Craving a food adventure beyond the kitchen? To save you having to ransack search engines for the best vegan restaurants, cafes, street food or quick bites around the UK, our Editor has tried and tasted various plant based eateries to bring you this month’s hot spots.
Grumpy Panda (Editors Pick)
14 Regent Terrace, Gateshead, NE8 1LU
It is obvious that plant based eating is reaching dizzy new heights when simply being a ‘vegan restaurant’ doesn’t cut it any more. The restaurant scene has exploded over the last few years and now it is imperative to have a unique reason for hungry plant based customers to choose your restaurant over the strong competition, particularly in large cities where there is so much choice.
From outside the Grumpy Panda building blends in with the formal businesses and oﬀ ices that surround it. Step inside, however, and you’re transported to trendy American diner, albeit a slightly quirky and unconventional one due to the premises actually being a Grade II listed Victorian building.
The branding is satisfyingly consistent and gives the café an air of professionalism that reflects through everything they do. With décor that is cool and kitsch, the restaurant gives oﬀ old school diner vibes thanks to the black and white check floor and communal seating arrangement. Staﬀ members are extremely welcoming and all dressed in matching Grumpy Panda t-shirts. Everything here has been given an extra special touch.
If you’re staying in Newcastle, you’ll need to head over the river to Gateshead to find Grumpy Panda. Want to walk? It’ll only take you 20 minutes from the Quayside — you’re probably going to thank yourself for walking once you’re full of their gastronomic comfort food. Alternatively there is limited parking, or you can jump on the metro
which is just down the road.
Now, onto the food — it’s time to spoil yourself. Grumpy Panda definitely sits in the category of ‘restaurants for a cheat day’, but indulging at this time of year is fine, right? You can soon get back on track come January.
The burgers on oﬀer come packed with bold, meaty flavour and portions are generous and reasonably priced. We opted for the special Kentucky Kicker and upgraded with fries and ‘slaw (because if you’re going to have an unhealthy day, you might as well go all out).
The Kentucky Kicker burger came with an optional spicy sauce, which gave the burger the perfect amount of kick, without over-powering the other flavours. It did a great job of replicating that fast food flavour that it is assumed can’t be found on a plant based diet. As for the ‘slaw? Prepare to be impressed. With a creamy texture and crunchy bite, it is up there amongst the best plant based ‘slaws we’ve tried and we’ll be forever trying to replicate it at home.
The house fries were well-seasoned with a delicious spice blend and cooked with Sriracha sauce. Definitely worth the extra £1 if you’re in the mood for some extra carb-loaded goodness.
If you’ve still got room for more after you’ve finished this, the refreshing banana milkshake — topped with dairy-free cream and chunks of biscuit — came recommended by the Grumpy Panda staﬀ , and was surprisingly light, fresh, revitalising and not overly sticky or sweet like some milkshakes can be. The perfect antidote to a heavy meal.
Alongside this, we opted for a ‘cakie’ (imagine a cookie-shaped dessert with the texture of cake) which had hints of yummy pumpkin and pieces of sultanas running through the moist sponge.
Overall, Grumpy Panda impressed us immensely. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it wears its comfort food badge with pride and does it well. This is a restaurant that is destined to stand out from the busy North East vegan scene, and attract custom from far and wide for a very long time.
Plants and Pilates
The Courtyard, 5 Park Street, Woodstock, Oxford, OX20 1SJ
Located in the picturesque town of Woodstock, just a 30 minute journey from nearby Oxford and a few minutes from Blenheim Palace, Plants and Pilates does what it says on the tin. Expect a menu filled with nutritious, plant based goodness, tucked away in a beautiful courtyard where you can go to relax aﬅer revitalising yoga or pilates. There is nothing better than finding a secret plant based haven, and this one isn’t to be missed.
106 King Street, Cottingham, HU16 5QE
Blondes is a little bit of everything. It’s a café that creates dishes that feel as normal to a meat eater as they would to a vegan (there’s no fancy superfoods or obscure grains here). Find milkshakes, great coﬀee, a comforting atmosphere and even a giﬅ shop on your visit to Cottingham. Everyone is welcome, even your dog. So next time you just want some tasty, hearty food — head to Blondes.
3 High St, Shrewsbury, SY1 1SP
Husband and wife team — Kate and Raul Ulloa James are on a mission to get the people of Shropshire talking about their health and thinking about food as medicine. Opening Plantkind earlier in the year as a hub where people can come for advice or information, the coﬀeehouse serves coﬀee, organic loose-leaf teas, cake, savouries and salads. Check out this colourful and quirky coﬀeehouse in the heart of Shrewsbury.
17-18 Irving St, London, WC2H 7AT
This rapidly developing chain of make-your-own pizza restaurants have locations in Leeds, Gateshead, Nottingham, and Leicester Square. Build your pizza how you like from a vast range of veggies including artichokes, black olives,
sun-dried tomatoes, and the controversial pizza topper pineapple. You can even add dairy-free cheese on top — a great choice of restaurant for eating out with meat eaters.
Herbivore at the Embassy Cafe
36 Cathays Terrace, Cardiﬀ, CF24 4HX
Herbivore is a weekend veggie pop up, taking over The Embassy Café in the Welsh capital. Most of the menu is vegan-friendly, but changes weekly mean you have the perfect excuse to keep going back to taste new dishes. Full of creative, international dishes that utilise local and seasonal produce, you can taste the time, eﬀort and love that goes into every dish here. Follow up your scrumptious main with homemade cakes.
42 London Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6LX
If you feel as though you are missing out by not being able to relax in a beautiful café with a classy afternoon tea since going plant based, then you need to stop oﬀ at Casa Angelina in Edinburgh. You will not be disappointed by the fluﬀy scones, savoury treats and delightful cakes that grace the tiers of this afternoon feast, all accompanied by a warming pot of tea, of course.