Basilico (Limehouse, London)

18" wood fired vegan pizza? Yes please!

Basilico's a chain of non-vegetarian pizza delivery shops across London. They've 2 vegan options marked on their menu - a margarita and a roasted vegetable pizza (we opted for the latter).

Forty five minutes after ordering we had an 18" with 2 drinks delivered to The Isle of Dogs for under £20 - enough for two hungry adults and one hungry toddler (with a slice left for breakfast!).

The base was fantastic; actual glutenous Italian bread with great flavour. The toppings were fairly generous, though not as generous (or adventurous) as Mr Singh's. It was good to see the cheese go right the way to the edge of the crust (as oposed to within several inches of it like Pizza Face). The brand they use (Violife) is alright warm, but tasted fantastic cold the following morning.

Overall we were really impressed. We'll definitely order from them again and recommend that Londeners give them a go. Despite the lack of options it's my favourite takeaway vegan pizza in the UK so far. Basilico takes Pizza Face, bends it over and gives it a good spanking!

Amico Bio (Holborn, London)

As if one mediocre Italian restaurant wasn't enough, last year a 2nd branch of Amico Bio popped up on New Oxford Street (half way between Holborn and Tottenham Court Road tubes).

I visited shortly after it opened in May and liked it even less than the Cloth Fair branch. Oppressive decor, loud electrical buzzing throughout the meal and a clueless waiter who explained to everyone that it was his first day. The starter was disgusting:

What was supposed to be "Potato gnocchi with aubergines and rice milk mozzarella" was like eating glue. It had next to no flavour, other than the harsh taste of herbs.

Second course tasted alright:

But bore little resemblance to its description of "Mixed vegetables & seitan kebab, yoghurt & cucumber dip".

The veg had been chopped too finely to have been cooked as a kebab; tasting more like an underseasoned fajita as a result. The yoghurt & cucumber dip was nowhere to be seen - for a restaurant with vegan meat, cheese and cream I'm unsure as to why they don't have soya yoghurt.

When I returned in July things had improved slightly. I decided to keep things simple and go with their "Pizza with tomato and mozzarella" which actually looked pretty good:

I know that some vegans like the mozzarella they use, but for me it's just a bit too yucky.

Dessert of "Peach with red wine, limoncello liqueor and carrot cake" however I actually enjoyed:

The carrot cake is the best thing I've ever tasted at Amico Bio - it was really nice! If only the portion wasn't tiny, I could have happily eaten a man sized portion. The peaches in wine was a little weird, but tasted alright and I'm led to believe is traditional.

I love Italian food and I can see what Amico are trying to achieve. London needs a good vegan Italian restaurant - there's no reason why Amico couldn't be it. In two visits to each branch so far however it's been underwhelming to say the least.

I hope the situation improves and will pop back sometime in the next few months. I'll blog an update if things are better.

Blazing Salads (Dublin, Ireland)

Blazing Salads is a cross between deli and well stocked health food shop. Within a minute's walk of Cornucopia it's a good option if you're pushed for time or want takeaway.

I picked up a slice of pizza and piece of apple pie from there the last time I was in Dublin. Both survived 9 hours in a laptop bag admirably - the pics below were taken just before shoveling them into my gob and going through security at the airport.

The pizza was great, but much more quiche like than pizza. How it didn't get mashed to pieces in my bag I'll never know, but it's a testament to it's suitability as excellent picnic food.

The apple pie didn't look so great (which I'll put down to my handling rather than Blazing Salads' prep), but also tasted good.

I'll definitely give them another go when staying in Dublin next - I may even push my luck further and buy the day before for breakfast at my hotel.

Scoop (Soho, London)

Scoop is a chain of 3 "gelato parlours" (that's icecream shop to you or I) in Covent Garden, South Kensington and Soho. Having been to the Covent Garden branch previously I was tempted in through the door of Soho on the promise of vegan churros.

I ended up going a few times last year - a short walk from wfm / Picadilly tube it's convenient for grabbing something cool in hot weather (which does happen occasionally in London). It's also an alternative dessert destination after visiting somewhere like Beatroot around the corner that doesn't really do pudding.

As is often the case at such places it's the sorbets that are vegan rather than icecream. It is good quality sorbet though, so you won't feel too hard done by. Cross contamination's a definite possibility so it's worth staying vigilant whilst they're serving your order - I've heard from other vegans that they've messed up in the past.

