"Let's go fucking lentil! Let's go fucking lentil!"
Lentil curries, chickpea stews and bowl after bowl after bowl of grains – it’s fair to say vegan food doesn’t have the best of reputations. While the nature of factory farming and the dark underbelly of the dairy and egg industries might be turning more people towards a vegan diet – with over half a million people now identifying as vegan in Britain – the diet is still seen by many as one sacrifice too many.
Dig a little deeper, though, and there’s a band of vegan warriors who are single-handedly changing the image of the cruelty-free diet. From burgers and fried chicken, to a dairy-free carbonara and even the humble döner kebab, nothing’s off limits to those who choose to ditch the dairy.
Allow us to take you through a few of the very best places to satisfy your junk food cravings, the vegan way.
Temple Of Seitan, London
This lot made headlines at the end of last year, when they announced that they were bringing a vegan take on London-staple fried chicken to the oh-so-trendy area of Hackney. From day one, the queues have been out the door. It’s easy to see why it’s been such a hit – the seitan (that’s wheat gluten, to you and I) fried ‘chicken’ is indistinguishable from its poultry counterpart, and with a recently revamped menu boasting everything from buffalo wings to a wrap, as well as late-night opening times, that drunken stumble to the chicken shop just got interesting.
Soy Division, Glasgow
This pun-fuelled Scottish eatery specialises in all your café classics, from egg-free quiche and soya lattes, to the above, gut-busting fry-up and beyond. You needn’t miss out on all the salty treats that come with a proper Sunday brunch, either – from soy-based bacon to vegan sausages, all the accoutrements of a hangover-halting brekkie are present and correct.
Café Soya, Birmingham
This Birmingham branch of the vegan revolution specialises in Vietnamese and Chinese food. Not a tofu fan? No bother – here, you can tuck into all manner of veggie seafood and fake meat. From fish-free prawns to mock duck pancakes and chicken skewers that were never once clucking – all the takeaway classics can be found here in vegan form. Perfect for putting your feet up in front of Saturday night telly.
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Club Mexicana, London
The jackfruit is a vegan’s secret weapon – a plant-based alternative to pulled pork that’s eerily close to the real thing, this Mexican street food vendor has mastered it. From burritos and tacos, packed full of the BBQ-sauce-slathered fruit and all manner of salsas and sides, to piled-high nachos topped liberally with dairy-free cheese, it’s a tortilla-wrapped paradise for foodies and animals alike. A fancier option’s available too, at Dalston location Pamela – there, they’re serving up everything from fake chicken wings to non-carne asada. Unmissable.
V Rev, Manchester
This vegan diner’s a pop culture nut’s paradise. With one burger even named after a Taking Back Sunday song – that’s the ‘Barbe-cute Without The E’, fact fans – there’s truly something for everyone here. Even the most hardened meat-eater would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between these soya-based beefy burgers and their standard counterparts, while their fries come with a junk food lover’s selection box of toppings. Pepperoni pizza fries, anyone?
Fed By Water, London
This slightly swankier Dalston location boasts indistinguishably delicious alternatives to all manner of traditionally cheese-packed Italian dishes. From the gooey-as-you-like fake mozzarella on their pizzas, to risottos and calzones, no stone’s left un-baked-on in this kitchen. The real show stopper though? Their carbonara – a rich, salty, mouthwatering take on the cream-and-bacon classic that draws people from across the country just for a taste.
Twisted Burger Company, Sheffield
This lot might cater for carnivores too, but their vegan options put the meaty ones to the test. Frequent collaborations with Sheffield-based clothing company Drop Dead centre on the vegan diet of its founder, Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon. As such, they offer up all manner of guilt-free (and yet decided gut-guilty) burgers – from the Dead Twisted BBQ Burger (pictured above), to their Falaf-Hell patty, and the totally vegan burger sauce which they sell by the bucketload.
What The Pitta!, London
There’s nothing quite like a döner kebab. A British night-out staple though it may be, those great big elephant-leg-shaped mounds of meat have been known to house some more than questionable ingredients. Enter What The Pitta – an entirely vegan take on the döner, it brings together home-made flatbreads and soya chunks so juicy that more than a few diners have recoiled in disbelief. It’s a masterclass in plant-based indulgence, with locations in Croydon and a soon-to-be-reopened Shoreditch branch, which received a nom-ination at the recent British Kebab Awards.
The Full Nelson, London
A relative newcomer to the vegan scene, this cupboard-sized South London boozer is already churning out some of the best meat substitutes in the country. From burgers, to Reuben sandwiches, and even a recently unveiled brunch menu for your Sunday hangovers (fake fried chicken and waffles, anyone?), the Deptford-based pub offers up a who’s-who of junk food classics. Get down on Thursday and it’s pint, fries and burger for just a tenner – get there early though. We’re not kidding about how tiny the place is, and it gets busy.