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The Secret Veggie Meals of London

I’m not a vegetarian but I do love food and I LOVE London. Today’s guest post highlights some fabulous budget finds in this expensive city.

Two years ago I studied abroad in what would grow to be my all-time favorite city in the world, London. Seriously… Greatest. City. Ever.

While I was crazy excited about my year-long adventure, I tentatively walked off that plane, worried about the infamous sausage and mash and eel pie. I’ve been a vegetarian on and off for a good portion of my life and at the time of my move had been hard out for nearly a year. Hence, worried about blood sausage and whatnot.

And as a student, the worry got progressively worse. The problem with strictly vegetarian restaurants is you often pay for the ease of eating meatless. As gourmet vegetables were never on my list of splurges, us veggies end up back at square one: ordering pasta and salads when eating out with friends, usually just going home and cooking. However, once I figured out where to go, turns out London has some incredible (and cheap!) vegetarian treasures.

My fellow students knew about local soup kitchens, secret cafeterias and how to eat for a pound right in the heart of major tourist destinations. Without the resourcefulness of poor and hungry British kids, it’s entirely likely I would have starved.

So without further ado, the five places you absolutely HAVE to visit as a vegetarian in Britain. Even if you’re not a veggie, this food is cheap:

The Soup Kitchen


Food for Life

Distribution Locations, Monday thru Saturday

Kentish Town – Caversham Road (next to Barclays)

12:00pm – 12:55pm

Camden Town – Inverness Street (next to veggie market)

1:00pm – 1:50pm

Kings Cross – York Way (beside train station)

2:00pm – 2:30pm

This free food got me through most days when I couldn’t even afford a Tesco sandwich. Provided by the Hare Krishnas, every weekday a volunteer rides up on his bike with a massive yellow container of curry.

A friend in my program came across this magical delivery service and I figure word of mouth is how most hear about this deal. I think the program targets the homeless, but you’ll find tons of students queuing and the occasional nine-to-fiver from a surrounding cubicle farm. Called Prasadam, blessed food, these free meals are provided by Food for Life’s Hare Krishna Rickshaw Project whose purpose is to feed the hungry and promote a vegetarian diet.

The Tourist Trap

Camden Town

Camden Stables International Food Stalls

Open 7 days a week 9:30am – 5:30pm

Not only is Camden a great area to spend an afternoon (vintage shops, art, a plethora of weird crap you don’t need), but the food court is the best I’ve seen. You’re surrounded by every kind of food: sushi, pizza, Mexican, Chinese, Colombian, Spanish, Tex-Mex, Portuguese. There are over 50 food stalls, so your options are pretty limitless, and a very picky Italian friend says the pizza is as good as in Rome.

Not to knock the actual restaurants in the area, but the stalls are your best bet – obscenely cheap, lots of food, veggie options abound and really, really good. You can easily eat for a pound and for about £3 you’re so full you can’t even be bothered to shop.

The Student Center


Mary Ward Centre Café

42 Queen’s Square, London WC1

Monday – Thursday, 9:30AM – 9:00 PM, Friday 9:30AM – 8:30PM, Saturdays 9:30AM – 4:00PM and Sundays 9:30AM – 2:00PM

The Mary Ward Centre is London’s adult education college and has a small dining area that’s packed with students during lunch. Few outsiders know that the café is, in fact, available to everyone. Behind an inconspicuous white door, it may not look like a restaurant, but just trust me and head through the main entrance and turn left inside the hallway.

The menu is entirely vegetarian and changes often. I’ve tried everything from the Spanish tortilla to custard tarts and both are, might I add, to die for.

The Hole-in-the-Wall


Food for Thought

31 Neal Street

Monday – Saturday 12:00pm – 8:30pm

Sunday 12:00pm – 5:00pm

Food for Thought is another that’s easy to miss, but absolutely worth hunting down. The restaurant is at the bottom of a very steep staircase in what only can only be described as a hovel. The restaurant is always crowded, but filled with lovely people and delicious food. I had fabulous moussaka the last time I was there, but they serve up big batches of everything from pasta to quiche. The best part about this place is that it’s really intimate and cozy without being claustrophobic (I sat next to Jared Leto one time whilst he chatted with the common folk). Most patrons are regulars, not only because of the great food, but because everything’s less than £10.

The Chain

The Stockpot

273 Kings Road

38 Panton Street

18 Old Compton Street

The Stockpot is neither secret nor strictly vegetarian as it’s a London chain, but it was such a nice surprise that it deserves inclusion. My first 8 months in London were spent in a posh Chelsea dorm, which – while beautiful – was completely inconvenient as my student budget wouldn’t cover a pint at the local pub. Thank God for The Stockpot though, which is sort of like the British response to the American Diner. I highly recommend the gnocchi and, in the mornings, the full English breakfast.

