Eating out with vegans

Disclaimer: the information on this page is UK-specific - if you're from elsewhere some of this information may not apply to your country (e.g. baked beans and McDonald's fries are not universally vegan), but if you are visiting the UK I hope you will find this page useful. Have a look at HappyCow and Veggie Heaven to find vegan-friendly restaurants and shops in the places you'll be visiting.

The good news is: there are a good number of restaurants out there with vegan (or veganisable) options on the menu, so if you're eating out with a vegan it is possible to take your pick of restaurants, although it does help to do a bit of research first. Vegan food has not yet reached the stage of vegetarian food - which is that any restaurant you go to will have at least one vegetarian option and usually a choice of vegetarian options - so not every restaurant you go to is guaranteed to provide a vegan meal, although the situation does seem to be improving as time goes on.

Restaurants

If you're going out for a meal, having a vegan in the group doesn't mean you have to go to an all-vegetarian restaurant to accommodate them.

Many world cuisines don't rely on dairy products or eggs and have at least some vegetarian options that are vegan by default. Types of restaurants most likely to have vegan options on the menu include Indian, Chinese, Thai, African and Middle Eastern. A couple of things to watch out for: in Indian restaurants check that they cook with vegetable oil rather than ghee (clarified butter) and in Thai restaurants check that they don't put fish sauce in the vegetarian dishes. I've found that of these, Indian restaurants generally have the greatest choice of vegan dishes. Chinese and Thai places will often leave the egg out of otherwise vegan dishes and swop egg noodles for rice or wheat noodles if asked. Italian restaurants might be able to provide a vegan dish but it's worth checking with the restaurant in advance if possible. Seemingly vegan dishes such as pasta and tomato sauce might be made with egg pasta, and even if they're willing to make a cheeseless pizza the base might have eggs in.

Traditional pubs and cafes aren't usually the most promising of places for vegans. The type of pub where the menu consists of five different roast meats and a 'Vegetarian Option' (often unspecified - it's like walking into a restaurant and saying "I'll have the food, please" and seeing what happens) will likely serve something cheese-laden as the non-meat dish. Some places with a more extensive menu might serve a vegetable curry or chilli or similar - again, read the menu before you go in if possible. Other than that, they'll probably serve jacket potato with baked beans, which is usually the default vegan option in traditional cafes.

Mainstream chain restaurants often have menus and special diets information online, so check the website if you're planning to go to one, or have a look at the chain restaurants page to see if I've got there first.

Finally, there are some very good vegetarian and vegan restaurants and pubs out there with varied menus, particularly in large cities, so if your group of friends or relatives aren't particularly hardcore carnivores you could always give one a try. Have a look at HappyCow or Veggie Heaven to find one in your area.

If you're still unsure about which restaurant to choose, ask the vegan(s) in your group for some suggestions!