October 1st is World Vegetarian Day, an annual occasion first started in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS) that’s been turned into a global celebration of meat-free eating.
The celebratory day may have started in America, but did you know that the Manchester area is actually home to the modern vegetarian movement as we know it today?
In 1808, the rather ironically named Reverend Cowherd formed The Bible Christian Church in Salford, one of whose practices was following a meat-free diet. They met in the – also ironically named – Beefsteak Chapel and became one of the founding groups involved in the formation of The Vegetarian Society in 1847.
There is a vegetarian restaurant in Manchester named after the date and a great veggie-friendly drinks company called Cowherds, too.
Although the Vegetarian Society was actually formed near Richmond in Surrey, Manchester seemed to be the place to be. It had its first annual meeting in Manchester in 1848 and from 1849 onwards, it continued to be prominent here. In recent years it moved out to Altrincham, but still has influence in the city.
Today, Manchester continues to be an influential place to eat veggie, too. Recent news has included a Vegetarian Pret arriving in October, and that Britain’s best vegetarian restaurant, The Allotment, currently based in Stockport, is to move to the city centre.
But what to eat right now? Most places offer a good range of vegetarian options and there are a number of animal-friendly places to shop, too. Didsbury-based cookery school Food Sorcery also host vegetarian cooking classes so you can get hands-on in conjuring up some veggie delights for yourself.
But if you really want to push the boat out for World Vegetarian Day 2018, here are some of the city’s most innovative options.
Vegangstarr at Hip Hop Chip Shop
Time for meat-free battered sausage – thanks to those fun-lovin’ foodies, the funky street food truck that is Hip Hop Chip Shop. An untraditional but ultimate chippy tea ideal for vegetarians, the Vegangstarr is a battered sausage suitable for vegans, that comes accompanied with chunky chips and minty mushy peas. Served at the Hip Hop Chip Shop’s temporary site at MediaCityUK most Monday-Fridays 12-2.30pm, this is well-worth trying as a weekday treat. Hip Hop Chip Shop is due to open its first permanent bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Ancoats in November.
‘Chicken’ & Waffles at The Deaf Institute
The Deaf Institute is a creative kitchen, bar and popular music venue in a historic 19th century building with a menu that is not just great for vegetarians but at least 80% vegan. They serve up comfort food classics with an inventive edge. A favourite is the fully-vegan ‘Chicken’ & Waffles, and not a bird in sight. They use buttermilk battered seitan instead, served with homemade waffles and maple syrup.
Yam Curry at Oak St Café
Oak St Café is a warm and friendly hidden gem in the Victorian market hall of the Manchester Craft and Design Centre in the Northern Quarter. It’s hard to pick a stand-out dish here as the menu changes daily to reflect the freshest produce. However, a customer favourite has to be the vegetarian Yam Curry that is cooked down with coconut and deliciously moreish.
Mixed Mezze at The Ottö-Men
Perhaps Mixed Mezze is cheating a bit as it’s a series of items rather than a single dish, but The Ottö-Men’s mezze is damn good and changes regularly to reflect what’s fresh. It features the likes of fresh hummus, falafel, home roasted olives, Iranian lentil stew and even a ‘sexy pie’. Their contemporary Ottoman and Mediterranean inspired street food is largely vegetarian and vegan, with some omnivorous options too. Find them at Levvy Market, GRUB and at the Hub at Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2018. Don’t forget their signature ‘cheeky pickle’.
Marinara Pizza with portobello mushrooms at Rudy’s
Neapolitan pizza, done properly. Rudy’s is known for quality, with the dough made on site every day for that soft floppy base which is massively moreish. The Marinara pizza has no parmesan cheese, so it’s suitable for vegans and vegetarians alike, and topped with a winning combo of tomato, garlic, oregano, basil and olive oil. At just under a fiver, it’s great value too. For a little extra, why not add some other veggie-friendly toppings like portobello mushrooms? Get some nocellera olives on the side and it’s heaven in a meal.
Palak Paneer at Asha’s
A cottage cheese curry? It might sound strange but it is SO right. Rather than just standard veggie curry, award-winning Peter Street Indian restaurant Asha’s allows for some vegetarian indulgence with the Palak Paneer. This is cottage cheese cooked in a fresh spinach gravy and flavoured with warming cumin. Asha’s also boasts a whole page of dedicated vegetarian choices on the menu (some vegan) and recently hosted a Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2018 event, with executive chef Bobby Geeta teaming up to create a special 5 course vegan menu.
Avocado and Sweet Smokey Beans at Nibble NQ
Beans or avo on toast is a bit of a bog standard vegetarian staple in many places, but creative café Nibble NQ on Oldham Street are shaking things up a bit with their awesome ‘sweet smokey’ combo. It’s extra-special – mixed beans cooked in a sweet and smoky sauce, served with sourdough, rye or gluten-free toast on the side. And they have a range of veggie options, an ever-changing range of salads and specials, and lots of cake too (check out their Bounty Brownies). Full marks all round for this independent girl gang run café. Nibble NQ is also now one of the permanent traders at the new indoor street food market at University Place on Oxford Road, open to students and the public from 8am until 3.30pm.
Bindi at Zouk
Award-winning Indian and Pakistani restaurant Zouk on Chester Street just off Oxford Road have a number of mouth-watering options ideal for vegetarians and vegans alike. Their Bindi, a Punjabi style curry with Okra cooked in a spicy masala, is a stand-out option. Other choices include Vegetable Tikka, Palak Alloo – that’s a spinach and potato curry – and a number of their vegetarian courses can also be prepared without butter ghee if pre-ordered. And with stunning interiors as well as an outdoor shisha terrace, it really is an enjoyable place to relax.
Caponata at Milk & Honey Café
Caponata is a cracking vegetarian option you may have never tried before. A popular Sicilian dish, it consists of fried aubergine and chopped vegetables seasoned with sweetened vinegar and served in a rich sauce. It’s a regular on the frequently changing menu at community café Milk & Honey on Oxford Road. The phrase milk and honey means a place of plenty and this café is just that, with a generous selection of sweets, savouries and sides – plenty suitable for vegetarians.
Yoghurt Chat Bombs at Mowgli
Vegetarian Indian street food with added pow. Mowgli in the Corn Exchange serves up its signature Yoghurt Chat Bombs from the Street Chat menu – crisp bread puffs stuffed with spiced yoghurt, chickpeas, coriander and tamarind. These are an explosion of flavour. There are plenty more vegetarian and vegan options available in the Hindu Kitchen section of their menu, as well as veggie-friendly tiffin boxes for those with a bigger appetite. A separate vegan menu is also available.