5 vegan grab-and-go highstreet lunches

Slate it all you want, but attempting Veganuary and not eating animal products for a month requires real dedication. I’ve never really considered myself a “meat-lover” and I actually was vegetarian for almost a year back in my teens (purely because my dad bet that I couldn’t do it…). But I am someone who would happily have fish or cheese with every meal, plus when I do go out for dinner, I often always order a meat dish. So for me, Veganuary, is a real test of my self-restraint.

With food chains and supermarkets waking up to the fact more and more people want tasty vegan food, the range of options has been growing year on year. Because of this, it is easier than ever to have a plant-based diet, which is why I have compiled my top 5 high street vegan lunch options that won’t break the bank.

Leon – Meatless Meatballs

A firm favourite of mine which is really helping me get through Veganuary. These meatless meatballs from Leon are a real winter warmer, the tomato sauce is almost like a hearty soup with the texture of the aubergine, black olive and rosemary meatballs satisfying my meaty cravings. Topped with a vegan garlic aioli, these are a must try for any first time vegans or those trying a plant-based diet.

meatless meatballs leon

Pret – Avo, Olives & Toms Baguette

After opening their first ‘Veggie Pret’ back in the summer of 2016, Pret have been changing their offerings due to a rise in veganism. They now boast four purely veggie shops – three in London and one in Manchester. They have an impressive selection of vegan lunch options and although not all of them are available in every branch, the avo, olives and toms baguette is a real winner in my eyes. This baguette is made from sliced avocado, olive tapenade, roasted tomatoes plus a handful of rocket. Garnished with fresh basil leaves and pine nuts.

pret avo olives toms

Arancini  Brothers – Nuddy Box

Back in January 2018, Arancini Brothers turned their Old Street shop into a 100% vegan eatery and it was so successful that now all their restaurants only offer up plant-based options. Apart from the classic option of vegan burgers and wraps, the Nuddy box is a hit. The risotto balls sit proudly on top of a bed of salad (which rotates daily), topped with roasted mushrooms, onion jam, aubergine tomato sauce and a sprinkling of seeds for good measure.

arancini brothers

Itsu – Veggie Sushi Collection

I have a sushi addiction and eating a plant-based diet this Veganary means I can’t get my mitts on salmon nigiri which I adore so much. I am a mad Itsu fan, and since working in London, it has remained a firm favourite. Luckily for me, Itsu have four vegan sushi dishes which are helping to curb my cravings. The most popular thing on their vegan menu is the veggie sushi collection. In the box, you’ll find crunchy veggie maki rolls, baby avocado rolls and steamed veggie dumplings on an edamame bean salad.

itsu veggie collection

Crussh – Cheese Toastie

Crussh has over 50 vegan options on its menu and as a Veganuary special, their Soho store has become 100% plant-based for the entire month of January. They were the first high street outlet to serve a vegan cheese toastie – which is perfect for a hungover lunch at the office. Their vegan smoked gouda-style cheese is served with red pepper tapenade and rocket, in between slices of spelt sourdough.

crussh cheese toastie

Still hungry? Check out Veganuary’s list of chain restaurants which serve up plant-based dishes to sink your teeth into.

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Brunch at Strut & Cluck

If you’re anything like me, your weekday breakfast often consists of eggs or avos – so by the time the weekend rolls around, I’m in the mood for something different. That’s where Strut & Cluck step in. Originally just specialising in dishes featuring the turkey, they’ve branched out to a menu which really showcases Eastern Mediterranean flavours, which they’re known and loved for.

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You’ll find Struct & Cluck on a prime spot on Commerical Street, literally around the corner from Shoreditch High Street overground station. It’s got a glass-fronted exterior which looks into a brightly lit room. It’s filled with rustic wood tables, exposed light bulbs and hanging plants. The now-classic East London look and definitely something I’d love for my own flat.

I went post-gym class at the Adidas Studio and met up with my sister. She ordered the hand-pulled turkey shawarma, which is topped with a fried egg and served with dates, pine nuts, tahini on top of a pita.

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I went for the classic shakshuka, two eggs cooked in a pan with tomatoes, peppers, onions, chilli and chorizo, served with a warm pita for scooping. My eggs, unfortunately, were served undercooked, but the staff took the dish away no problem and gave me a free coffee as an apology.

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It’s a calm little oasis in the heart of Shoreditch – a perfect spot to rest your legs and refuel after a morning of touring East London.

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Strut & Cluck, 151 Commercial St, London E1 6BJ

*Main photo courtesy of Strut & Cluck

 

 

Breakfast in Bread at The Barge House

If you’re looking for an Instagrammable Sunday brunch, then you’ll want to hit up The Barge House in East London. You’ll find it on the Regent’s Canal between Hoxton and Haggerston set in an old Victorian warehouse – all of which are now either places to grab a bite to eat, craft breweries or design studios. The place is decked out fairy lights which cover their floor-to-ceiling windows, with tables along the waterside and a minimalist dining room and an open-plan kitchen.

