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Vegetarians are in vogue thanks to the horse meat scandal. Here's TNT's guide to London's best veggie eateries

The horse meat debacle hasn’t only given rise to a slew of puntastic invention (bolog-neighs, burgers at hoof price, etc), but it’s been revealed that sales of meat alternative Quorn more than doubled in the wake of news that some UK supermarket burgers and ready meals contained an equine element.       

So it appears uncertainty over meat supplies has pushed carnivores in a much-resisted direction – the dreaded meat-free meal.

But that doesn’t have to mean fake sausages or tasteless tofu. Why not be inspired to try some of London’s more inventive veggie restaurants?

It needn’t mean a full-time conversion, but it’s a chance to try something new.One of the capital’s quirkier meat-free eateries is The Bonnington Cafe, which started life as a squat cafe in the Eighties.


The Bonnington Cafe has a boho bent

No single person runs the restaurant at the Bonnington Square Community Centre in Vauxhall – rather, a collective of cooks take turns in the kitchen each night, bringing their own twist on veggie and vegan food to the ever-changing menu.

Diners must book their table directly with the chef and all courses are kept to the same low prices: just £3 for starters, £7 for mains and £3 for desserts. Kamila Gruszecka, 33, has been with the cafe for eight years.

Originally from Poland, she says she was “very fortunate” to have discovered the project just a few months after she first moved to London.

“I was doing odd jobs like cleaning houses and walking dogs,” she tells us. Then, with no professional cooking background, she started volunteering at the cafe.

“It was the best training I could get,” she says, revealing that now as well as cooking at The Bonnington, she also has her own catering business.

Designing a menu for the cafe is an on-the-hoof (sorry) operation – Gruszecka says she visits food markets on a Monday to see what’s fresh, before cooking up the fruits of her foraging on Tuesday nights.

This keeps the cuisine on offer varied, taking in anything from Asian to Mediterrenean to British influences. 


Adrian and Michael Daniel from The Gate

A restaurant with a reputation for converting meat-eaters is The Gate, where brothers Adrian and Michael Daniel have built on their Indo-Iraqi Jewish background with French and Italian influences, serving some of the most exciting food (not just veggie food) in the city since 1989.

And, even better, The Gate regularly teaches cooking classes so you can learn how to make stellar veggie fare at home.“We cover the classic dishes, such as aubergine teriyaki,” Michael says.

“A lot of our customers seem intimidated by how involved the food is, so these classes demystify the recipes.”Classes will restart once The Gate’s Hammersmith branch reopens (see box, below) and cost £60 for 3.5 hours of group tuition.

To simply sample the food now, there’s another branch in Islington. 

“When we started, veggie food was all about being healthy, but for us it’s more about pleasure,” Michael says. Sounds like the veggie eatery for us.

The Bonnington Cafe.
Mon-Sun, 12pm-2pm and 6.30pm-10.30pm.
All mains £7. 11 Vauxhall Grove, SW8 1TD  
Tube | Vauxhall  
bonningtoncafe.co.uk 

 

The Gate Hammersmith reopens spring 2013.
Mon-Sun, 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm-10.30pm.
Mains from £12.50. 51
Queen Caroline Street, W6 9QL 
Tube |  Hammersmith  
thegaterestaurants.com

More top veggie eateries >>


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Best of the veg: London's top vegetarian cafes and restaurants that even meat-eaters will love
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