Manchester has a long history with vegetarianism. In fact, the UK’s first association of its kind, The Vegetarian Society, was formed here in 1847. Today it’s bursting with trendy vegan and vegetarian eateries. From dirty burgers to fine dining, there’s a suitably delicious offering to satisfy every vegetarian craving.
Manchester was home to the UK’s first Vegetarian Society Courtesy of The Allotment
Manchester’s restaurant scene has grown rapidly over the last decade, with effortlessly cool places to eat popping up around the city. And that trend extends to the excellent vegetarian and vegan options, too. Award-winning vegetarian chef, Eddie Shepherd, who offers a unique dining experience in his restaurant The Walled Gardens, spoke to Manchester-based writer Zoe Galloway about the best meat-free menus Manchester has to offer. So whether you’ve been vegetarian for years or you’re trying out veganism for the first time, here’s where to consider when it comes to dining out in the city.
This upmarket restaurant, which is owned by TV chef Simon Rimmer, is a popular hangout for Manchester’s vegetarian population, and meat-eaters, too, for that matter. “It’s an institution in Didsbury and has been doing imaginative vegetarian food for 30 years now, which was well ahead of the trend,” says Shepherd. “I worked here years ago when I first came back to Manchester, and it’s still got a special place in my heart.” With dishes such as Lancashire cheese, basil and spring onion sausages with mustard mash or mushroom wellington coming in at a purse-friendly price and vegan options also available, this is an excellent place to enjoy a lunch or dinner.
A list of meat-free restaurants in Manchester wouldn’t be complete without mentioning V-Rev. It was one of the first purely vegan junk food restaurants in the city when it arrived in 2011, serving up everything from vegetarian hot dogs and loaded fries to pancakes and mac and cheese. The must-try doughnut burger – buttermilk-fried seitan ‘chicken’ with fake bacon and cheese, all stuffed between two doughnuts – will certainly fill you up, and satisfy any lingering cravings. Located in the Northern Quarter on Edge Street, this is the place for fuss- (and guilt-) free dining.
If you’re looking for something unique, try Eddie Shepherd’s underground restaurant in Whalley Range. “I converted the bottom floor of my home into a space to cook and serve vegetarian tasting menu dinners, which I do on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, three weekends of the month. I cook for just eight guests a night, who are all seated around a communal table. It’s a very personal project, and the hope is for it to be brilliant food in an informal, fun atmosphere,” Shepherd says. The 12-course menu is £65 with a bring-your-own-bottle policy. Courses include halloumi, rose and rhubarb molasses and a chocolate and passionfruit scotch bonnet. Beware though, bookings fill up a couple of months in advance.
Courtesy of James Darcey and GRUB Plant Based Sundays
GRUB is Manchester’s biggest street food market, and every Sunday it hosts its Plant Based Sundays event, which brings together the best vegan street food vendors from across the country. With the street vendors changing weekly, it’s the ideal place to find the latest vegan cuisines, all while listening to some chilled-out tunes. And it’s child- and dog-friendly, too. Vendors range from The Ottoman – who brings Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-inspired mezze and wraps – to The Bee Kind Bakery, who tempts those who attend with vegan cakes and cookies. Check out its website to find out who’s there each week.
If you’re looking to convert a meat-loving mate to the vegan lifestyle, take them to The Allotment. Originally located in Stockport, this award-winning venue now sits in Manchester’s city centre and proves just how good vegan food can be. Browse the à la carte menu, and you’ll find ‘fish’ and chips or rhubarb and lentil stew, or pop by on a Sunday for the delicious vegetarian roast. This plant-based eatery uses locally sourced ingredients to create fresh vegetarian dishes, which are all presented in an upmarket setting.
Sometimes there’s nothing you want more than a takeaway, but they can be a tricky dining option for vegans. That’s where ZAD’S comes in. Based in the southern suburb of Chorlton, its speciality is vegan pizzas, which even come in a stuffed crust option. There are also burgers and hot dogs (the Loaded Dog is particularly recommended) available, and cupcakes for anyone with a sweet tooth. Delivery locations are limited – try Little Aladdin instead if you’re based in the city centre – but Chorlton is a vegan foodie’s paradise, so it’s well worth a visit.
This Indian eatery first opened in Leeds but has now expanded to become a chain of three, including one branch located in Manchester’s Piccadilly. Hidden down a set of stairs in a basement off an unassuming city centre street, this place might be hard to find, but it’s worth searching for. Most dishes are vegan, including the newly launched for 2020 vada pav burger, which consists of a deep-fried mashed potato ball, red and green chutneys and deep-fried (spicy) green chilli, all in a vegan-friendly bun. There’s also a great selection of craft beers to help wash down all that heat.
Looking for a vegan-friendly fry up? Here’s a place that will satisfy your breakfast desire. Try the full breakfast, which includes ‘sausage’, beans, toast, mushrooms and more, or opt for scrambled tofu on sourdough bread. There’s also a great selection of smoothie bowls, porridge and overnight oats if you’re after something a little lighter. Lunch and dinner are available, too, and bring more delightful dishes to your attention. Vertigo recently opened a second eatery on Jack Rosenthal St, which may be more convenient for some.
Located on Oxford Road in the student area of Manchester, The 8th Day Cooperative is a health food store and café. “This place is a worker co-operative doing cheap, wholesome, freshly cooked food,” says Shepherd. “I don’t feel it ever really gets the credit it’s due. It’s not somewhere for a fancy evening meal, but it’s great for lunch and a coffee, and you know you’re supporting a great, long-standing co-op.” Both vegan and vegetarian dishes are served in the café, with the menu changing daily.
Indulge in some authentic Italian pasta at The Pasta Factory. It’s not strictly a vegan- or vegetarian-only restaurant, as meat dishes are also available, but there’s a healthy variety of options for those looking for something plant-based. From the vegan spinach and potato ravioli to the hazelnut and chocolate mousse, you’ll be able to get both dinner and dessert – all for a reasonable price. Due to its success, the founders have also opened an Italian pizzeria, Noi Quattro, in the Northern Quarter. Again, you’ll also be able to find a great selection of vegan and vegetarian options here.