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The 15 best vegan holiday destinations - from Berlin to New York City

The i logo The i 13/11/2018 Claire McQue
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Between luxuriously long breakfasts and late night dinners in local watering holes, a country’s food culture forms an essential part of the travel experience. However as more of the population shift towards a plant-based diet, knowing which destinations are vegan-friendly is crucial in order to avoid ending up stranded in a city serving only slabs of meat.

             

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Gone are the days where being vegetarian - let alone vegan - meant sandwiches and limp salads on holiday. Plant-based food is of the moment, and even traditionally meat-heavy destinations are offering vegan options. Some destinations, however, are better than others. Here are some of the best places to visit if you're on a plant-based diet.

Melbourne 

Australia's most dynamic city is also its vegan heartland, with an exploding plant-based scene. Start with an energising juice at the upmarket Transformer, a centre of innovation for all things plant. Laidback Vegie Bar does nourishing grain bowls and a meal in the zen-like Serotonin Eatery will indeed pep you up. Heal.thy Self is ideal for a casual lunch and all vegan choices at Trei Café are a purse-friendly $13 (£9.50).

At non-profit Lentil As Anything, a community kitchen who train long-term unemployed and marginalised people to be chefs, customers pay what they want. Lentil’s owner, Shanaka Fernando won the country’s ‘Local Hero of the Year’ award.

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Warsaw

Time to rethink your image of Polish food. Happycow.net, the go-to site for vegan restaurants, rated the Polish capital as the seventh best city in the world for vegans, with over 50 restaurants in a five-mile radius.  An online poll voted meat-free burger restaurant Krowarzywa as number one for the best burgers in Warsaw, its herby chickpea, smoky marinated tofu or millet patties beating conventional burger outlets. Extras include vegan cheese, seitan ‘pastrami’ and homemade coleslaw. Wash it all down with a bottle of Krowarzywa’s tummy-loving fermented Yerba Mate.

Top notch vegan sushi – think beetroot nigiri and almond futomaki -  is on offer at Edamame and Youmiko Vegan Sushi. If you’re feeling fancy, smart-casual Tel Aviv Urban Food has a fine dining vegan menu. Portions are generous but friendly waiting staff will happily wrap up any leftovers.

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Cape Town

There's more to Cape Town's food scene than the braai - though some of the best vegan food is to be found in non-vegan restaurants. The luminous, plant-filled Harvest Deli and Café is one of them, located in Bo Kaap. Feast on pumpkin pie oats drizzled with maple syrup and decadent vegan desserts, before heading to the roof terrace for a spot of yoga. Downward dog overlooking Table Mountain? Yes please.

Breakfast offerings at Plant, Cape Town’s best known vegan restaurant, include pastries to die for and their signature smoked tempeh ‘bacon’. At Mary Ann’s Natural Emporium, you'll find all-you-can-eat vegan buffets, and on the first Sunday of every month, the Vegan Goods Market is a great place to grab all-natural bites and rub shoulders with the flourishing vegan community.

For Indian food, try Maharajah or sister restaurant Prashad, across the road. There's all-plant junk food at Lekker Vegan (who have recently opened a second café), and for something more chichi, the Belmond Mount Nelson hotel serves exquisitely presented vegan afternoon teas.

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Tel Aviv

It's estimated that 5% of Israelis are vegan, and the scene is at its best in Tel Aviv. Meshek Barzilay grew out of a moshav (an Israeli farming cooperative) and is now an alfresco organic bistro serving predominantly vegan cuisine. Make a beeline for the delectable vegan bakes and freshly whizzed fruit juice from their deli-style coffee bar next door. Anastasia is Tel Aviv’s first plant-based restaurant; The Green Cat serves pizza slathered in delicious cashew cream cheese, and 416 does the best vegan shawarma you’ll ever taste. It’s always a delight to eat at Alegria, where photogenic, plant-based dishes you have never heard of appear on the unconventional menu. Even Dominos offers animal-free pizza toppings.

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Berlin

Berliners may wear all black, but when it comes to food, the brighter the better. With 7% of its population following a plant-based diet, Berlin is fast becoming the vegan capital of Europe. Every summer, the hipster hub hosts Veganes Sommerfest, the continent’s largest vegan festival.

