The Big London Vegan Food Post, #1

While walking the streets of London I came across some postings with ‘flats’ for rent. I curiously stopped to read and came to the conclusion that the cost of living in London compared favorably to living in New York City. I was subsequently horrified when Molly pointed out to me that rent in London is posted at a weekly rate as opposed to monthly.

I kept my calm and carried on – thankful that we were spending our money on vegan food instead.

After shoving our way through an unspeakably busy West End and SOHO districts (the London one), we approached The Coach and Horses vegetarian pub with a sense of caution. Would it too be overrun with tour buses, tour guides and *gasp* tourists?

The Coach and Horses Vegetarian Pub, London

The Coach and Horses Vegetarian Pub, London

Spoiler Alert: No! Just lots of locals looking for some good food/drink and a way to escape probing questions on how to find the British National Gallery. For a Sunday lunch in a central tourist district it had a quiet and pleasant atmosphere. While trying to blend in with the Locals, a certain dish caught my eye on the menu. Tofush and chips.

Vegan Fish and Chips, The Coach and Horses, London

Tofush and Chips, The Coach and Horses, London

From what Molly and I can tell, this is perhaps the only such option available in London. The actual ‘fish’ was in fact tofu rolled in nori, battered and beautifully deep fried.  The avocado tarter sauce was the perfect compliment. The deep fryer clearly had its A-game going on and also produced some excellent chips (read: fries). Those green things are English peas which will easily surprise you if you are used to other less-stellar pea products.  Our second dish was a little more vegetable-friendly – one of the highly touted ‘SUNDAY ROAST’ options as the sign outside read.

Vegan lentil-stuffed 'Sunday Roast' at The Coach and Horses, London

Vegan lentil-stuffed ‘Sunday Roast’ at The Coach and Horses, London

This stuffed eggplant roast included lentils, tomato, spices and (presumably) eggplant roasted together.  It was served a little dry but the ample gravy on the plate corrected this. The vegan fish and chips were the real star here and will be receiving my vote for food MVP in London barring some unforeseen future discovery.

Next up on our tour was the Vegan Cross store – home to the Secret Society of Vegans.  

Vegan Cross, Secret Society of Vegans, London

Vegan Cross, Secret Society of Vegans, London

Below is a picture of what we found inside.

Interior of Vegan Cross, Secret Society of Vegans, London

Interior of Vegan Cross, Secret Society of Vegans, London

That is about half of the actual store seen here and the majority of the food-related items. The remainder of the store was devoted to vegan apparel and books. For a quick sandwich (made at the back of the store) or some vegan candy or food products it is ideal. The store seems best situated to serve the local vegan population by virtue of its meeting space downstairs.  As Molly pointed out, Ryan Gosling did make an appearance on the door frame!

Hey girl, you are the vegan cupcake who took over my world. Ryan Gosling.

Hey girl, you are the vegan cupcake who took over my world. Ryan Gosling.

Hidden Jewel: I suppose if I said ‘Twinings Tea’ and ‘Hidden Jewel’ to you together you might be a little confused.  The ubiquitous Twinings Tea can be found just about everywhere.  A quick stop in the Twinings Tea original location was quite pleasant and informative. Did you know that you are likely drinking a weaker ‘export’ varieties and not the stronger blends distributed in the UK?

Twinings Tea original location, London

Twinings Tea original location, London

I have been known to enjoy a cup of tea from time to time but I was blown away by these ‘real’ blends.  Our tea expert was incredibly knowledgeable and quite friendly (and, oddly, from Boston).  I highly recommend stopping in to the Twinings original location if you find yourself strolling along the River Thames.

We had made plans to meet up with a friend who also happened to be in London at the same time as us. We tried out some vegan sweets at Cookies and Scream vegan and gluten-free bakery located at the Camden Market.

Cookies and Scream vegan bakery, London

Cookies and Scream vegan bakery, London

The hours listed online indicated that it was open until 6PM each day.  When we ordered shortly after 5:15PM it seemed that some of the options (namely, coffee and milkshakes) were unavailable as those machines had already been cleaned out.  The entire store was closed-up by 5:50PM.  The cookies and brownies we had were all very tasty, particularly for gluten-free baked goods.  If you go, just make sure you make it there early! Camden market had lots of other vegan options as well. There was Ha-Ha Veggie Bar, a falafel stand, Chaboba a bubble tea stand, and right across the canal, inSpiral Lounge. inSpiral Lounge had some delicious looking food, but we were too stuffed to get any real food at that point. We just had a few drinks, which we consumed sitting along the canal. It was great.

