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Let’s Stop Eating Off The Vegan Menu

The Vegan Menu

If the title sounds a bit dramatic then hear me out, as I have a tragic tale for you all. This is the saddening true story of Campbell’s Canal Cafe. Campbell’s was a vegan eatery situated in Camden. It replaced InSpiral, a vegan cafe and local institution. People were a bit put off by InSpiral as it all looked a bit hippy-dippy and hemptastic. The change to Campbell’s changed that. Campbell’s had a hearty vegan menu with clear brunch, lunch and dinner options. The interior featured insta-friendly wooden benches and giant pot plants, whilst the entire back of the space was fitted with windows overlooking Camden Lock. The food was freshly prepared, cheap, and yummy. In short, it was bloody great.

Was. I heard yesterday that it had closed and been replaced by a non-vegan restaurant, some sort of meat-heavy buffet thing. About 90% of Camden Market is a meat-heavy buffet thing. Less than 10% of London is a warm, friendly, yummy vegan cafe. Why did Campbells close down?

In a weird way, I feel vaguely responsible. I went to Campbell’s at least twice a month – it was my no 1 brunch spot to meet friends – and it was conveniently located about 15 minutes away from my house. Yes, I took a lot of people there. But I am a vegan London blogger. I could have been sending people there. Why was I not shouting from the rooftops about it?

I have a weird block around food and restaurant posts; I understand that they are vital sources of information and yet I almost never write about eating out. Part of me fears my pictures are too terrible. Another part of me imagines my fairly substantial international audience won’t give a stuff about a new cafe in London. But that’s all changing now. There’s a new menu at TapeParade.

I don’t want places like Campbell’s to close. What other small vegan gems are there in London that are popping up, only to close months later due to small footfall? Yeah, it’s great that vegans can go to Zizzis and Spoons now, but let’s be honest, wouldn’t you rather be somewhere else? To paraphrase Burt Bacharach, a Spoons is still a Spoons. Vegan-friendly is great, but what I’m all about is vegan-PROUD. Vegan-ONLY.

Omnis, veggies, lactose free- everyone can eat at a vegan restaurant. I’m talking places that don’t have a seperate menu, because everything in there is vegan already. Places that make you feel wanted and not just welcome. Restaurants with a full menu of choice, not just a few options off the main menu with some substitute ingredients (vegan cheese pizza anyone?). Because honestly; carnivores have just as much choice at a 100% vegan place as they do anywhere else. The difference is I don’t have to feign excitement over a hummus wrap.

I don’t want a London overrun with crap chain restaurants, I want thriving independent local businesses. A part of me dies everytime I eat at Pizza Express or Zizzi’s; it’s not because their vegan options aren’t great but because seriously, is that the best London can do? You get a tiny menu of cast-off dishes and one potential dessert? I’m fed up of being grateful for beanburgers and sorbet. Fed up of waiters having to find p.43 of the “allergens menu” before they tell me the two options available for me. I want to go where I am celebrated and not just catered for, to places where I truly want to try at least half the menu instead of opting for what looks the least shit. The restaurants that seat vegans at the head of the table instead of trying to cram us in on the side with a flavourless curry and some raw salad.

So, that’s it. I’m going to start sending you places, rounding up where I’ve eaten and where you should go to. It’s going to be review central. The high street options are good, yes, and I can imagine they are a lifeline for vegans in rural areas. I don’t want to dismiss that or the progress we have made in getting vegans into the mainstream. BUT. London is the capital of the U.K. and we deserve restaurants where we are the main focus and not an afterthought. I’m such a big fan of supporting local businesses, of giving my money to independents and small businesses. To say “hey, thanks for making your whole restaurant available to me despite the risk of alienating narrow-minded meat-eaters. I appreciate and applaud your decisions and will trek to you even though you’re in Zone 3”. I want to hype those places up properly instead of the occasional Twitter mention. Won’t you join me? Let’s stop eating off the vegan menus, and eat in the vegan restaurants. Here’s to the menus without prefaces, and to the places where everyone can eat: vegan, carni, whatever. To the full dessert menus and the options for side orders with sauces. Here’s to Campbell’s – RIP.