Their churros are good, but like most places I was told the chocolate sauce isn't vegan. Thus I've opted for chocolate sorbet instead when I've had them:

I like Scoop. It's one of Soho's better places. Vegan icecream, toppings and better separation would be very much welcomed in the future, unless someone opens the London branch of Lula's Sweet Apothecary here in the meantime!

Wild Food Cafe (Covent Garden, London)

Wild Food Cafe's a half raw, half vegan cafe up a set of stairs in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden. Having visited shortly after they opened in 2011 and had the most revolting raw soup ever, I decided not to blog about them until I'd given them a chance to redeem themselves.

I wasn't overly excited about returning though, so it took about 2 years before I gave them another go. Pushed for time I ordered:
Olive & Shiitake Burger - 10.5
shiitake, olive & jeruselem artichoke burger with dairy free pumpkin seed cheese, superfood ketchup, tomatillo salsa verde, baba ganush, Dijon mustard, lettuce in a sourdough focaccia burger bun served with baby leaf salad
The kitchen's open plan and seating cramped, with tables set up canteen style. The people sitting next me spent forever talking about crystals, which nicely sums up the (aging) hippy vibe of the place.

I couldn't see the point of eating cooked bread with raw filling, so paid £1 extra for a raw cracker instead:

Instantly I wished that I hadn't - whilst it was well presented it meant you couldn't pick it up and eat it like those dining around me. Also, I love sourdough focaccia - what was I thinking?!

I would go back and try different things, particularly if I was with someone who wanted raw food. London's better food for less however in walking distance of Covent Garden, so it might take a while before I'm in the mood again.

David Bann (Edinburgh, Scotland)

David Bann's an upmarket vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh city centre, a 10 minute walk down the hill from the castle.

Its menu's squarely vegetarian with only a single vegan dessert option. I was looking forward to trying their "Chilli Pancakes with Sweet Potato, Courgette & Chocolate Sauce" main but it was sold out. Instead I opted for:
Salad of walnut gnocchi, beetroot and smoked cheese - 7.65
Gnocchi with roasted walnut, beetroot, sorrel, watercress, salad leaf and Ardrahan smoked cheese. With maple, lemon and mustard dressing. [V]

Aubergine, chickpea and cashew koftas - 11.90
Spicy koftas of roasted aubergine, chick pea and toasted cashews in a spicy aromatic coconut, courgette and tomato sauce. Served with coriander rice, pineapple chutney and mint yoghurt raita. [V]

Orange jelly on lemon cake with coconut rum sorbet - 5.60
Orange segment jelly sitting on lemon cake and topped with homemade coconut sorbet. Served with lemon dressing and Amaretto soaked figs. V
([V] is vegan option)

A particular bug bear of mine is vegan options which in no way represent the description of the dish I ordered. Like for like replacements are perfectly acceptable (though it's preferable for them to be marked on the menu), substitutions disappointing (especially considering that the price is never lowered or portion size increased), but totally different is just misleading:

So I'm not entirely sure what I had for starter. Some kind of fritters I think - definitely not gnocchi (which ironically is easy to make vegan).

Faced with a choice of stir fry, risotto or curry for main I went with the latter. It was alright (on a par with a local curry house), but not what I'd expected to eat at a restaurant in Edinburgh:

Figs creep me out, so I left them. The rest was alright - jelly and icecream made to look fancy:

My meal at David Bann was perfectly pleasant and I would go back. The staff were friendly and prices not unreasonable (assuming they're inline with omni places in Edinburgh).

The food was fairly uninspiring - not terrible like some reviewers claim but not sensational either. In Brighton speak it was more "Food for Friends" than "Terre a Terre". More (adventurous) vegan menu items would be appreciated when I return.

Pizza Face (Brighton)

Whilst on a pizza posting spree, it's only fair to mention Brighton's vegan friendly takeaway also.

Pizza Face is an omni pizza chain with branches in Kemp Town (Brighton) and Hove. They stock Redwoods vegan cheese, which can be substituted for normal for £1 extra. They've a separate vegan menu available on Mondays & Tuesdays (with fake meats as well as cheese) - it's too bad they don't do this on a weekend.

We visited at 10.45pm on a Saturday evening in November, towards closing time of 11pm. We ordered a couple of pizzas, garlic bread and tub of Boho Gelato sorbet to eat at our hotel nearby. We've heard rumours that they can deliver directly to the beach, but it was a bit chilly for that!