Marian, 23, is a blogger, technically a social media “thug” (consultant is a boring word) for authors and has a bad case of the Quarterlife Crisis. She’s got the travel itch too and moved from New York to London to follow her heart and is headed to New Zealand in December. Her posts at marianlibrarian.com are usually tagged as “uncategorized” and when she’s not blogging about nonsense she helps people rock out on Twitter (but also secretly wants to be a pastry chef slash author slash farmer in the woods).

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18 Responses to The Secret Veggie Meals of London

  1. soultravelers3 August 5, 2010 at 7:17 PM #

    Yum! Great list! Lucky me because we are headed back to London soon ( after Provence, Paris and Barcelona) this fall & I will check them out in person! Thanks!

    • Steph August 6, 2010 at 11:52 AM #

      Do report back! Don’t think I’ll be making my way there for awhile now…

  2. Nathan August 6, 2010 at 1:53 AM #

    Oh awesome , we are also going to London soon, absolutely LOVE veggie food – thanks for such a great list for us to check out! 🙂

    • Marian Schembari August 6, 2010 at 9:38 AM #

      You are so welcome! You HAVE to try at least one of these places – my personal favorite is the Mary Ward Centre. It’s just so out of the way and YUMMY.

    • Steph August 6, 2010 at 11:53 AM #

      Great! Hope you enjoy!

  3. Karen August 6, 2010 at 11:34 AM #

    This is a great list, but I’m a little concerned about the soup kitchen one. That food is meant for homeless people who would die of starvation…not for college students looking to save a few bucks. How could you be so shameless?

    • Steph August 6, 2010 at 11:57 AM #

      I’ll admit that gave me a moment’s pause too. I’ve not been so I can’t really say, but I get the impression this is popular with people from all walks of life, is that right Marian?

      The website seems to imply that the food is available for anyone who wants it.

    • Marian Schembari August 6, 2010 at 12:25 PM #

      Yeah, I’m with Steph. I totally wouldn’t have gone had the line not been outside of a school and completely filled with students. I’d highly recommend going to the site: http://www.iskcon-london.org/activities/food-for-life.html

      While the site does list “feeding the hungry” as a goal, they’re also about promoting the vegetarian diet to EVERYONE because it’s healthier and and in keeping with their religion. So it’s kind of like being invite to a free church picnic every week. Sure, there will be homeless people there because it’s free, but you’ve also been invited and there’s enough food for everyone. Make sense?

      You should definitely check out the site and you’ll see it has nothing to do with being “shameless”. I do understand your concern though!

      • Janet August 9, 2010 at 12:07 PM #

        Marian’s right. I think the Krishnas do this kind of thing all over the world. When I was in graduate school, the Krishnas provided a meal once a week right on campus, and they conceived of it as a way to encourage vegetarianism chiefly. They also had a table with materials about what they believe, and while they never tried to convert, if you had any questions, the dinners provided a way for them to get to know people, answer questions if anyone wanted to ask any, and sort of improve relations between their group and the community. The homeless were welcome too. Anyone was welcome. And at least where I was, they used to feed us gluts of food they had grown and needed to use up, or leftover food from one of their feasts or celebrations the day before. The food was always fabulous too.

        • Steph August 10, 2010 at 5:16 PM #

          What a great free meal!

  4. Wayward Jess August 7, 2010 at 8:58 PM #

    Yummy! Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to go to London and try all of these places. Sadly, when I was there I just impulsively tried places and didn’t have the best experience with the food. But I have been dying to go back ever since. Will save this list and bring it with me!

    • Steph August 10, 2010 at 5:05 PM #

      There’s a lot of good food in London but sadly a lot of mediocre food as well!

  5. Joya August 7, 2010 at 9:42 PM #

    Great tips! It’s no surprise that London would have such great options. The city seems to have a variety of foods. I wish I could have tried some of these when I was living there. Even though I’m not a vegetarian I always like to try something new!

    • Steph August 10, 2010 at 5:14 PM #

      Always reason to go back!

  6. Sian August 17, 2010 at 1:20 PM #

    The Vegan Bus in Soho!

    • Steph August 17, 2010 at 9:04 PM #

      oooo, intriguing!

  7. Shannon Elizabeth September 16, 2010 at 6:25 PM #

    For fellow vegetarians living in London, you have to check out my most favorite veg spot in town: Mildred’s in Soho! Even carnivores like it 🙂

    • Steph September 17, 2010 at 2:29 PM #

      Thanks for the tip! As a carnivore, I will keep that in mind 🙂

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