Manchester wasn’t just the birthplace of the modern vegetarianism movement as we know it today. It could well be the birthplace of a vegan food revolution, with a record number of places opening or expanding to offer completely animal-free options.
Veganism is a lifestyle which does not use any animal products – so no dairy, honey, leather or wool either – with 3.5 million vegans in the UK and growing.
Manchester is shaking up the stereotype of vegan food too (bye-bye bland salad), making it exciting for vegans and non-vegans alike. Here we have everything from vegan fast food to fine dining.
1st November marks World Vegan Day, inspired by the founding of The Vegan Society in November 1944. And Saturday 3rd November marks the opening of award-winning chef Matthew Nutter’s all-vegan restaurant The Allotment on Lloyd Street following relocation from its current site in Stockport which has already seen it gain titles including Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the UK according to The Times.
“We’re very excited to bring a large team of talented chefs to Manchester, who will really push the standard and quality of food to the next level,” Matthew told us.
“With our doors opening very soon, we’ve been working really hard behind the scenes to perfect our menus, including our 10-course taster menu, which I’m very proud of. We are also introducing a large variety of craft ales, which pair perfectly with the signature menu.”
The arrival of The Allotment also follows a pattern of vegan eating spreading across the city, not just in select neighbourhoods.
Don’t just take our word for it – the likes of Johnny Marr and John Robb are already prominent vegans here, and recently Manchester United’s Chris Smalling announced he was going vegan, too.
But another big part of veganism in Manchester is how accessible it is. There are plenty of street food and pop-up traders offering creative and inexpensive vegan options.
Wholesome Junkies serve comforting grub which is nutritious and all vegan. They were nominated for MFDF’s Street Food Trader of the Year award and featured on BBC 2’s Million Pound Menu.
“Manchester is our hometown and we wanted to boom here,” says Chelsea Campbell, one of the key members of Wholesome Junkies.
“The vegan scene is fantastic and there couldn’t have been a better place for us to start our journey. Our food stands out because we made a promise to ourselves to change people’s perception of vegan food. We wanted to take a dish everyone is familiar with and turn it totally plant-based.”
Wholesome Junkies are regulars at GRUB, the massive street food celebration with a regular fair at Mayfield and Plant Powered Sundays, when all traders involved opt to provide (or already provide) all-vegan food for the occasion.
Another trader which has featured at GRUB (and has an attention-grabbing name to boot) is Seitan’s Kebab. As the name suggests, they sell kebabs made from seitan – that’s wheat protein, not the lord of darkness.
According to founders Matt and Steph: “Being from Manchester, we know that the locals are open-minded and willing to try something different, and the response from everybody – not just those who are vegan – has been overwhelming. Everybody seems to be loving our dirty kebabs and we couldn’t be prouder!”
It extends well into the suburbs, too. Last year Chorlton witnessed the arrival of alien-inspired Zad’s, an entirely vegan fast food joint especially known for its proper takeaway style pizzas.
“We like to think that our food stands out for the most important reason – it tastes amazing!” says Zad. “Right from the start, we were keen to create a menu that was designed for the people eating it, not their Instagram followers.
“There is a huge vegan movement taking place all over the world, but particularly the UK and even more specifically in Manchester. The city has often been at the forefront of societal change and we’re lucky enough to have an amazing activist community here.”
And it seems cuisines of every kind are going vegan in Manchester. Serving up Jamaican Ital cuisine which has roots in Rastafarian culture is Alicia Marshall, the cook behind The Beach Hut, which has just finished a stint inside Afflecks and will continue trading as a pop-up.
“My dishes are traditional well-known Caribbean foods like jerk and Caribbean curries with a vegan twist,” Alicia told us. “I decided to bring this concept to Manchester because there weren’t any vegan Caribbean or Jamaican offerings in this city and I felt I could provide an exciting new option to Manchester’s vegan scene for those wanting something a little different.”
And for something even more different – vegan Christmas is coming! Manchester Vegan Christmas Festival will take place at the historic Victoria Baths on 1st and 2nd December, with stalls, food traders, plenty of tipple, music and even a grotto.
“We have got so much lined up it’s great! Food wise, I’m most excited about the bratwurst and the warm cookie dough stands,” says Michael, one of the organisers.
“We’ve got stalls that are great for doing your Christmas shopping including cosmetics, cheeses, plants, chocolates and even fudge. There’s also going to be a pop-up zero waste shop, Indian head massages on offer and an all-natural, organic wine shop too.”
Veganism is clearly a growing movement. Today marks the start of World Vegan Month, so why not join the vegan revolution?