In the first in a new series, enthusiastic vegan Chelsea Fearnley gives the lowdown on the tastiest plant-based eats in the city
In addition to being an unapologetic hippie, fuzzy feminist and one step away from joining a commune and singing Kumbaya, I am also a vegan – an unlikely position for a girl who was raised by a meat-loving chef.
When I went vegan in 2013, eating out was impossible. It wasn’t easy a few years ago either. I had to call restaurants ahead of time, hoping for something more than a mere side salad called a ‘meal’ – this notion often extended to family members and friends, too. Being vegan sure felt like being a nuisance.
Fast forward to 2020 and menus are awash with tasty plant-based alternatives to dishes you know and love, as well as exotic-sounding foods you have yet to try. Fear not: seitan is not a misspelling of the devil. It’s a wheat gluten that imitates the taste and texture of meat.
So, with the festive season now well and truly under our belts – a notch looser than they were one month ago – why not consider avoiding resolutions you won’t keep (are you really going to go to the gym five times a week?) and give veganism a go? There hasn’t been a better time to try it and you may even find yourself having to punch new holes into your belt, too.
Taking the plunge
Making the switch may seem overwhelming; we’re convenience-driven people living in a fast-paced world. Time spent on planning where to eat is time wasted. That’s why I’ve collated a list of my faves for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Cambridge. We’ll start with breakfast.
Locals know – or at least have heard of – Hot Numbers. This cosy indie offers a selection of meals to kick-start your day, including the vegan-friendly spiced porridge, cherry coconut granola and smashed avocado on toast. If you fancy something unusual, opt for the celeriac and potato hash. This feast of fungi will have mushroom lovers rejoicing in its earthy complement of mushroom ketchup, spread beneath the pan-fried hash, wild chanterelles and enokis.
Many eschew eating out for lunch after the money-draining Christmas period. But if you find yourself in the Grand Arcade and your stomach starts to grumble: Marks & Spencer, Pret a Manger and Boots have some lovely vegan sandwiches. Not just the tired hummus and falafel wrap, either – plant-based versions of British classics, like the BLT and cheese ploughman. M&S even does a ‘no turkey feast’ and, unlike the meat version, it stays in stock all year round.
Pho, with its assortment of Vietnamese hot broths, rice and noodle dishes, is a welcome break from Christmas stodge. Try the goi cuon to start. These delicate rice paper rolls are brimming with fragrant herbs, vermicelli and pickles, and are served with a gooey peanut dipping sauce that is good enough to eat on its own. Although famous for its pho, the cà-ri is not to be missed. This subtly spiced coconut curry is a hug on a plate: it is warm, comforting and leaves you longing for more.
Another dinner option is Meatless. Usually found in Cambridge with sister food truck Guerrilla Kitchen, and a firm favourite at foodPark, this pop-up takes a residency at Ta Bouche from the 6 January and is serving healthy junk food to show that you can still eat vegetables, without compromising on taste. The menu has burgers and kebabs, as well as worldly dishes, such as Korean bibimbap and Thai larb salad, inspired by owner chef Jay Scrimshaw’s travels.
Don’t miss Cambridge Vegan Market on 26 January. Read more here