This one’s for anyone who’s umming and ahhing about cutting out meat. And for anyone who still thinks veggie means boring. Read this and you’re going to start wanting to eat your greens. Trust me.
But first a brief history lesson. In 1809 a strapping young son of a preacher man gathered a congregation together on Queen Street, Salford and persuaded them to give up meat (and sex and alcohol, but that’s another story).
Believe it or not, the cleric’s name was Reverend William Cowherd. Great name for a veggie. And this was the birthplace of the meat-free diet and the beginnings of the Vegetarian Society.
In this list I’m not talking about the kind of veggie restaurants that replace your steak with a soggy bit of grilled mushroom and a sorry looking slice of halloumi and call it a day.
I’m talking about the sort of veggie joints that’ll having you singing ‘kale is the new beef’ and posting your plant-based grub all over Instagram with the hashtag #greenisgood.
The city is now teeming with crafty herbivorous spots left, right and Manchester Central.
So, whether you’re trying vegetarianism for the meantime or for a long while, there’s plenty of options to choose from. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to move to Chorlton, start walking barefoot and take up tantric yoga at the weekends.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite places to enjoy a plant-based diet. They’re mostly healthy, too, so you’re one step closer to those washboard abs for summer. You might need to put down that doughnut though.
Kettlebell Kitchen: for those who think veggies are missing out on protein
“But if you don’t eat meat, how are you going to get your protein?” Pfft. It’s something most vegetarians and vegans are probably sick of hearing and Kettlebell kitchen is here to prove the point. Pick from the kettle box (which is a favourite with bodybuilders) and choose from the halloumi, quorn or tofu as your main protein and then your base of sweet potato mash, spicy brown rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice or wheat pasta. Choose a homemade sauce to finish and Bob’s your vegetarian uncle.
Bundobust: for explosions of colour and flavour
This place is an absolute game changer. Everything they do, they do it right. And everything they do is either vegan or veggie. Go for the bundo chaat, followed by the bhel puri and a portion of okra fries or two. The paneer and mushroom tikka is a spicy and delicious, with no two mouthfuls the same. Frankly, anything on this menu is well worth trying and they have a stellar collection of craft beers to wash it all down with too. Always a bonus.
V-Revs: for your dirtiest plant-based cravings
Fancy a bit of dirty food? Well vegan dirty food is a whole other ball game. Walk through the diner doors and you’re in plant-based heaven. 100% meat-free hotdogs, burgers, fake fried chicken and even a very snazzy looking ‘lobsta’ salad. The Guac to the Future chkn burger – fake chicken to you – is an absolute must try. With all plants and no pain, it’s win-win all round at this groovy joint.
Cowherds: for those who fancy a munch from a plant-based lunch wagon
This very quirky little lunch wagon café takes its name from the aforementioned Reverend Cowherd who preached the virtues of a plant-based diet to his congregation in the (aptly named) Beefsteak Chapel in Salford. The daily hot dishes are made from scratch in the van using locally sourced ingredients and carefully curated secret recipes. The menu changes seasonally and follows a regular weekly schedule so you can always be sure not to miss your favourite dish. The blackbean chilli is the one to watch. It contains more than six choices of vegetables to ensure that you are well on your way to getting your five a day. On a Friday treat yourself to the mushroom stroganoff because, love them or hate them, ‘shrooms are packed full of anti-oxidants and vitamin D- basically loads of good stuff for your body and soul. There’s plenty to wash it all down with too. Grab yourself the triple X shot. You won’t know what hit you. They’ll soon be packing in the van to focus on spreading a plant based way of life through their tasty detox juices (which are now stocked in places like Ezra and Gil and Takk) so grab the nosh while you can.
Pie and Ale: for all you flaky fu-folks
The pastry here is flaky and the flavour combinations are second to none. The menu is choc-full of classics and plant-based flavours galore. The vegan butternut squash and kale pie is served in a rich tomato and red wine sauce and quite simply melts in the mouth. They also offer up snazzy specials like the ratatouille pie or the chana palak. Try it and thank me later.
Mowgli: for party-in-your-mouth kind of plant-based flavour
Mowgli is a restaurant designed on the way Indians eat and it’s the best thing to happen to vegetarians in Manchester since forever. Expect tiffins full of fresh bright intense flavor and a menu the length of your arm dedicated solely to vegan dishes. This place is not about an intimate, hushed dining experience and chandeliers and whitewashed walls. It’s about the smash and grab zing of healthy, light, virtuosic herbs and spices coming together like firecrackers on your taste buds. It’s the kind of place you’ll start eating every damn week and you’ll get withdrawal symptoms when you don’t.
King Street Tavern: for posh plant-based nosh
You probably didn’t expect to find this bad boy in the luxurious King Street Townhouse on our list but they really do serve up some great veggie food, bringing all sorts of interesting flavour combos to the table. Their new menu includes asparagus tempura to start, mango and quinoa salad if you’re sticking to your diet and falafel burger served with sweet potato fries. The pea and squash risotto is always a winner. The bottomless brunch with killer avo toast puts your usual brunch game to shame and it runs from 10.30 till 1pm every day. Yes please.
Bakerie: for dependable and delectable wholesome grub
Bakerie serves up the kind of wholesome food you should eat both on your best day of life and on your worst. A starter of hand selected wild ‘shrooms, garlic, white wine, cream and tarragon all mixed together to form the perfect mushroom fondue. Get stuck in by tearing into the crusty home baked loaves and soaking up the tangy sauce- nobody will judge for your table manners (or lack thereof). Three mains from the vegan board of delights include Carribean spiced sweet potato stew, oven baked falafel, and roasted butternut squash cooked in chilli, mint, basil and lemon. With so much good stuff all in one place it’s hard to know where to start. If you want dependable and delectable plant based fare, there’s nowhere better. Honest.
Dough Pizza Kitchen: for pizza cravings without the meat
This Northern Quarter pizza restaurant offers a tonne of veggie options and plenty of vegan toppings too. They use VioLife vegan cheese and have a list of toppings as long as your arm. The wild mushroom pizza, the veggie and the goats cheese all come highly recommended. To top it all off Dough also offer dairy free ice cream for dessert so, if you’re thinking of taking veggie into vegan, Dough have got you covered for that too.
The Soup Kitchen: for soup, glorious soup and veggie good stuff
With vegetarian restaurant 1847 announcing its closure earlier this month, Soup Kitchen is the new place to go for piping hot veggie grub. It’s a canteen, bar and club all in one, serving up funky food cooked fresh. Expect flavours like pumpkin and callalloo (a Jamaican leaf vegetable) curry and sweet potato and chilli soup. The salads are a bursting mix of vibrant veg and grains, and you can happily lunch here for as little as 3 quid. Yes that’s less than a fiver. You’re welcome.
19. Café Bar: for awesome avo bagels and vegan sweet treats
This spot is hidden away just off Piccadilly Gardens and it’s a foodie gem. They have plenty of veggie good stuff on the menu and even a couple of vegan options for anyone who wants to take things a step further. A firm foodie favourite is the smashed avocado bagel with halloumi cheese, sun dried tomatoes and a sprig of thyme. The lack of dairy and egg hasn’t stopped this lot from whipping up some Bake Off worthy treats that would have Mary Berry begging for more. The chocolate fudge vegan slice is absolutely divine. And guilt-free too. Kind of.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have a favourite veggie haunt we don’t know about, let the world know in the comments below.