Brammibal’s decadent doughnuts (think: pistachio rosewater or maple smoked coconut) are so popular that its original street food stall was forced to rent a real shop, now overlooking the Landwehr Canal. Head to geh Veg for veggie-loaded bagels and cold coffee, perfectly sweetened with a few scoops of their soy milk ice cream. Valladares Feinkost scores a hat trick: vegan cafe, restaurant and grocery shop all in one.

At the Michelin-listed Lucky Leek, even meat lovers will be drooling over the oyster mushroom ceviche and chilli-spiked pear risotto. This one doesn’t break the bank either, at €19 for their three-course ‘come together’ menu.

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Bali

Check out the Instagram feeds of any Balinese cafe and you quickly realise that the island of the gods is a great place for vegans. As well as a wide array of vegetable-rich traditional dishes, restaurants now cater to travelling yoga bunnies, who demand vegan food and no-plastic policies. Vitamin-loaded breakfast bowls are often served in coconut husks and eaten with wooden cutlery, in photo-friendly interiors.

At Peloton Supershop in Canggu, every vividly coloured dish comes with lashings of creamy avocado. In Ubud, food served up at The Garden Kafé inside the Yoga Barn is good enough to convert even the most die-hard carnivore. If you’re into raw food, ultra-nutritious pizzas at Clear Café or Seeds of Life are a must – and refreshing in the tropical heat. Join the throngs of musicians and artists heading to Soma – an almost zero-waste community cafe that creates veritable soul food and consistently good vibes. Tofu and tempeh are staples in Balinese cuisine so you won’t be stuck for choice in local establishments either.

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Goa

India’s cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious, with vegetable-heavy dishes a staple. As the original hippy honeypot, Goa has an abundance of excellent vegan restaurants. The stylish, bamboo-bedecked Zest, which has two restaurants in Palolem and Agonda, serves fusion vegan cuisine. For breakfast, try the chia pudding, topped with mountains of fresh mango, or the saffron and pine nut risotto for lunch.

Pushkar-born chefs Nitin and Brechje run Little World next to Palolem Beach, a calm space filled with trees and Instagram-friendly swings where you can satisfy your vegan pancake cravings and find perfectly spiced masala chai. At Ma Café in Pernem, the beetroot gnocchi is one of the best picks on their exclusively raw menu. Otherwise, try their sister venue in Vagator, Bean Me Up.

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Puglia

Pugliese cuisine is rooted in "cucina povera" - vegetable-heavy food from a time of poverty. The region's best known pasta, orecchiette, is free from eggs and usually served with produce from the surrounding land. But the real dish to try is an antipasto - where elsewhere in Italy this means a platter of meats, here in Puglia it tends to be dish after dish of vegetables, from creamed broad beans to grilled aubergine. The farm to fork approach makes it easy to select vegan dishes on vegetable-loaded restaurant menus, and even supermarkets sell things like vegan mozzarella and parmesan.

There are few vegan-specific restaurants here, but in hilltop town Cisternino you'll find all-plant cafe Micro, which serves Asian-inspired dishes made from local produce. Food aside, it’s worth coming here just to soak up the atmosphere and the live music they lay on. For dessert, nearby Bar Fod does vegan gelato – try the roasted almond and fig. In pretty fishing village Trani, plant-based Padre Bio conjures up mean vegan ravioli and indulgent desserts.

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London

With 3.5 million vegans in the UK and British celebs flying the animal-free flag, the capital welcomes vegans with open arms. Specialist vegan restaurants are everywhere in London and PETA has recognised London as the most vegan-friendly place in the world, knocking Portland from its number one spot. With initiatives such an Veganuary and World Vegan Month adding more people to the cause, London is a veritable paradise for hardcore herbivores. The weekend-long, free entry Hackney Downs Vegan Market should be your first stop.

From artfully arranged Michelin-starred tasting menus for the 'plant-curious' at Gauthier’s to Mildred’s (Soho’s vegan go-to) and Temple of Seitan, whose fried chicken substitutes feed the night-owls of Hackney, London’s vegans are spoilt for choice. Don't miss Itadaki Zen for organic Japanese food, and Andu Café for flavour-packed Ethiopian bites. And then there's Picky Wops, whose vegan pizzas have eight cheeses and six superfood crusts to choose from.

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Athens

A plant-based lunch is more than a Greek salad minus the feta in Athens. During the period of fasting at Lent, nistisima – animal-free dishes – have always been served, but delicious, all-plant food can now be found all year round, as well as several vegan grocery shops.

