although they have an all-day menu. I walked to their Soho location both times at 45 Lexington Street, and they were fully booked for the evening. Given that I was trying to limit my time indoors due to COVID-19, I opted for takeout, but this is definitely a lovely spot for a date night, dinner with friends and the like.
A vegan restaurant by nature, I came across Mildreds in my search for its abundance of DF/GF options, ranging from starters like roman artichokes and mango ranchero nachos (my fav) to mains like tofu tamarind pad and a tempeh poke bowl.
I ordered the mango ranchero nachos both times as I so rarely find nachos with vegan cheese. These featured burnt mango ranchero, mango pico de gallo, melted “vegan cheeze” and jalapeno sour cream. These were definitely the best vegan nachos I’ve ever had.
Additionally, I tried the tempeh poke bowel, featuring lemongrass watermelon, brown jasmine rice, edamame, cucumber, sesame glazed club cultured tempeh, peanut dressing and nori. I personally love when restaurants can craft watermelon as a fish substitute.
A few days later, I tried their Kiri Hodi — creamy coconut and curry leaf sauce, roasted sweet potato, green beans, pea basmati, tomato coconut sambal and toasted coconut cashews. It was good, but I liked the poke better and of course, the nachos are a must. Mildreds is extremely allergy-friendly and their menu denotes the following allergies: celery, eggs, mustard, peanuts, sulfites, gluten, nuts, sesame seeds and soy.
Both meals cost between $25-30 each for large portions, leading to leftovers. The staff was quite amiable and double-checked whether I could handle cross-contamination with gluten. They even gave me a free dessert the second night I was there, which I devoured before I could snap a picture. Next time I am in London, I plan to make at least one trip to Mildreds so I can experience what it’s like to dine in.
Related: Here’s what London is like right now
Another London vegan staple is Flower Burger, a Milan-based fast-food burger chain started in 2015 by entrepreneur Matteo Toto, with 14 locations across Italy and posts in Amsterdam, London, France and Los Angeles. On a post-work walk on one of my first nights in London, I stumbled upon their Fitzrovia location at 43 Charlotte St. It was rather fortuitous as I had not eaten dinner and many places were closed by this time, around 9:30 p.m.
They’re known for their colorful buns, extracted from vegetables, ranging from yellow made by turmeric, black via charcoal and purple thanks to cherry and beetroot extract. If you’re looking for vegan burgers in London, this is your spot as their menu is 100 percent plant-based. Plus, thanks to their colorful design, Flower Burger is totally Instagram-worthy, as shown below.
“The team of Flower Burger always looks for new natural colorants and ingredients with the aim to amaze its customers,” the restaurant says, who notes their ode to the flower as a “symbol of positivity, joy and love and a bond with nature that takes the form of the rainbow shades.”
To make my Flower Burger GF, I substituted the seitan and red kidney patty for a chickpea patty, along with the violet bun for a standard non-colorful GF bun.
The patty was topped with magik sauce (apple vinegar, brown sugar, dijon mustard, lemon juice, mostarda, red onions, salt, soy milk and sunflower seed oil), tomato confit, lettuce, flower cheddar and soybean sprouts.
I particularly enjoyed Flower Burger for providing a vegan fast-food healthier, yet convenient option.
Plus, the cashier gave me the GF bun for free sans the usual upcharge, which I appreciated.
A burger+side combo will run you between $13-18. I had edamame on the side as to not overindulge in the fries (my favorite food group), but they also offer patatas buenas and savory potatoes/potato wedges.
In my many years of GF/DF eating, I find breakfast is usually the hardest meal to eat out, which is why I was thrilled to once again stumble upon B Bagel at 54 Wardour St. after discovering they offered both GF bagels and vegan cream cheese. They also have a location in Fulham and one coming to Tottenham Court Rd.
As was the case with Mildreds, I opted for B Bagel for breakfast both weekend days I was there, because I am who I am. (Side note-this is only the third bagel place I have ever seen offering GF bagels/vegan cream cheese. The ‘OG’ and first place I went to was Tompkins Square Bagels in New York City’s East Village, which I absolutely recommend).
I twice ordered the vegan cream cheese and avocado on a GF bagel for just under $14. Slightly overpriced if you ask me, but when in Rome, or London as the case may be.. I also enjoyed a carrot, orange and grapefruit juice for another $6 the first day because I had to get in those extra veggies.
Cookies and Scream
Those who know me know I have a huge sweet tooth, lessened not in the slightest by becoming dairy/gluten-free. I knew I had to find a bakery of sorts to try in London Town, and Islington’s Cookies and Scream was the perfect fit.
Located in North London at 130 Holloway Rd., Cookies and Scream has operated as a fully vegan/GF bakery since 2010, featuring cookies, brownies, pies and donuts made fresh daily. It migrated to Islington after a fire in their original location in Camden Market.
As I was en route via foot to a pub and planned to eat my goodies later, I ordered a chocolate chip cookie and chocolate chip cookie sandwich (for good measure). To drown my sorrows about departing London, I enjoyed the cookie in my cab on my way to Heathrow for my flight back home, and the cookie sandwich the next day, which I am pleased to report survived the transatlantic journey, albeit a bit smushed.
Cookies and Scream is the second fully vegan/gf bakery I have met thus far, behind Harmony Bakery in Hampden, Baltimore of all places. Cookies and Scream was just as good, and I appreciated how neither of the cookies were overly sweet, which is likely due to the use of less processed ingredients in the UK versus the U.S.
Another bakery I found while walking in Soho was Doughnut Time at 118 Wardour St. There are 13 locations across the city, but the Soho location did not have any GF/vegan donuts in-store for me to try. You can however choose from three online and order for in-person pick up— the Selena Doughmez (dipped in white chocolate and topped with strawberry chocolate flakes and raspberry crumb), the David Bakeham (topped with raspberries and raspberry crumb, dipped in dark chocolate) and the Choc Norris (dipped in dark chocolate and topped with more chocolate). I will definitely try Doughnut Time next time I am in London. Points for originality with the names.
House of Cans
Since 2018, Coal Drops Yard has marketed itself as a “shopping destination and foodie hotspot.” Its location along Regent’s Canal makes it a lovely spot to walk to and it’s also just five minutes from the King’s Cross St Pancras Tube station. In it you’ll find House of Cans, which is an off-license and bar at 116 Lower Stable St., sporting a large selection of craft beers, GF cider, cocktails, seltzer and coffee. They also collaborate with local artists to design beer cans.
“House of Cans creates one-off, limited edition collaborations with artists, illustrators, designers and drinks producers for those who enjoy a great small batch beverage and appreciate design too,” they say.
As I was still technically working, I opted for hibiscus and rose seltzer, while my friend ordered a German pale lager.
Coal Drops Yard as a whole is definitely worth checking out.
Although I did not have time to eat at Camden Market, I did make my way to Camden Town as I lived there during the aforementioned study abroad. With more than 1,000 shops, stalls, bars and cafes, Camden Market offers nearly 30 vegan restaurants and 26 that are gluten-free, including Magic Falafel and Neat Burger.
While I am sure there are plenty more vegan/GF restaurants to enjoy, these suited me just fine for my non-work meals in London. Did I miss any that I must try? If so, let me know and I will add them to my running list of restaurants. Until next time London.
Featured image of Camden Market in August 2021 by Caroline Tanner/The Points Guy
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