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Their Breakfast in Bread brunch menu is exactly what it says on the tin – a hollowed-out sourdough loaf packed full with traditional breakfast fare. There are a couple of options to choose from… the original is your standard full English complete with slow-roast tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, leeks, Cumberland sausage, spinach, bacon with an egg. Or you can grab yourself a vegetarian version which comes with avocado, spinach and asparagus.

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Whilst there’s limited choice for veggies, and no vegan options, they do try to source all their produce as ethically as possible. All their eggs are free-range and their sourdough loaves are baked just around the corner at the Better Health Bakery – an artisan bakery who provide trainee placements for adults recovering from mental illness.

I opted for the smoked salmon bread bowl. It’s filled with spinach, leeks, smoked salmon, creme fraiche and topped with an egg and a sprinkle of cheese. It’s a food coma in waiting.

the barge house 4

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The Barge House, 46a De Beauvoir Cres, London, N1 5RY

Main photo courtesy of The Barge House

the barge house 1

Season | Finsbury Park

Season. This restaurant in Finsbury Park is as simple as the name suggests. It tries to only use ingredients that are in season and can be sourced within the United Kingdom, so the small menu changes every couple of months.

I’ve started to gain a real affinity with Finsbury Park. It’s got everything a girl could need; from my favourite brunch spot, Fink’s Salt and Sweet, to Clapton Craft, a shop which sells craft beer, and now Season.

season finsubury park

We visited Season as a family in July for my birthday (and I’m well aware it’s now late September and the menu has definitely changed since I visited. Check their social media for their most current menu). Expect modern British fare, served in a compact dining room lit by candles.

As soon as we were seated, we were brought complementary baked bread and bottles of water, both sparkling and still – something I’m a big fan of.

The menu is short but what they do, they do exceptionally well. I ordered the duck leg to start which was served with a watercress and orange salad. A classic combo.

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I also tried some of the bone marrow topped on sourdough toast. It was probably a bit too salty for my taste, but my brother and dad raved about it.

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I couldn’t help but order the mussels for my main, they arrived piled high and in a white wine sauce. I opted for a side of wedges and French peas. The potatoes were crisp and the perfect accompaniment to dunk in my sauce.

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My dad and sister’s boyfriend feasted on the lamb which was cooked to perfection and served with crispy pieces of onions.

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Whereas my mum and sister dinned on the halibut which was simply accompanied by some grilled spring onions and a salsa.

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Because no birthday celebration is complete without dessert, I opted for the chocolate rosemary pot. It was incredibly indulgent and rich, and if you have a sweet tooth you won’t want to share this pudding.

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And because they’re decent people, Season’s doesn’t charge you £20 for one dish. It’s all reasonably priced and the portions are modest. Plus they have a no markup policy on booze, so all the wine is charged at cost…If that doesn’t incentivise you to go here, I don’t know what will.

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Season, 53 Stroud Green Rd, Finsbury Park, London N4 3EF, UK

Afternoon Tea at Sketch Gallery

Afternoon tea is such a quintessential British tradition and it’s one I often link with tea rooms in the countryside complete with dainty china and holding your pinky up. To me, afternoon tea is a treat – and as much as I dine out, I rarely spend a lot of time eating small sandwiches and sipping champagne. So when I do indulge, I want the experience to be something special and different to the norm – and Sketch does just that.

It’s set back from the hustle and bustle of Regent Street, the restaurant is located in a beautiful Mayfair townhouse. As you enter through the front doors you’re met by a game of hopscotch on the floor and ladies wearing pastel pink dresses.

We were guided into the gallery,  and it was every bit as magical and pink as the photos I’d seen online. Scalloped, dusty pink velvet booths are dotted throughout the room and playful, witty art works by David Shrigley deliberately contrast the sugar-coated pastel interior. The place settings are also designed by David Shrigley too, with salt and pepper shakers labelled ‘dust’ and ‘dirt’.

sketch 1

I took Serena here for her birthday, so naturally, we opted for the champagne afternoon tea – which is poured overhead.

sketch champs

From matcha to your classic breakfast tea, Sketch boasts a 40-strong selection. I opted for a chai tea which was served alongside our eggs and soldiers.

sketch afternoon tea 2

A dinky and delicate starter which consists of a spoon of rich, creamy caviar, served with an egg yolk nestled on top on an ‘egg white’ made from cheese.

sketch egg and soliders

Next, a tower formed of three layers of food was brought to the table (which can be refilled when you run out).