Avocado catches hungry tourists after a stint at the Acropolis – try the warm avocado risotto followed by a coconut cream dessert. Souvlaki is the go-to fast food in Greece, and Vegan Nation, near Monastiraki Square, does a vegan version – rivalled only by their dragonfruit burger. If you’re hankering after authentic Greek cuisine like moussaka and gyros, the vegan alternatives created at organic bistro Health Bites do not disappoint. Try Mama Tierra for on-the-go snacks (we recommend the falafel) or enjoy a luxurious lunch at Yi, a stylish restaurant on the Athens Riviera.

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Ho Chi Minh City 

Vegan fare in Vietnam need not be watery noodle soup with a few token vegetables thrown in. While it can be a challenge to sidestep fish or meat broths, Saigon has an array of vegan restaurants to keep you occupied.

Roasted ‘meaty’ options at Ngoc Tho are convincing (fear not, they are all plant-based) and the well concealed Bông Súng welcomes you with jugs of bright fruit juice and superb vegetable dishes. For something quick, try the vegan bahn mi at Chan Nhu II. Out of town, the riverside Villa Song crafts exquisite vegan dishes in their upscale Bistro Song Vie.

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Prague

There are more than 400 vegan restaurants amid Prague's dreaming spires. Urban oasis Incruenti is a zero-waste establishment serving excellent homemade pasta in their inner courtyard. The elegant Vinohrady district harbours Forrest Bistro – refuel at their espresso bar – and no Sunday morning is complete without a stack of fluffy pancakes at trendy brunch spot Satsang.

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New York

It’s easy to spend five days eating your way around New York's plant-based scene. You'll find vegan burgers at the likes of By Chloe and Modern Love Brooklyn. Queues snake around vegan food trucks which rustle up absurdly good American junkfood: feast on a grilled fig, lentil and artichoke burger at Cinnamon Snail or mac n pepperjack cheese at Greedi Vegan. It’s oat milk, not dairy that accompanies a regular latte in hipster Brooklyn, where vegan restauranteur Ravi DeRossi chose to open the refined Avant Garden. The achingly hip restaurant has also set up shop in the East Village.

A day on New York’s tourist trail can get a bit much. Luckily, Nap York has you covered. Emerge from a vegan leather sleep pod for an hour’s yoga, before filling up in their all-plant cafe. In the same way that the Big Apple is a melting pot, global cuisine has also crossed its respective oceans to make a vegan home in New York. Beyond Sushi was such a hit that the chain now runs five restaurants and Little Choc Apothecary is the city’s first plant-based crêperie.

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Portland

The environment and animal welfare are hot topics in this ethical city.  For 14 years, it has hosted Portland VegFest, an eco-minded festival with animal rights speakers and food vendors.

Portland’s abundance of vegan restaurants take you on a tour of the globe. At Ichiza Kitchen and Teahouse there’s shojin ryori-style food, you'll find colourful Peruvian ceviche at Paiche, and European fusion restaurant Farm Spirit prides itself on the fact that all food is sourced within a 100-mile radius. South American-style Pisco bar Epif ‘veganised’ last year after its owners had their own epiphany. Vegan food trucks started out here and now massage parlours, clothing stores, mini-malls, tattoo shops and even adult-entertainment clubs have joined the animal-free ranks.

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Toronto

Considering Canada is famed for its juicy steak burgers, Toronto has done well to earn itself a vegan-friendly accolade. Now veganism has entered the consciousness of its most populous city which holds Toronto Veg Food Fest, the largest of its kind in North America.

Top of the list is Apiecalypse Now, revered for its indulgent pizzas and baked goods. A self-declared plant addict, chef Doug McNish challenges himself to create Canadian classics in animal-free form. Head to Mythology Diner for a taste of his outstanding vegan reuben sandwich and eggs benedict.

At Rosalinda, Mexican food gets an upmarket twist, with dishes like cauliflower tostadas accompanied by a good kick of chilli. The big players on Toronto’s vegan scene compete for kudos in both food and interior design, with swankier joints like Fresh and Planta setting the bar high. Known for his experimental approach to alcohol, serving staff and prices, chef Nathan Isberg conjures up exquisite dishes at his latest venture Awai. Artichoke ravioli with pea tips melt in the mouth while the democratic prices (curry for $3) ensures vegan cuisine is accessible to all.

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