We had high expectations for Amico Bio – a vegetarian Italian restaurant in London. Our friend who is in London now, too, had already eaten there and loved it. She gave us great recommendations!  We visited the location in Barbican, but there is also a second restaurant in Holborn.  The food was universally great – so much so that I am posting five pictures.

Amico Bio, Vegetarian Italian restaurant, London

Amico Bio, vegetarian Italian restaurant, London

Brushetta, Amico Bio, Vegetarian Italian restaurant, London

Brushetta, Amico Bio, vegetarian Italian restaurant, London

Cous cous, cabbage and apricot salad, Amico Bio Vegetarian restaurant, London

Cous cous, cabbage and apricot salad, Amico Bio vegetarian restaurant, London

Tortiglioni with tomato, olives and capers, Amico Bio vegetarian restaurant, London

Tortiglioni with tomato, olives and capers, Amico Bio vegetarian restaurant, London

Gnocchi with tomato sauce and vegan mozzarella, Amico Bio vegetarian restaurant, London

Gnocchi with tomato sauce and vegan mozzarella, Amico Bio vegetarian restaurant, London

If you are craving some great Italian food – Amico Bio will not disappoint.  Deep flavors and a beautiful setting across from Saint Bartholomew – a church constructed in 1123. From a value standpoint, they have a lunch special where you receive an appetizer, entree and dessert for only 10 pounds.  It is quite a deal and lets you really explore the menu. The standard menu offers additional options and are priced to move (most in the 7-8 pound range). The restaurant is vegetarian and the many vegan options are clearly marked.

London is exceedingly vegetarian and vegan friendly. Supermarkets even label all products as such directly on packaging. Even the fowl in London are friendly! A particularly trusting pigeon landed directly next to Molly as we crossed the beautiful Millennium Bridge leaving the Tate Modern.

Molly with friendly pigeon, Millennium Bridge, London

Molly with friendly pigeon, Millennium Bridge, London

More food updates to come as our time in London is not yet over. Cheers!

Eating vegan in Reykjavik, Iceland

Bread and coffee - the lifeblood of jet lagged people

Bread and coffee – the lifeblood of jet lagged people

So, I know we have another half day left in Reykjavik tomorrow, but I thought it was high time to get the word out about Reykjavik. It’s pretty vegan-friendly, people. Since it is a small city, it is easy to keep track of where the veggie restaurants are and intentionally go to those places, but we kept being surprised while walking by random places with vegan options. We will highlight the things we ate and saw in this post.

Sheese is freaking good vegan cheese

I love looking through foreign grocery stores. So many local, accidentally vegan products to find! What I didn’t expect was to find my favorite vegan cheese (made in Europe) in Iceland! I’ve ordered this before in the states from VeganEssentials, but they stopped importing it a few years ago. I’m looking forward to eating lots while we are in Europe. It was moderately priced, too. Similar to what I would pay for vegan cheese in the US, between $4 and $5 dollars.

Where we found the Sheese. This grocery is on Skólavörðustígur, a main pedestrian artery.

After walking Skólavörðustígur, it was time for lunch. Graenn Kostur (“The Green Choice”) is a vegetarian restaurant with a few vegan options that change daily.

Graenn Kostur - vegetarian restaurant

Graenn Kostur – vegetarian restaurant

Our delicious meal of baked eggplant filled with a rice pilaf and covered in sauce.

This was enough for both Dan and me for lunch. It cost 1800 Icelandic Krona, or just under $15. We sat outside, they had free wifi, and a firm grasp on what vegan means. It was perfect.

Then we continued walking down the main tourist drag. At Bankastræti 7, is Hostelling International’s “Loft” location in Reykjavik (can you believe that they have 33 hostels in Iceland?!?). We wouldn’t have even noticed, except the sign below was sitting outside on the street:

Sign outside of Hostelling International

Sign outside of Hostelling International. A vegan wrap and a vegan butternut soup!

Hostelling International Reykjavik – Loft

We didn’t eat there, as we had just eaten, but it was such a nice surprise to see.

