Vegan Adventures in London!

by Sherri Koehler on November 1, 2014

We left Portland on October 19th with an assortment of vegan, gluten-free meals for the long flight to London. Vegan meals had been ordered for me, but there isn’t an option available for vegan AND gluten-free, so we had to plan for Christie. I made up some crustless quiches, we had some roasted potatoes, rice, grilled nootchy tofu, corn cakes, nuts, cookies, and hummus.

During the flight I was served a dinner with rice, spinach, a veggie/bean patty, crackers, a roll with margarine, a salad with balsamic dressing and some fruit. I totally forgot to take photos of the Delta airplane food for vegans. It was reasonably tasty. Later as a snack I was brought an apple and a roll with some lettuce, cucumber & tomato slices on it… which was rather uninspired. Breakfast was some sort of roll, again uninspired, and a banana.

We arrived in London on Monday around noonish and were so grateful for the car Christie had arranged to drive us to the flat we’d rented near Walworth Street, with good access to several buses and a reasonable walk to the Elephant & Castle Underground station. Before we let ourselves collapse, we set out to check out some of the neighborhood markets. We discovered a G. Baldwin & Co. shop just a block from the flat where we were able to pick up the bare necessities to get us to the next day: baked beans, brown rice, soy milk, tea, sugar, cookies, CoYo Yoghurt, gluten-free muesli, a loaf of seedy, brown bread (for me) and Booja Booja ice cream.

First London meal was baked beans over brown rice with cookies (GF quinoa & fig for me) and we were so grateful. Soon after we went to bed.

First breakfast for Christie, muesli and yogurt, was a little disappointing. We’d only been able to find a gluten-free muesli made with qunioa flakes as opposed to oats. They were crunchy in an unsatisfying way, probably would be alright simmered on the stove but not great cold in yogurt. I however totally indulged in two generous slices of bread with Earth Balance and some of the jam thoughtfully provided by our Air BnB host.

Our ability to be hugely adventurous about dining on trips has been curtailed by the need for gluten-free options. This means a couple of times we had a meal at a Chipotle because we knew we could get something and didn’t have energy to hunt down a place (one was pretty good, one was way over salted and we both ended up with indigestion). On the plus side of this, we cooked a lot more. Simple things like beans with rice or pasta and veggies, which helps keep costs down (which we then spent on books and other cool things). That said, there were some great meals to be had. I tried making my pumpkin curry while we were there, but didn’t find the best coconut milk and it also turned out pretty damn spicy!

For two of the days of our visit Christie was having meetings, so I set off to explore. One day I’d walked for quite a while along the south bank of the Thames from the London Eye, then onto Vauxhall Park. After all that walking out in a chilly breeze I was hungry and on the hunt for food. I happened upon the cosy Windmill Pub.

I went in hoping for no more than some chips (I was so hungry and cold I was considering not even asking about the oil used to fry the potatoes) and tea. However, when I checked out the menu I discovered I could order a jacket potato with baked beans! They also were offering mulled, hot cider by the half pint. The potato came with a salad, a nice surprise, with some suspiciously creamy topping (I later discovered while perusing a grocery store several bottles of “Salad Cream”. I didn’t know it would come with it and tried to eat around it. After a long, chilly walk in the wind, this we such a welcome find! I was delighted to find the a jacket potato is just a roasted potato and the option of having it served filled with baked beans, no butter, is an awesome gluten-free vegan option!

The next day found me enjoying seeing artifacts I’d studied in college at the British Museum.

After wandering around admiring and photographing Greek marbles, Egyptian artifacts and mummies, and much more, all amidst many school groups, of varying ages, I was worn out. I decided the quietest place would be the restaurant at the top of the rotunda, where I again hoped for at least something simple like olives and a glass of wine. What I was delighted to find on the menu was a vegan, gluten-free salad made with saffron roasted cauliflower, slivered almonds, sultanas, thinly sliced green onions, and marinated cipollini onions. I had a small glass of wine and totally enjoyed this light, tasty lunch.

On the next day we set out to explore the Tate Modern, after which we were in need of lunch and were happy to find a Crussh nearby. They were out of the vegan noodle soup option, I was sorry to say, and they ended up having only one thing we could order, an aubergine ratatouille over brown rice, with the option of fresh herbs and seeds on top, with no cream drizzle. The fresh herbs turned out to be cilantro and the seeds sunflower, but it was surprisingly tasty despite my worry that the flavors would not compliment each other.

