Eating Vegan in London: Loving Hut and Kabaret at Karamel

Me on Primrose Hill (1)

Back in England again on a 4 degree C spring day on Primrose Hill. That’s London behind me–– you can just about make out the London Eye on the horizon. Sadly, I am without Tittie, my beloved magenta mountain bike. I would have had to buy extra baggage allowance from Emirates to bring her with me and at $50 per kg I decided it would be cheaper to buy a new bike. So Tittie and Puff (my fluffy companion animal) are taking a vacation from traveling and are going into hibernation through the Cape Town winter. Watch this space and see my new set of wheels in the coming weeks.

I have decided to eat my way around England and Europe this year like any self-respecting vegan would, and I haven’t wasted any time. Last night, an old school friend and I went to Loving Hut in Edgware and picked up way more Chinese take-out than we could possibly eat. We had crispy duck, stir-fried chicken, and steak, along with noodles, rice and spring rolls. Whew! I always go a bit mad when I get to a 100% vegan restaurant. I find myself wanting to eat everything on the menu. Including carrot cake. We’ve got so many leftovers in the fridge I’m getting bored with eating the same thing over and over.

Loving Hut is an interesting restaurant chain. Apparently, they have 200 restaurants worldwide and each branch is able to choose its own menu –– as long as it is vegan, of course. So my experience at LH in Edgware was very different to the LH in Norwich, for example. The branch in Edgware has an enormous Chinese menu including dim sum. So the very impressive selection of “fake” meat was quite overwhelming. Not something I would want to eat every day but it is quite fun to have now and again. Verdict? It was okay but I thought the flavours could have been spicier and more exciting.

Verdict? It was okay but I thought the flavours could have been spicier and more exciting. Maybe it has to be bland to suit the average English taste buds? How are we going to persuade non-vegans to eat more plant foods if they are just not exciting to eat?

So what about a vegan Sunday roast, then? Here’s one in the photo below. This is the version on offer from Kabaret @ Karamel in Wood Green, North London. Open for Sunday lunch from 1pm till 9pm, this unpretentious, fully vegan restaurant is a delight. Owned by Louise Wallis –– ex-President of the Vegan Society –– and her partner Frank, it has been open since September 2014.  Thankfully, the vegan crowd is a loyal bunch and they come to this out-of-the-way venue for meals and vegan meet-ups, or to have a drink at the fully-vegan bar and watch live music performances. Once a month they have Geek Sunday, run by Antonio, where you can play board games and meet new people. If you’re looking for a vegan mate, on the 2nd Sunday of the month they have a London vegan dating event called the Single Mingle.  It’s not easy to be plant-based with a carnist partner, so I think this is a great initiative.

Karamel's Sunday Roast with lager (1)

I ordered the traditional English roast which comprised cabbage, peas, parsnips, butternut, roast potatoes and onions with a nut roast as the centrepiece and gravy on the top. Because I started with the creamy cauliflower soup, I couldn’t do justice to the roast and took most of it home for later. It was a very generous portion, fresh and well cooked. Like Loving Hut, I would have liked it to be a bit spicier and saltier but I am not your average British diner and we probably have different tastes. I took a non-vegan friend with me and she seemed to really enjoy the food. I followed the main with a vegan hot chocolate –– they offered a choice of soymilk or almond milk.

Because of its location near office buildings, Karamel has many omnivorous patrons during the weekdays and doesn’t shout about veganism. It’s a really pleasant, casual place to hang out and have a latté or a craft beer. The staff were very friendly, especially Jim, with whom I chatted about the history of the restaurant. It’s really worth searching out if you haven’t been there yet. Check out their facebook page for more information.

After lunch, we drove to Primrose Hill to walk off our lunch. It was a beautiful, chilly, Sunday afternoon and everyone was out strolling around. I can’t wait to get riding again. Sitting in a tin can on a Sunday afternoon in a London traffic jam sure makes you miss the bike. Well, actually, it was a Jag and it was really comfortable but I would still rather be riding Tittie.



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