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12 Comments

  • Reply emilyunderworld

    Omg I love Campbell’s Canal Cafe! Their vegan ‘fish and chips’ were amazing, and they had live music nights. I’m gutted! I’ve taken so many friends there.
    – Emily from http://www.emilyunderworld.co.uk

    July 2, 2017 at 7:57 am
  • Reply denisesplanet

    I feel sad that Campbell’s closed and you said it really right – I want a place where I am wanted and not just welcome. In any situation in life. I loved that line. I agree with you that carnivores can eat at vegan restaurants, while vegans can’t really find many options. My latest post is about London – and guess what, I had a very hard time finding what to eat in a famous museum. After that I had to go to Bella Italia at Leicester Sq and had a hard time again. Hopefully more vegan restaurants open soon 🙂
    DenisesPlanet.com

    July 3, 2017 at 9:45 am
  • Reply Cliff

    I’m a meat eater but I always enjoy vegan or vegetarian places to eat. So I look forward to hearing of the places you recommend.

    July 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm
  • Reply helensnowdon

    Yes!!! This is so inspirational. I do not live any where near a vegan restaurant when I do go to one next I’m going to be writing about it.

    July 7, 2017 at 2:54 am
  • Reply Katie (@this_Katie)

    This is a great idea! I’m not vegan myself but I sympathise with those who find it difficult to find somewhere where they are “wanted not welcome”. I work at a pub and we have about 2 vegan options. It’s embarrassing! I’m interested in trying more vegan meals so seeing your new posts will hopefully inspire me.
    Katie

    littlekaatie.com

    July 9, 2017 at 4:49 pm
  • Reply Laura Torninoja (@lauraemilia)

    LOVE this post! I love that there are vegan options available in chains (it makes it so much easier when having to go out with a group of people eg. colleagues) but I agree that we need to support independent businesses more. I’m not 100 % vegan, but want to choose vegan dishes as much as I can, so I can’t wait to see all your reviews and discover new places! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    July 10, 2017 at 11:00 am
  • Reply Kim

    I’m sorry about your restaurant closing – I hate when that happens
    it’s like a good friend that moves away- I have the same issues too, I love little local places but don’t do many restaurant posts- how are the little guys supposed to stay in business without local support? thanks for inspiring me to do more food posts
    and for the record – those pancakes look amazing like a work of edible art 🙂
    and your pics are very nice

    July 14, 2017 at 1:38 am
  • Reply Nicole Osborne

    This post is wonderful! I love your idea and definitely need to start doing this more too. The places that cater for vegans, and only vegans, are the best and need to be loved and embraced, and most definitely shouted about. Like you said, anyone can eat vegan, but without fantastic little vegan spots, vegans can’t always eat with the masses xx
    Nicole / http://www.gingerkitchen.co.uk

    July 22, 2017 at 4:06 pm
  • Reply Rosie

    I’m really looking forward to seeing posts about eating out, because eating out is definitely the trickiest part for me. A lot of chains, or restaurants in general, don’t take vegan diets seriously and it’s a huge afterthought. Where I work, it’s really not considered when menus are written at all. If people call up in advance, our chefs are always able to make up some delicious dishes, so I have no idea why they aren’t on the menu all the time.

    July 26, 2017 at 3:18 pm
    • Reply Laila

      Just put one up today pal! I agree, it’s so frustrating- chefs are always able to whip something up and it would be great to just include that from the off.

      July 30, 2017 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Three Vegan Restaurants In London That Omnis Will Love, Too - TAPEPARADE

    […] few weeks back I wrote this post, in which I stated my belief that we vegans* ought to be championing actual full vegan restaurants […]

    July 30, 2017 at 8:04 am
  • Reply Dani

    100% yes!! I often go to places like Zizzis and Pizza Express because I’m with friends and they go there knowing there’s a vegan option, and I’ve felt sort of bad in the past making them go to 100% vegan places just for me, but I’m going to just do that now hahah. Looking forward to seeing your food recs! 🙂

    July 30, 2017 at 4:33 pm
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