We’re not going to lie - eating vegetarian is not going to be our first choice when we’re deciding on a lunch or dinner destination in London. But, we do have a few very picky vegetarians in our world and we like eating food with them very much. So rest assured that this list is based on many years of vetting every restaurant in London for options that aren’t mushroom risotto and things involving goat’s cheese.
While not all of these are pure veg restaurants, this list is evidence that non-meat eaters have never had it better in this town.
The Barbary does brilliant Middle Eastern-style food, and it’s also good for vegetarians. There are plenty of veg-friendly items to order, which are arguably the best things on the menu, and it also helpfully means non-meat eaters don’t have to miss out on one of the best restaurants in London. The whole restaurant is counter seating, so order the deep-fried halloumi and a cocktail and watch the cooks and bartenders make your dinner in front of you. All of these factors make The Barbary an excellent spot for date, but come early or be prepared to queue as it’s no bookings.
Nopi is not all vegetarian, nor is it cheap, but what you will get for your cash is a relaxed, upscale experience with food that you actually want to eat. It’s chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s high-end restaurant, and for vegetarians, the sharing plates are where it’s at. The food skews towards Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, with familiar things like burrata paired with blood orange, or zucchini with cardamom yoghurt. Take a vegetarian here for a birthday or a date, and the bright and airy room is brilliant for brunch as well.
The Gate is one of London’s original and best all-vegetarian restaurants. The food jumps around the world from Thai green curry to a roasted heirloom beetroot tart, but the common thread that ties everything together is that it’s all vegetarian and all very tasty. The Gate is properly laid back for a nice brunch, but also feels fancy enough that you could bring a date and charm them over a plate of couscous fritters.
Because vegetarians have a right to eat exceptional food at pretty restaurants too, Morito on Hackney Road dedicates a whole section of their menu to our veggie friends. And that section contains the menu’s knockout dish: the labneh, which is smooth yoghurt topped with veggie and nutty good stuff. Order a side of the warm flatbread and get deep into it.
Mildred’s is the Soho restaurant experience for vegetarians. The whole menu is 100% meat free, and the restaurant has become a classic because it’s one of the only veggie restaurants around that can actually be fun on a Tuesday night. The busy but laid-back dining room gives out pure Soho vibes, and the food is comforting and satisfying. Get the mushroom and ale pie, which can legitimately stack up to any in town.
Unless you’ve mastered use of a spiraliser (and if you have, we’re judging), chances are good that your attempts to avoid meat have often meant eating a bag of Walker’s Cheese & Onion for dinner. Luckily, there is a middle ground between those two sad options, and one of them is casual pasta restaurant Padella, where you can happily skip the meat options for things like goat’s cheese ravioli in herb butter and cacio e pepe. Each dish is a fiver so you can order a few, and it’s so much better than staring at a plate of zoodles. Get there early, or prepare for a queue.
Not eating eating meat or fish and attempting to eat Japanese food is kind of like being a monk and trying to meet up with a friend at a strip club. Unless you’re cool with looking the other way on a lot of things, it just ain’t happening. The noodle restaurant Koya Bar is an exception to that, and the vegetarian dishes here are genuinely the best things on the menu. We’d happily come here any day to sit at the bar and eat the walnut miso udon noodles or the curry udon soup. There can be a wait for a table or a seat at the bar when it’s busy, but it usually moves quickly.
Most of the pure vegetarian Indian restaurants that our herbivore friends like to visit tend to either be a bit dull, or they involve a schlep to zone 4. Gujarati Rasoi has neither of these problems, and more to the point, the food is legitimately what a Gujarati family would make and serve at home. You come here to try dishes that you won’t get at other regular Indian spots, and the restaurant itself feels like a cool locals-only kind of place (and not just because it’s in Dalston). We like to come here for a low-key date before wandering into one of the neighbouring bars for a drink.
Much like someone trying to convince you to join a Crossfit class, converting carnivorous friends or family members to eat meat-free is not an easy sell. Make it easier on yourself and take them to Ottolenghi, where the food is vastly vegetable-based (with the occasional bit of meat or fish) but is all so good that meat eaters themselves will ponder swapping sausages for things like grilled broccoli and roasted squash salads. Most Ottolenghis have cafe-style seating but the best location is at Spitalfields, which has a full-sit down restaurant.
You’re meeting friends for a bite, but the vegetarian in the crew is tired of eating cheese with vegetables at yet another brasserie. Blixen should be your go-to, as you and your group can still have steak frites while the resident vegetarian will have plenty of options, from pasta to chopped salads to light, Italian-style dishes involving things like grilled courgettes and burrata. It’s a pretty restaurant and we particularly like to hit it up for brunch and long lunches.
There comes a point in every Londoner’s life when you’re tired of work, friends, and your cat’s stupid face, and you just want to eat a damn burrito. Mestizo is the place for exactly that, and besides doing some very decent tacos, they do lots of good vegetarian things beyond the usual cheese, beans and rice. Order the sauteed cactus tacos, the courgette flower pancakes, and maybe consider undoing the top button of your trousers while you’re at it. Mestizo also has a ridiculous selection of aged tequilas that will put your favourite whisky to shame.
Turkish food is already a good call for non-meat eaters, but the food at Oklava definitely takes it up a couple of notches. You’ll eat roast cauliflower with chilli and pistachios, crispy fried artichokes, and the best halloumi of your life in a trendy, modern restaurant that has casual hangs and date night covered. In our experience, they’re particularly accommodating to vegetarians, and will cook the veg separately to the meat on the grill if you just ask.
Indian food is automatically better than 99% of every cuisine out there, and for vegetarians, that figure rises to 99.99%. There’s so much choice in London that it can feel a bit bog standard, but it’s worth going down the Indian route and making the trip out to East Ham or Wembley to Saravana Bhavan, which has some of the best South Indian-style food anywhere in town. The whole experience is a bit of an adventure, and part of the fun is feeling like you could be in Tamil Nadu (or the West Midlands, at the very least). Get a few idlis and a dosa, and maybe some spicy rasam. It’s where all of our Indian friends go and if you want to go the whole hog, pop into one of the local Asian sweet shops afterwards for dessert.