Melbourne’s got Collingwood, Sydney has Newtown, and London has Hackney. A safe haven for vegans where waiters don’t look at you with confusion or frustration and where you can find more than a sad muesli or grain salad.
Most Aussies know Hackney for Shoreditch, but venture further north over Regent’s Canal and you’ll find a whole world free from the touristy prices and cereal cafes. Think sprawling markets in huge gardens that make you feel far from the city, 100% vegan eateries where you can relax all day, and cafes hidden under railway arches that you’d hardly know are there.
WAVE (We Are Vegan Everything) – Hackney Central
WAVE began as a cupcake stall in Camden Market, started seven years ago by best friends Caitlyn and Sophie. Going vegan themselves and after a hugely successful start to their business, the duo decided to bring their own approach to food into their work.
Caitlyn told us, “everyone was like ‘are you sure you want to go vegan? You’re going to lose so many customers’, but we had to represent what we are.” And this served WAVE well, “once we went vegan we introduced loads more food that we love and we were received so much better by our clientele. It just became such a big thing.”
The duo moved from South London to Hackney at the start of 2019, and you can find them hidden at the end of a quiet laneway. While hard to spot from the high street, Caitlyn thinks that this has added to the appeal, “the fact that we’re down an alleyway has worked really well for us, cause it is just like a little hideaway. There’s not a lot of places in London where you can actually sit down and relax…we want to create a place where people can really chill out and enjoy their food.”
WAVE are conscious of the ‘fake food’ trend that has swept throughout the vegan movement, so they’re sticking to naturally colourful and nutritious food, without all the nasty additives.
Order the blue ‘Ocean Bowl’, naturally coloured with blue spirulina and topped with loads of fresh fruit. Or for something more savoury, ‘The Sunset’ is a hefty portion of Marmite scrambled tofu, sauerkraut and smashed avocado all served on sourdough toast. Both completely delicious.
Stop at WAVE for an hour or three, curl up on the couch or sit out in the garden; either way, you’ll leave feeling full and tranquil, ready to face the city again.
I Will Kill Again (search: Dark Arts Coffee) – Homerton
Take a ten minute stroll east from WAVE and you’ll find I Will Kill Again, part of the Dark Arts Coffee roastery. Tucked under a railway arch, hidden down an alleyway, head here from Thursday to Sunday for a great cup of coffee and big vegan meals.
This place loves their vegan cheese, so if you are a fan, or are looking to test out the non-dairy cheese scene, this is the place for you. Alternatively, grab the vegan sausage roll for £3.75 (a steal for how huge it is) or one of the many vegan cakes and pastries.
Black Cat Cafe – Hackney Central
Head north to the old school Black Cat Café, a 100% vegan co-operative that feels like a plant-based activist HQ. Vegan propaganda lines the walls and well-priced meals adorn their menus.
Their smoothies are super fresh and the nori ‘tuna’ sandwich will have you set for the rest of the day. There’s nothing fancy here, but it’ll do the trick.
MOTHER Works – Hackney Wick
To the far east of Hackney is the little bubble- Hackney Wick. Overlooking the Olympic Stadium and flower lined barges along the canal, it feels very far from the hectic London we all see on a postcard.
Right on the waterfront sits MOTHER Works, a mega-healthy plant-based café where you can find bliss bowls, protein balls and raw snacks to go.
Go for the out-of-the-city vibe and stay for the green juice.
Broadway Market – London Fields
During the week, Broadway Market in London fields is a food-lover’s dream; an organic grocer, French delicatessen, fresh bakery and old school pubs line the street. But on a Saturday morning, the thoroughfare kicks into overdrive with countless stalls popping up to serve food and goods to the hundreds who swing by. Nestled among vintage clothes, old-school records and florists are falafel trucks, Kombucha taps, coffee carts and cookie trays.
Food markets can sometimes leave vegans feeling left out and disappointed, but Broadway Market isn’t one of them. Spend a morning taking in the atmosphere and picking up vegan treats, or swing into L’eau a la Bouche on the corner for their amazing vegan baguette.
Victoria Park Market – South Hackney
If you miss out on Broadway Market, head to Victoria Park on a Sunday morning. The park itself is one of the biggest in London; it’s lined with huge trees, is bordered by the canal, and is filled on a Sunday with heaps of locals coming for their weekly shop.
Grab fresh produce and bread for the week, browse the specialty vegan cheese stall, or choose one of the countless vegan meals on offer for your Sunday brunch. Get a Bahn Mi, a Biriyani, a Pizza, a Donut – there are too many options to count. This Sunday spot can’t be missed.
Where else have you uncovered vegan havens in London?