I'm not entirely sure why the garlic bread came with rosemary and it needed about 10x the amount of garlic on for my taste, but the bread itself was really good:

The pizzas however we're so good. With all the rave reviews about Pizza Face from people we know, hopefully we just got unlucky. Either way, the amount of toppings on both our pizzas was pitiful:

Having paid extra for vegan cheese there was hardly any on there, with a good few inches around the edge completely bare. Even the amount of tomato sauce was stingy. Compare this to somewhere like Mr Singh's where you get toppings right to the edge (not to mention two 12" for £13.49) and you'll understand why we felt a bit short changed.

We left half our pizzas each to move onto dessert. We often do this and eat the other half the following morning (pizza improves with age!).

I love Mojitos - they're easily my favourite cocktail. For a drink with so few ingredients it's impressive how badly people manage to screw them up however - they typically range in bars from mediocre to undrinkable (with exceptions - I found a stunningly good mojito bar in Leith last year). Sadly Boho Gelato's mojito sorbet falls into the inedible camp - we managed about of third of the tub between us before admitting defeat and leaving it to defrost. I don't know if the ingredients had been mixed wrong or what, but it tasted disgusting.

I want to love Pizza Face, but it's all a bit to 'meh' for me - the halves we kept went in the bin. I hate giving places a bad review and it's possible that towards the end of the shift we got unlucky. I'll try and give it a go on a Monday / Tuesday night some time - hopefully on vegan night things will be a lot better.

Mr Singh's (Handsworth Wood, West Midlands)

The Handsworth Wood branch of Mr Singh's shares the same menu as West Bromwich (formally Oldbury - click here for review), but is larger and has a proper seating area.

It's awesome to see a vegan friendly pizza restaurant, especially one that's full of customers - even mid afternoon on a Saturday. Pizzas are served in black pans similar to Pizza Hut's - they've really gone all out for that authentic experience.

We've had takeaway from there a few times now (there's free onstreet parking round the side), but haven't dined in yet. The quality's been consistently good and I'd definitely recommend it:

(this time you get not only the steering wheel but my fat belly and leg too!)

If I'm being totally honest though (which I always am!), we have been slightly put off returning recently, due to an unfortunate ordering mix up. I *always* say vegan (several times) when ordering - often to the point of looking like a bit of a freak. Mix ups are rare and do happen - I'm also good at spotting non-vegan things before eating them and politely questioning whether they're sure. In the case of Mr Singh's they've claimed several times (at both branches) that the garlic bread can be made vegan using vegan cheese, which we've ordered several times as a result:

Last time however the cheese on it clearly wasn't vegan and when questioned was told it was vegan (several times), then that it wasn't but it was my fault because I hadn't specified vegan when ordering (I had, and the pizzas I ordered at the same time were made correctly). Whilst they reluctantly agreed to remake another member of staff (the owner?) was tutting and the whole situation was rather awkward. I'd like to say that they've not lost us as customers, but equally I'm not sure how quickly we'll be returning.

Down to Earth (Kensington, London)

Down to Earth's an organic cafe & restaurant, roughly half way between Kensington High Street tube and Olympia (walkable from each). All vegetarian; about half the menu is raw.

I had lunch there a couple of months back - a welcomed alternative to Saf or Wagamama where I normally end up. As you'd expect (given the area it's in); Down to Earth is as posh as vegetarian cafes come - sandstone exterior, chandeliers and marble tables inside. Prices are sensible though and inline with most other raw cafes / restaurants. Staff were friendly and waiting times low - it was about 1/3 full when I went.

Raw meals are pre-prepared and displayed behind the counter. Whilst it's good to see what you're getting, you could taste the fact that they'd not been made to order (or at least properly chilled prior to service). They are definitely fresh, but not quite fresh enough. I opted for their lasagne, described as "marinated courgette pasta strips layered with portobello meat, rich tomato sauce, herbed cashew and yellow pepper cheese and pesto served with a side salad":

I really enjoyed the lasagna part. Not as much as 42Raw's, but it was by far the best thing I ate whilst there. Not so keen on the salad, but I'm generally not that keen on salad in general (unless it's covered in oil / sauce or in a bun with a burger).

I love carrot cake, which is probably why I was disappointed (to the point of leaving half) with the dessert:

Raw cheesecake can be fantastic but fruit/vegetables mushed together with agave and spice in the guise of sponge cake doesn't really work for me. I did my best to eat the frosting from the centre and ditched the rest.

