A vegetarian, a flexitarian and two meat-eaters walk into a restaurant… No it's not the beginning of a terrible joke, but it is a situation we're coming across more and more as vegetarianism continues to grow, and, let's be honest, it can make finding a great, suits-all restaurant for dinner feel a bit like mission impossible.
But don't be disheartened: we've made the job easier with this handy round up of the best vegetarian restaurants in London that offer something for everyone.
Book one of these babies, sit back and bask in your excellent choice.
Well done you.
16 best vegetarian restaurants in London
Where? 344 Upper Street, N1 0PD
Monday is a difficult day in the restaurant world. So much so, in fact, that many restaurants have used it as an opportunity to close down and give their staff a de facto full weekend. Another solution, though, is to put on a menu that caters for a different crowd, and Oldroyd – a brilliant neighbourhood haunt in Islington that serves up chef-patron Tom Oldroyd's brand of Italian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes – has done just that. Enter: Meat-Free Mondays – every Monday, the restaurant's menu kisses goodbye to meat and fish in favour of reimagined Italian classics. Some of it's just veggie (there's cheese aplenty in the life-changing gnocchi fritti we had when we went there, for example), but there are enough vegan choices there to make sure that you or your vegan friends aren't short of choice. And the food's so obviously delicious that your more carnivorous mate won't miss their meat at all. Honestly.
2. Rola Wala
Where? 36 Brushfield Street, E1 6AT
The lords of modern Indian spice at Rola Wala kicked off their entire offering with a vegetarian dish – red dal, made with beetroot and seven spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and Kashmiri chilli. It makes sense, then, that the team still has a banging plant-based offering, with Keralan black chickpea with charred sweet potato in a coconut and tamarind sauce, and saagwala (made with spinach and other greens) with roasted garlic. But there's plenty of options to keep meat-eaters happy, too, like nagaland lamb and Bengali-spiced beef, brisket cooked low'n'slow with fenugreek, fennel, nigella, cumin and mustard seed.
3. Arthur Hoopers
Where? 8 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA
It makes sense that Borough Market is the place to go for fresher-than-fresh, locally sourced vegetables, and one of the best ways to sample said produce is to take a seat at Arthur Hooper's. Alongside its (frankly delicious) standard menu, the restaurant and wine bar offers a massive selection of veg-based dishes that sound tasty enough to tempt even the most dedicated meat-eater. Here's a just a selection to whet your appetite: crispy artichokes with courgettes, brussel tops and vegan chilli aioli; harissa butter beans, charred tenderstem broccoli and nigella seed; and roasted onion squash with lentils, turnip tops, roasted peppers and salsa verde. And if that wasn't enough to make it one of the best vegetarian restaurants in London, there's a shedload of vegetarian wines to wash it all down with, too.
Vegan menu must be requested on booking; arthurhoopers.co.uk
Where? 1 Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ
Quinoa, potatoes… and utterly delicious purple corn dumplings, and fermented beetroot and seaweed mash. Yep, you might think you know Peruvian food, but prepare to have your mind blown by a range of ingredients you might not have come across before – particularly when it comes to Peru's incredibly diverse vegetables. The country has more than 4,000 kinds of native potato alone, so imagine what the rest of its natural larder is like. That said, you probably can't afford a flight to South America to find out, so head to Andina in Shoreditch instead, where Martín Morales and team have pulled together a menu that's more than 50% vegetarian, with the potential for most of these dishes to be made vegan. Adobo (that's braised aubergine with a smoked panca chilli and rocoto red pepper curry, feta and butter beans), we're coming for you.
5. 90 Degree Melt
Where? 235 Mile End Rd, E1 4AA
Finding a restaurant devoted almost exclusively to vegetarian grilled cheese sandwiches is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Founder Nidhi Sharma makes fresh sauces like coriander chutney and chipotle every day, also with plenty of fresh herbs and spices, which means her gloriously gooey creations are packed with flavour, whether they've got dairy (or other animal products) in them or not. Pick up a spinach and artichoke sandwich slathered in chilli sauce and crammed full of vegan cheddar and parmesan, and we guarantee you'll go home happy – especially if you wash it down with the suggested vegetarian champagne pairing, too.
6. Rosa's Thai Veggie
Where? 48 Dean St, W1D 5BF
Photograph by Charlie Mckay
At the start of this year, Rosa's Thai Dean Street went completely vegetarian, turning out favourites like pad thai, stir fried aubergine and thai green curry totally meat-free. Due to the success of the launch, the veggie options are now available at all of their restaurants. Our menu stalking skills suggest that the tofu satay, laab mushrooms, Panang tofu and tom kha mushroom soup, are particular highlights. But don't let us tell you what's what, get down there and try the stuff for yourself – all of their dishes are jam-packed full of flavour, making it one of the best vegetarian restaurants in London, for sure.
Where? 45 Lexington Street, W1F 9AN
If there were an icon of London's vegetarian food scene, it would be Mildreds and its various central London sites, with the original opening in the capital back in 1988. Its team proved that veggie dishes could be bright, perky and delicious,, with dishes like southern-fried veggie buttermilk and panko 'chicken' with red cabbage, maple coleslaw, sweet potato fries and smoked chipotle dip, tofu, halloumi and lentil burgers and spicy Sri Lankan curries. Plus, the salad bar would have Gwyneth Paltrow's favourite LA hangout hanging its head in shame. If you can't get a table, there's a handy takeaway menu, too.
