* Update 010219: the Hackney Downs weekly vegan market has ceased
THE PEOPLE crowding a vegan fair in Hackney, above, show the extraordinary surge in demand for vegetarian food.
The initially monthly market has attracted a mostly hipster clientele from all over London. A straw poll by Loving Dalston found the majority in the queue to be vegetarian but meatists were also lining up for vegan tastes.
Similarly, queues have formed outside Temple of Seitan, the vegan eatery that opened in central Hackney in the summer.
And this week a night-time vegan market trials in Brick Lane, Shoreditch.
Yet only a few years ago the burger, the ultimate in carnivore crib, was obsessing London foodies. Even critics such as Giles Coren were writing odes to the fat-if-not-blood-oozing bun.
Urvesh Parvais is a pioneer of veggie food in Hackney. Seven years working with his mother in Broadway market to serve traditional Gujarati snacks on Saturdays indicated to him an appetite for vegetarian and vegan food.
He told Loving Dalston: “I opened Gujarati Rasoi in 2012 when there were perhaps one or two vegetarian restaurants in east London. Now it’s the hippest thing out.”
He doubted it was a fad, rather it was “a genuine movement towards vegetarianism and veganisim”. He added: “It’s not a fashion statement but a positive life choice that is beneficial both physically and spiritually as an individual and to the greater environment.”
Gujarati Rasoi attracted “lots of omnivores” as well as veggies. “However,” he said, “there has been a significant growth in the amount of vegan customers and people with intolerances. Good for them and us, as our food caters very easily for vegans and diners with intolerances.”
Even the long-established London vegetarianist Mildreds has opened a branch in Hackney this summer. In a premises off Dalston Square, where Mexican and Japanese menus flopped, it is already doing good business. (It helps that the dishes are high-quality.)
Jane Muir, owner of the small chain, told this site: “There’s no turning back… reducing or renouncing meat is the only way forward for the planet and for you.”
A slightly cautious view comes from Michael Moore, of London Cookhouse, who said: “We can integrate vegetables and pulses and really enjoy our food without the excess of meat we have become accustomed to.
“Menus in my restaurants integrate this balanced approach that enables all my customers to enjoy the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan approach.”
Whatever the case, the trend is marked.
Will it change for ever the food choices we make?
The sign, at right, on a wall of Indian Veg, Mohammed Safa’s eccentric Islington nosherie, attributes an, uhm, upside to avoiding meat and fish that you may not know of.
Food-lovers, what are you waiting for?
David Altheer 270917
* Vegan Nights opens tomorrow Thursday 28 September 2017, at the Boiler House, Brick Lane E1 6RU, at 5pm; Hackney Downs vegan market (northwest corner and off Amhurst Road), now runs weekly Saturday 11am-4pm; Temple of Seitan, 10 Morning Lane E9 6NA, near Mare Street; Gujarati Rasoi, 10 Bradbury Street, Dalston N16 8JN; Mildreds, ground floor, Thomas Tower, upper Dalston Square E8 3GU; Indian Veg, 92 Chapel Market, near Angel, Islington N1 9EX
* Pictures © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com and all for sale for reproduction. Bigger format versions usually available.
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.