The first tier consisted of sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber, coronation chicken and egg. The next layer was littered with small patisseries, tarts and cakes. Followed by the final tier of marshmallows and cheesecake.

All the elements that formed the tower had a modern and creative twist; the cucumber sandwich came topped with a quails egg.

sketch afternoon tea

As we were wolfing down our finger sandwiches and mini cakes, we were brought warm scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Delicious.

After eating we went to explore as the whole building is unique and each room is is like stepping into another world. Make sure you take a trip to the toilets, where each loo is basically an egg pod, (if you’re an Instagram addict like me, you’ve probably seen many photos of these toilets before).

sketch toliets

Now Sketch is an expensive treat, and it’s not somewhere I could afford to eat at regularly but for a birthday treat for one of my best friends, it was the perfect place.

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Sketch, 9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG

Main photo courtesy of Sketch 

 

 

 

 

Hakkasan

Hakkasan, an elite chain of restaurants which needs little introduction. Last month I headed to their joint in Hanway Place, which is hidden down a back alleyway near the west-end. It boasts a stunning interior, creative cocktails and sophisticated Cantonese food.

As we descended the stairs into the restaurant, we were instantly hit with the smell of burning incense. The steps give away to a sleek space, with low level lighting and charcoal-grey slate. It’s then divided into sections by oriental carved wooden screens. Hakkasan gloats a classy interior and it gives diners a safe haven away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby streets.

hakkasan

I was invited by the company I work for, Goodmadn Masson, along with 30 or so others as a celebration. We were served a set menu of a selection of Dim Sum, starting with their crispy duck salad. It’s served with a mix of green leaves and water cress with warm slivers of duck meat, a delicious start to our meal.

hakkasan duck salad

Next came the sesame prawn toast. You seriously need to put these tasty treats on your food bucketlist. They’re a world away from your cheap and cheerful Chinese takeaway, as they burst with a molten centre of liquid foie gras.

hakkasan prawn toast

The dishes then came flooding out of the kitchen, and we were brought the stir-fry of black pepper rib eye beef, spicy prawns, chicken satay and silver cod, alongside a side of green asparagus and jasmine rice.

hakkasan beef

hakkasan prawns

The stand out dish was by far their silver cod, a Hakkasan signature dish for a reason, the fish itself was charcoal grilled and was silken, and served with thick, rich champagne and honey sauce.

hakkasan silver cod

Needless to say, Hakkasan isn’t your average Chinese restaurant, so it comes with a hefty price tag. But every last detail is considered – the service is impeccable and matched with high-quality food in a relaxed environment. It’s easy to see how this restaurant group has become to distinguished the world over. Push the boat out, at least once.

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Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1HD

East London Liquor Company

A few weeks back (and when I say a few, I mean two months ago), my family and I took a trip up to Mile End, to celebrate my parent’s wedding anniversary. They moved to London 35 years ago and originally lived in Hackney, so they were keen to go back to see how much the area has changed.

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We decided to hit up East London Liquor Company, a gin and vodka distillery in East London with a bottle shop and restaurant. You’ll find it just south of Vicky Park next to the canal. It’s a well-kept secret (there’s no signage) and it’s just simply decorated with reclaimed brick walls and salvaged trestle tables – the shimmering copper distillers behind the bar do all the talking here.

east london liquor co 2

It was a beautiful golden afternoon and after being crammed on a sweltering hot central line tube, all I could think about was that gin and tonic waiting for me at the end of my journey. They boast an incredible stash of bottled spirits (and you can book into distillery tours) but if you’d rather a cold beer (like my brother) they’ve got it by the bucketful.

east london liquor co 1

If you need something to soak up the booze, they’ve got an on-site restaurant which is influenced by Italian cuisine, complete with a pizza oven and array of sharing plates. We dived into the sharing plates and each ordered our favourite thing on the menu to divide between the four of us: prosciutto & ricotta wrapped grissini, zucchini tagliatelle, artichoke & fennel Salad, and burrata served with nettles.

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I’ll definitely start incorporating the prosciutto and ricotta wrapped grissini into my dinner parties, such a simple snack but one that is incredibly tasty.

The other highlight was the zucchini tagliatelle, it was so light and was served with a dollop of parmesan cheese on top. If you ever find yourself at The East London Liquor Company and fancy a snack to accompany your drinks, get this.

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And if you’re anything like my family, a couple of sharing plates isn’t enough, and thankfully their pizza oven comes to the rescue when feeding the Boasts. Order the ricotta stuffed crust, which is topped with tomato, salami, parmesan and rocket.

east london liquor co 6

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East London Liquor CompanyUnit GF1, Bow Wharf, 221 Grove Road, London, E3 5SN

*Main photo courtesy of East London Liquor Company