Where? Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Yeah, we love Lyle's and its chef James Lowe simply because they're great, but we love them even more because they create a proper vegetarian and vegan menu every day to sit alongside their other offerings. As Lowe points out, "I've seen restaurants with set menus where vegetarians and vegans are charged the same but just get given a salad. I don't think that's OK." What's more, this attitude carries over into their delicious bar snacks menu, too. Amen to that.
9. Jusu Brothers
Where? 147-149 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RS
With white-washed walls and trailing greenery, Jusu Brothers' Westbourne Grove site is as stylish as they come, an ethos which carries over into the vegetarian and vegan menu. What we're going to focus on now, though, are the desserts: they're all vegetarian-friendly and they're all sell-your-soul delicious (and they're all healthyish too, but you didn't hear that from us). Lemon pie, made with coconut oil, cashew cream, agave and raspberry, is palate cleansing and moreish, while the BRAWnie – with walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts – is absolutely everything the perfect brownie should be. Sweet tooth, us? Nah. But it is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in London for sweet treats and more.
10. St Giles Hotel
Where? Bedford Avenue, WC1B 3GH
OK, so this isn't a restaurant, but hear us out: St Giles Hotels – which runs a hotel in Bloomsbury, one at Heathrow and several more around the world – has decided to offer BOL's plant-based salad and soup pots on its room service menus in the UK. That means you can check in, kick back and relax, safe in the knowledge that you can eat a great-tasting vegetarian or vegan meal packed with fresh ingredients, like Thai coconut curry, Sri Lankan sambar and tomato and lentil soup. Easy.
Where? 23 Foley Street, W1W 6DU
It usually sets off warning bells when a restaurant spreads itself across several different cuisines. Not so at Foley's, where a menu inspired by the Spice Route brings together flavours that span the Mediterranean and northern Africa, reaching all the way to China and Japan. And this year, Foley's kitchen wizards made their lives even harder by deciding to make veg-based cooking their main focus. That means you'll find dishes like celeriac bang bang noodles with fermented tomato broth, and grilled cabbage with tamari, peanuts and coriander pesto taking top billing on the menu, while meat dishes – char siu roast lamb with grilled mochi flat bread, for example – get the same delicious treatment, but don't take centre stage.
Where? 50 Artillery Lane, E1 7LJ
City workers rejoice! The 'grab and go' fridge at Ottlenghi's latest opening in Spitalfields is crammed full of good, lunch-hour salads, with sizeable, fresh sandwiches coming in at £4.75 each. Those eating in will enjoy a 70-seater space, with a counter and a kitchen menu that goes way beyond your average potato salad (think roasted new potatoes with caper tapenade and samphire). Afterwards, there are metres of cakes to choose from, with massive jugs of custard on the side. See, the best vegetarian restaurants in London ace dessert, too. Winning.
13. The Gate
Where? Various locations, including 22-24 Seymour Pl, Marylebone, London W1H 7NL
It's not often that you eat a vegetarian meal so good you forget it's meat free, but the plant-based chefs at London veggie and fine dining restaurant The Gate have managed just that. The original opened in 1989, and they've been serving up delicious fare ever since: think miso glazed, sesame-topped aubergine for starters and potato dauphinoise mille-feuille, layered with red pepper, black olive, basil pesto and creamy goat’s cheese for the main event/ Plus, they do an absolutely delicious Wellington-based roast come Sunday, skilfully combining root vegetables, chestnut and sage in place of your standard meat cut. Follow up with the strawberry eton mess, for good measure.
14. Grain Store
Where? Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, N1C 4AB
Vegetable dishes are given a starring role at this restaurant from Bruno Loubet in King's Cross, hence why it qualifies as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in London. The Cuban vegetable empanada on the weekend brunch menu comes with rum-pickled cucumber, while the evening menu is just as inventive (both contain meat, FYI - so you can take your anti-veggie mates, too). The bar's an equally good reason to visit – swig your bellini up on the roof terrace.
15. Café Fleur
Where? 198 St Ann’s Hill, SW18 2RT
All vegetarian burger-lovers know that a sloppy mushroom slapped between some bread is not a burger. Thankfully Lucy Piper, the owner of Cafe Fleur, knows this, too. Cue a meat- and veggie-friendly menu that includes a falafel patty seasoned with Caribbean spices, with houmous, roasted veg, spinach and sweet potato fries, all for £9.95. No brainer, right?
16. Vanilla Black
Where? 17-18 Took’s Court, London, EC4A 1LB
Vanilla Black is one of the most well-established vegetarian restaurants in London, and for good reason: there are no pasta bakes or mushroom risottos on the menu here, but trust us when we say, their dishes are impressive. This is food, sans meat, made with love and made well. Foodism favourites include the romanesco and turmeric cake, made with brazil nut milk and topped with cavalo nero; celeriac profiteroles, stuffed full of dill and raisins and served with pickled red cabbage; and the sweetcorn parfait, drizzled in miso butterscotch and layered with peanut butter cookie. Are you drooling yet?