The legacy of meat free diets in Africa and its Caribbean diaspora was there way before the term “veganism” even existed. Prior to European interaction with these places, meat consumption was sparse, eaten when it could be caught as opposed to the nearly twice a day that is now common. With the Afro-Caribbean community in the UK often marginalised from mainstream ideas and discussions of veganism, a select few are looking to change this. Beyond animal rights, documentaries like What the Health have shed light on how Western diets have proportionately hit black communities harder than any other, so these restaurants and stalls are playing the role of educator, as as feeder. This new wave has come to be called “Afro-Vegan” which signifies cultural knowledge as much as dietary awareness: wokeness, even, in its original sense. Plant-based vegan foods are now sneaking into menus and kitchen takeovers, but few restaurants in this space dedicate themselves to exclusively plant-based business. These are the best.Read More
London’s Essential Afro-Vegan Restaurants
Where to find classic chickpea curries, Ethiopian stews, vegetarian Jamaican jerk, and more
1. Zionly Manna Vegan Rastarant
South London’s Peckham and its surrounding areas have long been focal points for the Caribbean and West African communities in the U.K, and Zionly Manna is the first restaurant built on that community that is exclusively vegan. The shop’s menu is a perfect representation of the Caribbean islands, though it looks nothing like a typical Caribbean restaurant. Chow mein noodles, spelt pasta, and chickpea curry sit alongside dishes that lean on the Rastafari heritage of Ethiopia, with many split pea and lentil stews on display.
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2. Eat of Eden
London SW9 8PS, UK
While Brixton Village’s essential Caribbean heritage has waned in recent years, a handful carry on to forward the culture. At Eat of Eden, spirulina, hemp, seaweed and moss drinks pay homage to foodstuffs that Rastas have been championing for time immemorial. The interweaving of ackee, callaloo and plantain through the menu’s curries and wraps is the restaurant’s hallmark, but for first timers who aren’t sure where to begin, there no other introduction than to jump straight into their beloved, awe-inspiring platters.
3. Rainforest Creations
London SW3 4LY, UK
With stalls across London, the duo behind Rainforest Creations are striving to bring the produce of the rainforest to the U.K. while educating the populace its the various health benefits. The offerings start with the eponymous boxes: the rainbow box is replete with spinach flan, lentil sprouts, tropical coleslaw and tomato dressing; the lentil burger box brings all that, in a bun. For those on the move the cornmeal and lentil based Roti bread wraps are to be savoured, most notably the “Caribbean Roti” chock full with plantain, greens and avocado.
Hammersmith Market, Thursdays 10a.m. – 3p.m. Lyric Square, Hammersmith W6 0ED
Oval Market, Saturdays 10a.m. – 3p.m. St. Marks Church, SE11 4PW
Herne Hill Market, Sundays 10a.m – 4p.m. Railton Road, SE24 0JN
Alexandra Palace Market, Sundays 10a.m – 3p.m. Muswell Hill, N10 3TG
4. Deserted Cactus
London SE15 4ST, UK
Deserted Cactus is the lovechild of esteemed vegan blogger @Londonafrovegan. Channeling her background into the food, meals in Peckham’s Holdron Arcade mirror the British black experience but without the meat and dairy. Ackee and tofu chunks plated up with rice and peas and fluffy fried dumplings on one day, sheperd’s pie the next. Right now, the winter ‘buddha bowl’ looks to be a cold season saver, flush with coconut spiced quinoa, mango roasted chickpeas, and warm squash and leek fritters.
5. Livity Cuisine @ Surrey Street Market
Croydon CR0 1RG, UK
With bellowing butchers, bakers and traders hustling a variety of meaty meals, Surrey Street market is far from a bastion of veganism. The Shakur-Muhammad sisters behind the new and increasingly popular Livity Cuisine are changing that, whilst educating people on the long history of meat-free diets, especially in the black community. The pair have used ingredients of the African diaspora to innovate previously unencountered meals like brown stew jackfruit and jerk lentils; vegetable dishes like callaloo, kale and mixed peppers alongside grains of spiced bulgur or brown rice make for a complete meal.
6. All Nations Vegan House
London E8 2LP, UK
New to an east London scene that is being increasingly populated by white mainstream meat-free restaurants, All Nations Vegan House looks to reclaim a Caribbean heritage in an area that is increasingly being eroded, and rows of books on Afro-Caribbean history and numerous food and cook books provide a welcoming space for community education. With the menu altering from time, the port of call here is to order a full meal consisting of “grains”, such as bulgur or lentils “stews” including an incredibly sweet and creamy chickpea curry or any thing else fully utilising an array of tropical produce like okra.
7. Lovegift Vegan
Deep down in the heart of south east London, Love Gift Vegan Cafe is in full swing of its mission to provide a wholesome multifaceted experience beyond food, with a variety of diet knowledge events. The menu has a plethora of plant-based gateways like pizzas, wraps and burgers, however the star of the show is the Rainbow platter served up literally loving on a heart shaped plate. Macaroni and cheese, quinoa, vegetable curry and greens join up to three sides from recognisable Caribbean classics: plantain and wholemeal dumplings, seaweed fritters, and a signature ‘wheat meat’ created from wholegrain that could trick the most suspicious of meat eaters.
8. Engocha London
London NW5 2HR, UK
Adding to the small community of East African restaurants in this residential corner of Camden, the newly opened Engocha’s all-vegan stance has proved a novelty. Thanks to the other regional restaurants in the area the food isn’t a complete mystery to most locals hence the immediate popularity. Rice or the staple injera bread is served up with 3-5 incredibly textured and rich sides, including miser kik and ater kik, both luminously coloured lentil stews, in addition to butcha chickpeas, fesolia green beans and atakilt wat a wonderful assortment of carrot, potato and cabbage.