Some people are lucky enough to live in an area where there is at least one vegetarian restaurant serving a wide range of vegan options. (There are also a few around the UK that are completely vegan). Other ‘omnivorous’ eating-places also cater well for vegans, whether the menu is predominantly English, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Italian, Thai… or whatever. But sometimes there is nothing suitable on the menu.
If you call in advance, some chefs will welcome the challenge and create a really tasty meal. (After all, it beats the boredom of grilling yet another sirloin steak!). Others will fob you off with an overpriced plate of pasta, or worse still, will say they can’t do anything at all. Making do with salad and chips or the inevitable baked potato is a familiar experience!
Personally, I think that veganism has reached a level of popularity where, rather than be pleased to get anything edible at all (as we were not so long ago), it’s time for ‘zero tolerance’ of unimaginative alternatives. If a restaurant can’t provide a good vegan option, maybe persuade the non-vegans in your party that it’s not worth visiting!
As for puddings, the choice is just starting to improve slightly, but in the majority of non-veggie restaurants, you’ll still be lucky to find anything other than a plain fruit salad. And that’s fine now and again, I’ve got nothing against fruit salad. But if you’re a sucker for comfort puds, I think we should sometimes be able to demand more when we visit an establishment with any degree of regularity. A vegan crumble, for instance, is easy to make, but there’s so much more that could be on offer.
I’m lucky. There are good vegetarian restaurants near to where I live. At our busiest local venue (it’s not exclusively vegan), there’s a choice of vegan desserts – sticky toffee pudding, apple sponge, Bakewell tart, pecan and treacle tart, crumble, chocolate chestnut terrine, banana bread, chocolate brownies or ginger cake – served either with dairy-free ice cream, custard or cream. Ok, I know I’m spoilt and I probably have the waistline to prove it, but it just shows how easy it can be with a little effort. I’m not expecting every non-vegetarian eating house to be quite this creative, but nevertheless, isn’t it time to stop apologising to restaurants for being vegan?
Fortunately, there are now a few vegan hotspots in the UK – places where you’ll be spoilt for choice. From my personal experience, notable examples include London (of course), Brighton, Glasgow and Falmouth. To find vegan-friendly restaurants and shops near you, visit Happy Cow.