The two days were spent at Mozilla Festival 2014. A vegan lunch option was offered, which I had the first day. It was really a carb fest (filo dough based tart, quinoa/bulgar salad, orzo salad – all tasty, but all carby) that left me longing for something heartier. On Saturday we went to Wagamama for dinner, which is known to be very accommodating to special diets. There was a soup on the menu that was already vegan & gluten-free, which Christie had. I was in the mood for udon, but all the dishes on the menu involved meat, they offered to make a vegetarian dish with egg-containing soba noodles with the udon and the result was incredibly satisfying and delicious. We also had some edamame with a garlic chilie salt and I ordered dumplings, which were really just alright but it was nice to have dumplings.

Lunch options at MozFest were the same on Sunday, so at lunchtime I went back over to get take-away. Christie had the same coconut milk-based soup and I decided to try their warm tofu salad, which was topped with fresh red chilies, fried tofu, tempura eggplant, and cashews on a bed of romaine leaves (I wished they’d been chopped up a bit). The salad was very tasty.

On Monday our day included a walk along the north bank of the Thames. Our lunch was a picnic enjoyed on some stairs in the sun and wind. We picked up an assortment of food and a Little Wait Rose. We selected some roasted, marinated artichoke hearts, hummus, dolmas, crisps, sparkling water, and a wheat-berry & bean salad for me. I regret not getting a photo, we ate everything too quickly. I did snap a shot of an impulsively purchased cocktail in a can… it tasted about as good as you’d expect it to.

On Tuesday we packed up a picnic lunch of jacket potatoes, sautéed cabbage, hummus, and a can of baked beans and made our way by train out to see Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing (AMAZING). We had a break of CoYo yogurt with an oat-based, gluten-free meusli we’d found at Whole Foods and tea at mid-day followed by a “tea” of the potatoes, cabbage, hummus, and baked beans. We were grateful the catering staff at Bletchley didn’t mind our eating in their dining area. We’d likely would have been able to get the potato & beans option in the cafe found in Hut 4, but we’d missed their open time for serving hot food.

As the museum closed up a friendly volunteer suggested the Eight Belles Pub, which was a short walk from the park as a nice way to kill time until our train back to London. We were delighted to discover a tasty English cider, Thatcher’s, and were lucky enough to get the first batch of chips fried up in freshly changed oil. There is no picture of the chips, we ate them as quickly as we could given how hot they were!

We spent a damp day visiting VX near the King’s Cross tube station, I left them with stickers brought from Herbivore and Food Fight, and we picked up some badges, stickers and a patch. We also picked up something special, food related, but it is a gift so I’ll post about it after we’ve given it to the recipients.

From there we made our way to the markets in Camden Town (Locks and Stables  Markets). We were totally delighted to find Cookies & Scream, all vegan AND gluten-free, while exploring the endless maze of stalls that make up the markets. Christie had an espresso shake and I had a cup of tea. We also got an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (Christie) and a sticky plum & almond cake (me) to go. We had these the following day and we each found our respective treat to be awesome!

We eventually had lunch at InSpiral Cafe which was disappointingly uninspired, but we were happy to be served warm (mostly…) vegan food with a gluten-free option. Christie ordered the full breakfast fry up, however, making it gluten-free meant no toast, no sausage, and no house-made baked beans. I’d ordered rye toast with baked beans; they were just okay, not bad just, again, uninspired.

On our last day I went on a tea procurement trip and in the afternoon we finally explored a nearby street market that happened every day. I was glad we finally made it, but a little sad too, since there were several stalls with great fresh produce for incredibly cheap. I ended up buying all of this for 1 pound, 20 pence ($.192 USD) and made us dinner as well as food to take on our long journey home.

On the flight home I was served a meal with a salad (no dressing), roll with margarine, crackers, herbed tofu on a bed of sun-dried potatoes with a wild-rice blend and mushy, minted peas. There was also another roll with lettuce, tomato & celery slices, which was made tastier with one of the avocados from the market the day before. I was also served a snack of grapes and a “Tangy Tomato and Chickpea” Posh Wrap from Monty’s Bakehouse, which was pretty darn tasty.



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