Veganism has shaken off its stereotypes. Where once the diet was characterised by lentil-loving health-food fans living on soup, salad and vitamin B12 supplements, an explosion in vegan fast-food restaurants in recent years has changed the face of plant-based eating. Opening in Shoreditch this month following a successful crowdfunding campaign, The Vurger Co is the latest addition, and cements east London’s status as a destination for vegans in search of a Friday night takeaway fix. Hearty patties, made from spiced pulses and topped with pickles and punchy sauces, will be served alongside oozy truffle mac‘n’cheese, fries and shakes. It’s a world away from hemp seeds and spirulina smoothies.
Hackney’s Temple Of Seitan was one of the first to tap into London’s appetite for plant-based junk food, and since it opened in 2015, the queue at London’s first vegan fried chicken shop has hardly subsided. The crisp-skinned chicken burgers and hot-sauce smothered wings are made with seitan, a protein-rich gluten flour with a meaty, elastic texture. “We don’t have a typical customer,” says co-founder Mr Pat O’Shea, who, alongside his partner Ms Rebecca McGuinness, started the business after moving to London from Melbourne, in a bid to recreate the vegan fast food they missed from back home. “We get everyone, from families to older people; meat-eaters and vegans.” The restaurant is proving hugely popular, with a second site now open in Camden, and further plans to expand this year. “It’s a myth that vegans are only into healthy eating,” says Mr O’Shea. “Vegans have always enjoyed junk food. It just wasn’t as visible before.”