Meat free frenzy: Liverpool’s vegan food trend
As Liverpool’s ever growing food and drink offering continues to thrive, the broader trend of an increase in veganism hasn’t been overlooked.
From plant-based pop-ups to dedicated new eateries and more inclusive menus across the board, YM Liverpool explores the city’s current appetite for a feast without meat.
Words by Christine Toner
Meat lovers in Liverpool have always been well catered for. Recent years have witnessed the growing trend of charcuteries while burger bars and steakhouses are easily found. But vegans and vegetarians have not always had it so easy.
For too long, it seems, non-meat eaters have been forced to scour menus for the often limited selection of dishes marked with a ‘V’. With a reputation as one of the most impressive food hubs in the region, Liverpool clearly had to do something to address that. And that it did.
In recent months the vegan offering in the city has grown considerably. Vegan Caribbean pop-up ItalFresh and Bold Street’s vegan and vegetarian newbie Our Kitchen have joined the likes of The Egg Cafe in catering for the city’s vegan clientele – at a time when the number of people adopting the lifestyle seems to be on the up.
“Veganism is becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle not only in the UK but around the world,” says Carrina Rowe, a member of Liverpool’s Vegan Society. “The image of veganism is undergoing a big change – many people now associate it with health, fitness and wellbeing. It’s no longer seen as an extreme lifestyle, it’s very easy and accessible nowadays and you can walk into any supermarket and see a huge range of dairy milk alternatives and many more other vegan products. It’s great news for us, the animals and our planet.”
“The number of people ditching dairy and meat is unprecedented, and tokenistic unimaginative offerings on menus are something that customers just don’t have to deal with anymore.”
Tara Maguire, the owner of Our Kitchen, believes vegan offerings are becoming more prevalent as an ever growing number of people are focusing on taking care of themselves.
“It’s quite simple,” she says. “Without coming over all hippie dippie, nature has provided for us exactly what we need to survive. Until recently I was often told that as a vegan you would not get enough protein, you would not be strong and healthy. I was often confused at this and wondered how elephants, rhinos and horses to name only a few fellow vegans became so strong and lived healthy long lives without eating an ounce of meat.”
Of course, in order to address the lack of choice that existed for vegan and vegetarians, it’s not just about offering food they can eat but creating food they want to eat – making exciting and interesting dishes that stand out on a menu. Businesses are beginning to recognise that there has been a gap in the market for this.
“The number of people ditching dairy and meat is unprecedented, and tokenistic unimaginative offerings on menus are something that customers just don’t have to deal with anymore, as the culinary scene is opening up to vegans,” says Dan Thompson, co-owner of ItalFresh.
Understandably then, the latest vegan eateries have been welcomed with open arms by the city’s diners.
“Business for us has been incredible,” says Dan. “The response to our food has been mind-blowing and we attract both vegans and inquisitive foodies who are adventurous and want to try this new ‘plant-based’ thing everyone is talking about. Our reviews have confirmed that we are definitely not just for vegans.
“Where we are, based in the Baltic Triangle, it’s a very creative and open-minded scene so people are willing to try something new and exciting.”
Tara says Our Kitchen has received a similar response.
“Our customers have been fantastic,” she says. “They have gone out of their way to leave us such beautiful feedback. I had a feeling that it was not just me who wanted a place to eat, drink, socialise where I could have whatever I wanted from an extensive menu because it’s all vegetarian or vegan. We have two menus – one is vegetarian and one is vegan. When writing them I kept thinking how I felt in a restaurant when my ‘V’ option was lacking substance like it was an afterthought on the menu, so I decided to create a vegan menu as big as the vegetarian menu.”
As the vegan-only offering grows, many of the city’s best loved restaurants are also upping their meat-free credentials. Chinese favourite Yuet Ben has an extensive vegetarian offering, Bold Street’s popular Maray has a dedicated vegan menu and tapas lovers are certainly not neglected at Lunya which offers a wide selection of vegan dishes.
And not before time, according to Tara.
“It is a bit sad when you go to a place with your friends who eat meat and you get a funny look when you ask if there’s a vegan option and there is a silence,” she says. “I was recently at an event and thank goodness I like chips as that was the only vegan option they had. They weren’t bad chips but I would ideally have liked a good meal like the rest of the table.
“I do think restaurants across the board are starting to offer more veggie options though, for example I love Mowgli on Bold Street and they do a fantastic vegan tiffin box. Crust does a vegan pizza, vegan ice-cream and serves vegan wine too – delicious when you want to be a bit naughty!”
Dan is also confident the city’s vegan offering will continue to grow.
“In the 12 months since we’ve started there are already more establishments popping up,” he says. “It’s fantastic. It makes customers more discerning because they have more choice, and pushes us to be more creative and experimental. We are so pleased the vegan scene is flourishing here as the city is becoming a real foodie destination that diners are traveling to – food tourists if you will – and it’s so important that the vegan offering is represented too.”
This summer will also see the return of the Viva! Vegan Festival, hosted by campaign group Viva, and this year it’s set to take place across two venues. There’ll be 69 stalls at the Bluecoat, as well as a cookery demo room, and 41 stalls at the nearby Friends Meeting House on School Lane.
The future looks bright. Or should that be green?