You only need to head to the supermarket or flick through a food magazine to realise that vegan food is, most certainly, a thing. Though historically excluding all animal and fish products from diets was noted as a fringe trend as early as the 1930s, the endorsement of consumer companies and big food businesses in the last 10 years or so, has resulted in Waitrose reporting that a third of Britons now have meat-reduced diets, while one in eight people are now vegetarian or vegan.
But attitudes about what it means to be vegetarian or vegan are changing, too, with some people taking an increasingly pragmatic approach. There was a time when choosing a plant-based diet was about taking an ethical stand based on unwavering principles. For many, this distinction between vegetarians and meat-eaters still exists – but for others, the lines have blurred. Not only does one Briton in five identify as ‘flexitarian’, but half of all those who say they’re vegetarian or vegan also eat meat ‘at weekends’, ‘occasionally’ or ‘on special occasions’.
‘One in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan’ – Waitrose
You cannot deny that vegan food has become extraordinarily popular. In 2018, the Vegan Society approved 9,590 new products as vegan while Iceland launched its No Bull frozen range; Magnum released two pea-protein ice creams; Hellman’s started selling vegan mayo; Pizza Express introduced a new vegan pizza, while every major British supermarket announced or expanded a vegan range. This was all before Greggs released its headline-making sausage roll in January this year.
Long before the supermarkets and food brands like M&S were taking notice by launching their own 60-dish vegan range Plant Kitchen this year, independent restaurants and cafes were starting to pop up, helmed by people who were just not seeing the kind of food they prefer to eat in the growing casual dining scene and wanted to do things a little differently. The squeezing of the high-street food chains, which saw the likes of Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Jamie’s Italian go down the swanny, is proof that both foodies and small food business owners are demanding a slice of the plant-based pie as diners look for more unusual dishes or cuisines that align with their ethical beliefs.
Vegan sausage roll > Sausage roll (meat)
You will taste no difference. The odd time I have a cheeky Greggs I prefer the vegan over the meat one
— JMD ?????? ? (@lederroux) August 28, 2019
Manchester’s vegan scene has been ahead of the curve in this respect. Voted Restaurant of the Year by The Skinny and Best Vegetarian Restaurant of the Year by The Times, The Allotment is leading the vegan charge in the city. Creating tasty locally sourced and sustainable vegan food, the former Stockport’s food spot recently moved into the city centre. There’s a five or 10-course taster menu including dishes like beer battered banana blossom and minted peas and a pistachio crème brûlée with strawberry and hazelnut.
Tucked away in The Principal hotel in Manchester City Centre, The Refuge by Volta serves up plenty of small plates inspired by travels including chickpea daal with coconut milk, smoked almond, apricot and dates. There’s also chargrilled cauliflower with carraway and pomegranate and beetroot pakora with tamarind ketchup. And if you can’t decide, The Refuge has a full vegan set menu, filled with some of the chef’s favourite dishes from the menu including portobello mushrooms, daal makhani and even a carafe of vegan wine.
V-Rev on Edge Street, is an entirely vegan Manchester diner, capitalising on the trend for ethical ‘junk food’ in creating moreish morsels such as burgers, seitan chicken, pancakes, hotdogs and seitan kebabs piled high. Definitely one for donning the stretchy tracksuit bottoms!
One of Manchester’s newest restaurants, Mamucium, has gone vegan friendly too. The new plant-based menu created by Manchester born chef, Andrew Green offers a vibrant choice of dishes made using the finest local ingredients around. The vegans of Manchester can choose from a variety of homemade starters such as, roast vine tomato soup, chickpea fritters and edamame multi grain salad.
Excitingly, community fave Lulu’s Kitchen in Cheadle is reinventing the kosher staples with plenty of vegetarian and vegan alternatives to chomp down on. Lulu’s vegan breakfast includes sauteed fresh peppers, tomato, onions and spicy beans served with a bagel or rye bread, a different vegan soup of the day as detailed on the specials board and salad plates that are dairy-free and veggie too.
These days it not always enough to just have one ‘veggie option’ on a menu…in order to survive in the ever-evolving, fast-moving Manchester food scene, you have to diversify and welcome customers who might not have spent their hard-earned cash at your establishment before. That’s why restaurant chains have been quick to jump on the vegan bandwagon by offering entire separate vegan menus, such as newcomer to Spinningfields, The Ivy, and popular haunt Cosy Club at Corn Exchange.
Went to @IceshackM20 last night and oh my goodness ? why don’t I live on that side of town. It was so so good!
— Lauren Cuthbert (@lc_lauren) July 8, 2018
But it’s not just savoury food that’s getting a revamp. Desserts and sweet bakes are ripe for reinvention and places like Ice Shack in the heart of Withington village serves up vegan ice cream, cakes and desserts, many made fresh that day and invariably sell out. Operating as a bit of a community hub, the venue also organises regular events, games nights with a vegan foodie share, and every Sunday morning it offers a free scoop of ice cream to running club members who have completed circuit training around Old Moat Park.