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Eating Out: Chains, Independents, Travel Tips
Chain restaurants, cafes and pubs
Provision is improving massively - see below for an idea of what's on offer. However, things can be variable, depending on where you are. Always ask, preferably in advance, and ask them nicely if they can cater for you.
We've included what we know but always check on the company's website because options come and go with time.
At the risk of sounding a bit moany, our biggest bugbear is with companies like Pieminister who offer nothing whatsoever for vegans (or the gluten-free). In 2014, really?
Then there's pizza! Independent pizzerias across the UK are leaping ahead of the chains. Increasingly, indies are more likely to offer vegan cheeze and other delights - we have several here in Bristol, including the wonderful Pepe Nero Organic and the Grounded chain. There are improvements in the chains - see below - but still no cheeze if that's your thing. But my vegan crystal ball predicts that soon, caterers will offer proper melting cheeze like the US brand Daiya... Watch this space, as they say...
In the meantime, take your own vegan cheeze to those chains offering a vegan base. In an 'unopened packet', for 'health and safety reasons'. Gotta laugh!
- Gourmet Burger Kitchen: their falafel burger is supposed to be nice: three crispy falafel in a lightly toasted, sesame seeded bun with lettuce, tomato, sweet chilli sauce and tahini.
- Las Iguanas - some nice food and quite a few options! Some branches offer vegan cheeze, but phone and check first. Olives; Championes;Veg Moqueca; Veg Puerto Rican Piella; Hongos Fundidos (without cheese); Open Quesadilla (without mozzarella); Beetroot & Feta Salad (without feta);Veg Gourmet Fajitas (available upon request);- Veg Enchilada (without cheese);- New Ensalada Queso Fresco (without feta)
- Nandos: their veggie burgers/pitas and beanie burgers/pitas do not contain animal products, but get them to leave out the mayo. They also offer a selection of sidelines, chips, corn, salads etc which are suitable.
- Pizza Express: recently added a rather nice new vegan pizza. Sadly, no cheeze but the sauce and veggies do sound lovely. Bring your own virgin (unopened!) packet of vegan cheeze and they'll grate it over the pizza though.
- Pizza Hut: similar to Pizza Express
- Prezzo: several options here. They will also put your own cheese on a pizza.
- Wagamama: try Yasai Chilli Men (ask for the rice or udon noodle option) - spicy, chilli sauce with crunchy stir-fried vegetables and huge chunks of deep fried tofu; Yasai Itame soup, inherently vegan and flavoured with lime, ginger, chilli, garlic, coconut and served with rice noodles; Yasai Pad Thai which is vegan (get it without the egg); Saien Soba is a soup (change noodles to make vegan) - milder than the Yasai Itame.
- Wetherspoon: sweet potato, spinach and chickpea curry (labelled vegan); and a new 'curry club' dish, aubergine and spinach dhansak, (served on Thursday evenings). A few of the curry club side dishes are also vegan, plus the spicy tomato pasta. No vegan draught beer but they sell Becks in bottles.
- Yo Sushi: not only sushi and in fact, quite a big selection of little dishes, including tempura, fresh soya beans (edamame) and a delicious aubergine dish. The miso soup is also delicious and you can have lots of top-ups free. Ask for their special diets list - and they will make dishes to order if you can't find things on the conveyor belt.
These all have an allergy list and some vegan options as part of that spectrum. This doesn’t guarantee that there will be much for vegans but it’s a start. For more detailed info, check out Cooking For Vegans
These vary massively regarding how vegan-friendly they are. This includes pubs as well as dedicated restaurants and cafés. Always check their website and phone beforehand; give at least 24 hours’ notice if possible – even if they don’t have anything on the menu they may be able to whip something up if you ask nicely. Indeed, sometimes you get the best food off-menu! If you want to encourage a business refer them to the Vegan Catering Guide We also have a nice friendly letter you can take to businesses to spur them on - just click on the link!
On the move
Moto: currently the best services, mainly because they include an M&S Simply Food and Costa Coffee (soya milk for hot drinks). Other than baked potato, beans, chips, green salads etc, main meals from the other outlets may be a bit random although it is always worth asking. M&S multi salads are a great standby if choice is lacking!
Little Chef: serve hash browns, cooked tomatoes and baked beans. But dry bread because no vegan margarine. No soya milk either. Avoid unless you're really desperate - and keep lobbying them to move into the 21st Century!
Welcome Break: the ones with a Waitrose are better (not all have these yet). Starbucks is at just about every WB services so there is soya milk available for hot drinks
Bus and railway stations
No vegan food on trains or coaches as yet – other than crisps! – but some chains within the station itself may offer food and many have soya milk for hot drinks. When in doubt bring your own or pick up provisions from a nearby chain such as H&B, M&S, WHSmith, Pret a Manger, Starbucks…
The rule of three is useful to ensure you get a decent meal.
1. Ask for a vegan meal when you book a flight. All airlines do them, though quality varies. Ask for soya milk also, particularly if on a long-haul flight.
2. Phone again to check a couple of days before departure.
3. Ask again when you check in.
Vegan airline food blog
We think that it's getting better partly because of the rise in free-from eaters, on top of religious or dietary veggies and vegans but companies do vary massively. In our experience, Asian airlines like Air India; Malaysian Airlines; Thai Air; Singapore Air tend to be very good - though we still advise that you check, check and check again! Virgin is usually OK and we've heard good reports of their transatlantic and Australian flights. My worst experience was an internal flight on Qantas in Australia. They gave me a salad sandwich on bread - no marg, nothing. This, from the land where hummus is sold in industrial-sized buckets in regular supermarkets. Lazy!
Starbucks or other chains may provide vegan food but check on the airport’s website to see which food outlets are there. When in doubt, stock up with portable snacks, such as fruit, nuts, seeds and sandwiches. You may not be allowed to take food on board the plane with you however, particularly if travelling out of Europe.
More travel ideas
This handy page on the lovely Vegan Village site is an all-in one guide to vegan or vegan-friendly eateries across the UK (many near train and bus stations) and lots more handy travel and accommodation tips!
www.happycow.net – global website for vegans and veggies. Includes health food shops as well as places to eat
www.vegdining.com – global site
www.vegetarianvisitor.co.uk – UK site