Gone are the days when the word vegan evokes visions of generous portions of uninspiring beans and rice served up in an eccentric, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. To be vegan is increasingly becoming recognized, less as a protest against collective norms, and more as a socially and environmentally-conscious approach to living in a world threatened by diminishing resources. As awareness around the benefits of animal-free diets increases, so too has the calibre of vegan-friendly restaurants specializing in vegetable-forward cuisine, with many proving that a fine-dining experience is not contingent on dairy or meat being served on the plate.
To create a restaurant that can accommodate a variety of dietary needs requires an immense amount of creativity, perhaps explaining why contemporary, plant-based dishes are so innovative, both in taste and presentation. The intentionality required to craft a menu that aims to promote healthy eating and environmental sustainability often transcends the food, making many of these restaurants also particularly thoughtful in concept and design. It is the passion and imagination required of modern vegan and vegetarian chefs that has led many to prove that plant-based dining is an art form at our favorite vegan-friendly restaurants around the world.
Discover five vegan-friendly restaurants that are leading the way in vegetable-forward cuisine.
Location: London, England
Address: 35 Ixworth Pl, Chelsea, London, England SW3 3QX
Tanya Maher’s journey to become one of the UK’s top holistic coaches began in 1998, when she was in a catastrophic car accident that left all of her internal organs damaged. In the years that followed, she searched for ways to improve her health and energy levels. After discovering the healing benefits of a raw food diet, she began sharing her passion for raw food through teaching classes and coaching programs, and eventually created her own wellness company, Better Raw. Naturally, Andreas Thrasyvoulou, the founder of environmentally-conscious, high-end boutique hotel group My Hotels, reached out to Maher to collaborate. The result? In 2004, Tanya’s; a bright café reminiscent of a greenhouse, opened in the posh, Victorian My Chelsea hotel that is the ultimate vegan-friendly restaurants in London.
‘Living foods’ are served in what feels like a living space, both of which have been designed to heal and energize. The glass ceiling acts as a giant skylight, allowing light to nourish the wall of potted plants that serves as a backdrop for clean rows of white high-top tables, paired with rustic, wooden barstools. Behind a bounty of fresh fruits for juicing lies the open kitchen; where golden, anti-inflammatory turmeric lattes are brewed and organic coconut is dehydrated to create sweet coconut chips and spicy coconut jerky. The Living Lasagna is enough to sell any cheese-lover on the raw vegan diet; herbed cashew almond ricotta, sundried tomato marinara, mushroom walnut ‘meat,’ and basil pesto are layered between fresh sheets of courgette ‘pasta.’ Restorative sides include the Kale Salad; sweet kale massaged in a lemon, turmeric tahini dressing, and the Probiotic Sauerkraut; red and white cabbage cultured with additional probiotics to heal all stomach woes.
A visit to Tanya’s would not be complete, however, without a sampling of the many raw, sweet creations on the dessert menu. Looking for guilt-free indulgence? An uncooked, dairy-free interpretation of white chocolate, mint cheesecake consists of creamy cashew and cacao butter mixed with a minty Spirulina swirl laid on top of a coconut, walnut and cacao base. For a quick cure to a sweet craving, choose from a selection of Tanya’s dairy-free, award winning truffles. Or why not take a whole box home? We recommend Selection No.2; almond and sea salt caramel, rhubarb and vanilla fool, and hazelnut crunch.
2. Farm Spirit
Location: Portland, USA
Address: 1414 SE Morrison Street, Portland OR, USA 97202
For an authentic Pacific Northwest, farm-to-table experience, there is no better place than Farm Spirit. Committed to connecting guests to the produce of the Cascadian bioregion, chef and owner Aaron Adams makes weekly visits to farms within a 105-mile radius of the restaurant to source ingredients for this entirely plant-based menu. Diners are relieved of any menu navigation stress and treated to a relaxing, communal-service dinner party in which they are guided through the creation of each dish. From the intimate 14-seat chef’s counter, multiple courses are prepared in front of diner’s, accompanied by the stories behind each plate. Delicate Sibley squash is elevated with Oregon black truffle. Purple sprouting broccoli complements crispy rye filled with creamy Bay Laurel butter, aerated filbert whey and filbert yogurt. Adams’ seasonal creations are as unique as the dining experience itself at one of Portland’s most truly unique vegan-friendly restaurants.
The chef’s counter is quite literally, the centerpiece of the restaurant; a long wooden bar locally-crafted from a single plank of urban-salvaged ash. Not a single decorative detail, from the hand-made ceramic light fixtures to the custom dinnerware, has been created without intention. Farm Spirit proves that a dining experience is, at its heart, a cultural experience as behind the inspiration of each plate lies a story about the people and places that led to its existence. By combining an immersive experience, with refined cooking and thoughtful design, this restaurant is exemplary in its promotion of environmentally and socially-sustainable cuisine.