The big discount grocery store in Iceland is called BÓNUS. We went in on our first afternoon in Reykjavik to buy supplies to cook dinner. If you want to travel on a budget, cooking for yourself is a big key. We have only been purchasing, maximum, one meal a day. This makes sticking to our budget easy as pie.

Vegan hazelnut – white chocolate duo spread.

I would have killed for this spread, but alas, 4 days in Reykjavik is not long enough to eat the whole thing (without getting very sick), and we aren’t checking any bags on our next flight. So that is a sad Molly.

Dinner and a malt beverage

Dinner and a malt beverage

But the meal above cost about $2.50 per person, per meal, and we each got 3 dinners out of it. It was a half kilo of pasta, potatoes, chickpeas, mushrooms, spinach, and a jar of tomato sauce. Filling, healthy, tasty, and cheap! And that malt drink? That is most certainly Dan’s. That brand has existed for 100 years and is brewed right in Reykjavik. We saw the brewery. Also, we learned something interesting. Real adult beverages (pretty much anything with an alcohol percentage over 3%) can only be sold in state-owned liquor stores or bars in Iceland. Try as we might to find a liquor store, we could not. So Dan never got to taste anything other than Iceland-made light beers. Womp womp.

C is for Cookie

C is for Cookie

Happy Cow made mention of a coffee spot with vegan cake, and between Dan’s insane jet lag and my constant need for vegan cake, we thought we would stop by. Unfortunately for us, we got there at 6:10pm, and C is for Cookie closes at 6. Woops! But it did look like a very adorable coffee shop, in a super cute neighborhood on the top of a small hill.

Today, we were walking around the port area of Reykjavik and I spied an ice cream place with a cute sign.

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Can you find the word vegan?

Can you find the word vegan?

They had two flavors marked with the (v), so we ordered a scoop of each! I double checked with someone working there, and the cones are not vegan, so we had the sorbet in a cup.

Pineapple on top and strawberry/raspberry on the bottom

This was super tasty on a warm and sunny Reykjavik day. It was sorbet, not ice cream, but it was super smooth and creamy and I highly recommend it.

Then we continued our walk and we spied 2 veggie-friendly places on our way to our lunch spot.

Health food store, Heilsuhusid, on Laugavegur the main pedestrian drag.

Gló Restaurant. A healthy restaurant chain with vegan and raw options

After walking for hours and taking in Reykjavik on another beautiful day (have we been lucky or what?), we finally made it to our lunch destination, the vegetarian restaurant Gardurinn, or Ecstasy’s Heart Garden in English.

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Also located right downtown, this restaurant has a set menu each day, one soup and one main. Not all of the food is vegan, so the day before we made a point to go by the restaurant and look over the menu for the week to check on the vegan-ness of the options for the rest of our stay. As it turns out, the entire rest of the week is vegan.

Carrot loaf with rice and a salad

Portuguese white cabbage soup with bread and hummus

We got a small soup and small entree combo for 1750 Icelandic Krona, or about $14.50. They were super tasty. The carrot loaf was made up of veggies, nuts and rice, with a tomato topping. This was a delicious, affordable, and well balanced meal.

a “snickers” for dessert

The same might not be able to be said about dessert – this raw dessert cost us about $4.50 – but it was worth it.

Then we went to a museum and walked some more. I had seen on signs all around the city advertising ice cream bars and cones a packaged cone called “Rice”. I had been searching for it to see if it was perhaps rice milk based and possibly vegan, when after 3 days of searching I finally found it in the oldest part of town in a grocery store. The best we could decipher, it was vegan. I even asked a checkout guy to help, but there is no Icelandic on the label! He read the Swedish the best he could (it had been a few years for him since he last spoke it, but all Icelanders learn a Scandinavian language in school), and everything he said indicated to me that the “Rice” cones were dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan. So Dan and I each had to have one! Can you sense my excitement?

Vegan ice cream cones. Happy day!

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They were as sweet as can be, and about $5 a piece, but totally worth it.

So, in conclusion, being vegan in Reykjavik is totally doable. There is tofu in the discount grocery store, veggie restaurants serving up delectable vegan meals, and ice cream cones in the corner market. If only it wasn’t dark and cold 8 months out of the year! But, seriously, do not let concerns about eating vegan keep you from seeing all that Iceland has to offer. With a little preparation and planning it is easy to eat vegan and stick to a budget in Reykjavik.