I don't love Down to Earth (yet), but will try it again. They do an evening menu (no prices on the website) so I might give it a go and opt for a cooked dessert next time.

The Royal Oak (Tetbury, Gloucestershire)

The Royal Oak's a newly renovated pub in the Cotswolds, randomly co-owned by the organiser of London's Asparagasm (monthly vegan dining club).

Whilst not fully vegetarian their menu includes several vegan options - they've even vegan beers and Booja Booja icecream with vegan marshmallows! I expect that given the location they'd have difficulty staying in business if all vegetarian - it's useful however to have places where you can dine with omnis occasionally, without them whinging and moaning the entire time :)

The interior's large with an upstairs dining room as well as bar area on the ground floor. It's been renovated tastefully and looks as good as any premium pub/restaurant - there isn't even a hint of crusty hippy cafe about it. When we visited on Sunday lunchtime with vegan friends it was over half full with diners - they've obviously a good local following.

My starter (Artichoke Salad with Sunblush Tomatoes, Olives and Tofu) was really nice. It wasn't anything adventurous, but all the ingredients tasted fresh, flavoursome, well seasoned and exactly how they should (i.e. it didn't taste like a pot of Sainsburys antipasti had been dumped on a plate). I'd eat it again, and again, and again.

The main (Nut Roast with Pistachio Gravy) didn't quite hit the spot. I like pistachios, but they'd have worked better in the roast rather than floating around my plate. The potatoes weren't fantastic and there was an overall unvegan taste to the dish. It was like it'd been made by a completely different person to the starter (which is entirely possible) - next time I'll try something else.

Dessert was Chocolate Crème Brûlée with a generous side portion of Booja Booja icecream:

I really enjoyed the dessert - almost as much as the starter. I've only ever had vanilla custard based crème brûlée in the past - whilst I prefer vanilla on reflection it's good to try new things. The icecream portion (not pictured) was HUGE. I don't actually know how they're turning a profit on it.

Staff were friendly throughout our visit and prices reasonable. We spent several hours there in the end and would definitely return. It's good to see an omni place doing vegan food well - as well as catering for the likes of you and I they'll inevitably introduce more people to vegan food without them consciously thinking about it, which is as good an advertisement as any.

I've said this before, but every village should have a v*gan pub.

Looking at their website they've impressively decent looking B&B rooms for £95 a night - we may have to try one out sometime when in the area :)

Mr Singh's (Oldbury, West Midlands)

You know you're terrible blogger when places close down before you write the post.... Luckily in this case it's because they're gone up in the world (well, The Midlands anyway) to a new, smarter looking branch in West Bromwich. Whilst Oldbury is more convenient to get to (a mile from M5 J2) and had easy onstreet parking, the branch there was more than a bit shabby looking (see above!).

Mr Singh's is a vegetarian pizza chain with an unmistakable Indian twist - dhania pizza anyone? More exotic menu items (Tandoori Paneer etc) aren't suitable, but they've 8 vegan pizza options include Vegetarian Supreme, Pepperoni, Coriander and Sausage. Prices are reasonable, waiting time around 10 minutes and service friendly.

Dips are free and there's a slight discount if you order 2 pizzas the same size and remember to ask for it - they won't prompt you if you forget!

(yep, that's a steering wheel - classy I know)

The cheese and pepperoni they use appears to Redwoods - if I had to guess the sausage I'd go with Linda McCartney. Several other items on the menu are marked vegan, including hotdogs, nuggets and burgers (I assume Fry's given the description, but haven't tried them). The rest of the menu is vast - it's too bad some of the other choices aren't marked as vegan too.

I turned vegan before I had the chance to eat much takeaway pizza, but @cherrivalentine assures me that their bases are pretty much the same as you'd get from any takeaway - more spongy than glutenous, almost like they're raised with bicarb rather than yeast. If it were my choice they'd use a more Italian bread like recipe.

Like all good pizzas the flavour of their's improves with age (i.e. it's perfectly reasonable to eat the leftovers for breakfast!). The pizzas look the part (even the box they come in gives that true takeaway experience), but the toppings could be more varied - most of the options are variations on the same theme / set of ingredients. I recommend starting with something like their pepperoni and adding extra toppings (pineapple etc). They also don't mind if you ask for less chilli (the default is HOT).

I would recommend the Oldbury branch, but it's too late now ;-)