Location: Berlin, Germany
Address: Linienstraße 94, Berlin, Germany, 10115
For six years now, one of Germany’s first vegan-friendly restaurants has been offering diners a sophisticated retreat from the bustling streets of Berlin. Sleek wood tables and warm, low-hanging lights are paired with modish black and white decor, creating an elegant yet comforting atmosphere. This elegance is perhaps the most defining characteristic at Kopps, as it is exuded throughout the dining experience; from the service to the décor, to the plate. A true fine-dining experience, plant-based creations are offered in prix-fixe menu style with the option to have as few as two courses and as many as five.
Each plate showcases unique, seasonal ingredients and is as complex in flavor as it is in presentation. Pumpkin seeded kohlrabi is coated in amaranth and paired with red wine pearl barley and truffled black salsify, an underrated root vegetable known for its oyster taste. A balanced ‘cheese’ plate presents creative dairy alternatives such as fermented cashew and almond cheese, rhubarb mustard and fruit bread. Who says a vegan has to miss out on the comforting experience of a fine wine paired with an exceptional cheese? The beautifully-composed platter, along with any dish on the menu, can be accompanied by one of the suggested wine pairings. With dishes that are as much a sensation for the palate as they are for the eyes, Kopps proves that vegan cuisine is an art.
4. Gracias Madre
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Address: 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA, USA 90069
The vegan-themed menu is secondary to Gracias Madre–what comes first is their dedication to sharing recipes from the kitchens of their employees’ families back in Mexico at our favorite vegan friendly restaurant in Los Angeles. In traditional Mexican-cooking style, Gracias Madre prioritizes organic, seasonal ingredients, sourced from local farmer’s markets and Be Love Farm, run by Terces Engelhart, co-founder of beloved vegan hotspot Cafe Gratitude. Gracias Madre’s executive chef, Chandra Gilbert, has been with the Café Gratitude family since 2004 and injected some of its bohemian-chic aesthetic into the original Gracias Madre which opened in San Francisco in 2009. The restaurant quickly became a favorite amongst locals and critics, vegans and carnivores, alike and so Gilbert opened this second location in West Hollywood in 2014.
In a country where Mexican restaurants are less known for their ambience, this 5000-square-foot space redefines what a Mexican-American, fine-dining experience can look like. In the day, warm light cascades through large windows onto the chic bar and into the distinctly west-coast dining room marked by high ceilings, wicker chairs, and exposed white brick. In the evening, the lush outdoor patio, centered around a giant tree, is lit by strings of tea lights hanging over luxurious couches that invite guests to linger.
What sets Gracias Madre apart from both Mexican-American and vegan restaurants, is their innovative, contemporary approach to Mexican, plant-based cuisine. Traditional dishes such as the Pozole; a hominy stew made with anchochile broth and avocado, and the Nopales; stewed cactus and guajillo chile sauce over rice, black beans and tortillas, are made vegan-friendly with the use of cashew crema. More modern dishes keep up with healthy-eating trends, such as increasingly popular, bowl-based meals. The Bowl Uno consists of hearty layers of brown rice, romaine, black beans, and tempeh ‘chorizo’ topped with cashew crema, guacamole and pico de gallo. The cocktail menu includes Mexican and vegan favorites, from house margaritas to kombucha-based ‘mocktails.’ The Mero Mero pays homage to the mezcal of Oaxaca with its blend of tequila reposado, mezcal, artichoke and cherry liquor, and Italian sweet vermouth. Fruitier cocktails include the Sorry Ms. Jamson; a summery mix of apricot jam, habanero bitters, mezcal and float of tempranillo. Chef Gilbert’s ability to stay true to authentic Mexican cuisine while remaining 100 percent organic and plant-based, is truly remarkable. It seems that Gracias Madre has proven that both Mexican and vegan cuisine are much more than just rice and beans.
5. The Acorn
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Address: 3995 Main St, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V5V 3P3
Rare are the evenings when a mass of patient patrons has not amassed on one of Vancouver’s trendiest streets, outside one of the country’s finest vegan-friendly restaurants. While The Acorn is by definition a vegetarian restaurant, we assure you that this vegetable-focused menu will leave vegans (and carnivores) more than satisfied. Chef Brian Luptak excels with fresh ingredients sourced from British Columbia’s beautiful bounty of produce. Celery root, a vegetable too often forgotten due to its mild flavor, is transformed with celeriac cashew remoulade, fermented stinging nettle mustard, and antioxidant-rich sea buckthorn berries.
Equally creative is the cocktail menu with drinks such as the Cellar Door; a brilliant blend of aged brandy and whiskey with hazelnut orgeat, apple and lemon juice, and topped with apple parsnip foam and nutmeg. On a detox? Non-alcoholic offerings do not disappoint with the Evening Orchard; a sparkling concoction of pear, fennel, cardamom syrup and bitters, and fresh lemon. From the outside, The Acorn is an unsuspecting, minimalist corner restaurant, but upon entering the warm, diner-meets-sleek, bohemian speakeasy interior it becomes clear that this is the place to be.