Welcome to the fourth Food Spark self-guided safari, where we’ll lead you along a carefully curated route, visiting on-trend food hotspots to keep your finger on the pulse.
As well as breaking down the facts, we’ll take you to six standout restaurants and cafes across King’s Cross and Camden – two areas of London fast overtaking Soho for up-and-coming plant-based food. We highlight why each venue is interesting and what you should try at these pizzerias, sushi joints, fast-food canteens and pie shops.
You could take our word for it and digest these gems on-screen. But it’s more fun, and a lot more satisfying, to taste their food first-hand.
Turn up the beet
The plant-based sector is more innovative than ever, and restaurants aimed at both vegans and the vegan-curious are getting their knives out to take on the competition. Especially when Mintel reports that 27% of Brits plan to buy vegan food this year, there is everything to play for.
This food safari focuses on 100% vegan and vegetarian establishments with a point of difference, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for omnivorous restaurants that have upped their veg game, like Wagamama’s vegan breakfast, fine dining restaurant Gauthier Soho’s lentil foie gras, or even Meatliquor’s vegan hotdog. We’d also encourage you to stop by a Veggie Pret on your travels for a mainstream example of the plant-based trend; they’re turning some sandwich classics vegan with a VLT (instead of the BLT), a vegan ‘chuna’ mayo baguette, and eggless mayo and cress going on the menu.
1st stop: Itadaki Zen
Address: 139 King's Cross Road, London WC1X 9BJ
Style: Refined vegan sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine
About: We start off with an understated little vegan Japanese restaurant in the backstreets of King’s Cross. Don’t slurp too loudly on your udon noodles, or you’ll risk disturbing the zen-like quality that surrounds this food-first restaurant. Itadaki Zen brings a holistic approach to its offering that includes minimising waste and using complementary vegan ingredients to aid digestion. It pairs tempura with seaweed, for example, to ease digestion of fattier foods, and doesn’t serve wasabi (which is traditionally only used in Japanese restaurants to counterbalance the raw fish). Monthly workshops about food and agriculture are available, and it’s a great example of an established restaurant with a coherent, deep rooted ethos with sustainability at its heart.
What to order: Kansei-han Tanno is a set meal consisting of miso soup, the signature Kansei-han blend of multiple ancient grains and rice to harmonise the body, as well as three changing vegetable dishes, marinated peanut and spring rolls.
Travel to 2nd stop: Walk eight minutes to VX London.
2nd stop: VX London
Address: 73 Caledonian Road, London N1 9BT
Style: A legendary cafe, lifestyle shop and vegan fashion brand
About: VX owner, Rudy Penando, previously founded London’s first vegan cafe, Pogo, and he runs the UK’s first all-vegan clothing line, Secret Society of Vegans. That’s a lot of firsts. VX London does not claim to be healthy: in fact it proudly serves a full-on junk food menu, including kebabs, burgers, currywurst and cakes, to ensure that plant-based eating never feels like a compromise. Catering for time-poor consumers, there’s a pre-order pick-up service and Uber Eats delivery. This is the antithesis of clean-eating-style establishments like By Chloe; VX looks more like a skate shop with its punk aesthetic but it’s an inspiring, DIY-infused example of where so many other vegan brands emerged from.
What to order: Leave your diet at the door and dig into the VX Philly burger-toastie hybrid with lots of vegan cheese, or the mac 'n' cheese meatball wrap – which does pretty much what it says on the tin. It also serves coffee and a host of dirty doughnuts.
Travel to 3rd stop: Walk 15 minutes along Regent’s Canal to Temple of Camden
3rd stop: Temple of Camden
Address: 103a Camley Street, London N1C 4PF
Style: Plant-based chicken burgers in a canal-side location
About: Way before McDonald’s started serving vegan chicken nuggets, Temple of Seitan was taking the crown as London’s first vegan chicken shop. This is the second outlet, frying up chick’n strips, nuggets, burgers and wings alongside five dipping sauces. Chick’n is made from wheat-gluten-based seitan, which isn’t going to cater to all diets, but its meaty, robust texture and adaptability to deep-frying makes it the perfect fast-food ingredient. Temple of Camden is a strong example of a plant-based eatery that does one thing really well; consumers travel to eat Temple’s legendary chick’n, and they’re rarely disappointed.
What to order: Temple Spicy chick’n fillet burger, slathered in chipotle mayo, coleslaw, cheese, and sriracha sauce. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Travel to 4th stop: Walk 18 minutes to Purezza via Regent’s Canal, or walk to Crowndale Road and take the 214 to Camden Town station (17 minutes total journey time).
4th stop: Purezza
Address: 43 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PN
Style: Classic Italian pizzas with a vegan twist
About: Purezza claims to be the UK’s first plant-based pizzeria, serving up oozy, vegan cheesy goodness on signature fluffy sourdough base, as well as hemp and gluten-free bases. The vegan cheeses are handmade, including ‘mozzarella’ derived from fermented Italian brown rice milk and ricotta and parmesan-esque cheeses made from cashews (don’t bother asking how it’s done: it’s top secret). The brand started off in Brighton and branched out to London in 2018, but its influence is felt as far as Italy, where Purezza won the 2019 Pizza Classica category at the World Pizza Championships.
What to order: Classic margherita with a red tomato base and organic mozzarella, simply finished with fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil. Then go all out on with dirty, cheesy, gluten-free mac ‘n’ cheese on the side and Oreo pizza for dessert.
Travel to 5th stop: Walk eight minutes to The Young Vegans (hang a left on Jamestown Road if you want to pop your head into plant-based institution Mildreds on the way).
5th stop: The Young Vegans Pie Shop
Address: Camden Market, 60 Camden Lock Place, London NW1 8AF
Style: Old-fashioned pies go plant-based
About: Step off Camden Market’s cobbled streets and into a classic pie shop with a difference. Rather than taking inspiration from American fast food, like so many emerging plant-based outlets, The Young Vegans is deeply rooted in traditional British pie culture. It’s got the same no-nonsense energy as some of the other fast-food joints we’ve seen on the tour, but everything is covered in gravy. You can also buy pies online or at the shop to bake at home.
What to order: Keep it classic with steak and ale pie, mashed potatoes and minty peas. Seitan vegan steak is marinated in a dark ale sauce wrapped in tasty, crisp pastry. It also does sweet Whoopie or apple pies for pud.
Travel to 6th stop: Walk one minute through the Stables Market to Nora and Nama bakery
6th stop: Nora and Nama Bakery
Address: Unit 596-598, Camden Lock, London NW1 8AF
Style: A cute bakery and cake shop inspired by Middle Eastern, South American and Eastern European flavours.
About: Ending on a sweet note we’ll visit the Nora and Nama Bakery, which is run by trained pastry chefs and keen cooks, Nora and Nama. Whole cakes can be pre-ordered, or tuck into a slice on the street. There are gluten-free and no-refined-sugar options too, such as the banoffee pie or chocolate and strawberry cake. Nora and Nama showcases an array of more unusual, internationally inspired patisserie, and whilst it’s not claiming to be healthy, there’s a focus on flavour rather than more-is-more, over-the-top Insta-style sweet treats.
What to order: We love the colourful meringue cookies made using aquafaba or the traditional seven-layer Russian Medovik cake with vegan honey. We’d also recommend pocketing a twisted chocolate babka to take home with you.