Alternative eating choices seem to be pretty much the in thing nowadays; even Beyonce had a (short) go at cutting out all animal products from her diet. It’s time to jump on the bandwagon, drop that burger and check out some of the amazing restaurants and take-aways offering plant based food in the city!
Times have certainly changed in the last twenty years or so. Whatever your weird food fetish is, you can find someone to cater for it in most of the big cities. Vegetarians are catered for in the majority of restaurants, a vegan diet is a bit trickier for restaurants to get their heads round, but it’s definitely getting better.
As a vegan I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of places that haven’t treated me like an overly demanding do-gooder just trying to be awkward with this no animal products thing. Not everywhere gets it, and some places probably don’t want to, but it seems like a lot more people are trying.
A lot of objections to eating a plant-based diet is the lack of options. It seems like there are only a few if you won’t have meat, and half of them are risotto. If you cut out dairy and eggs as well then it seems like you’re left with very little. But in my experience, it actually means a much more varied, and experimental diet (not always wholly successful experiments, admittedly, especially if I’m the one doing the experimenting).
Veg based dishes generally have to work a bit harder to impress, perhaps because so many people find salad unexciting (personally I love salad…no, seriously I do). It’s worth trying some dishes that aren’t based around a cut of meat, poultry or fish just to discover some of the exciting flavours you might be missing out on.
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or just want a change from meat every now and then, I’ve put together a list of some of the best vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants in Birmingham I’ve found.
Want to take a veggie on a date and really impress them? This is the place. Cool décor, a laid-back atmosphere, inventive cocktail list and most importantly impressively posh looking all-vegetarian food, this is the ideal restaurant to wine and dine someone.
The food is the kind of exciting experimental stuff you generally give up on if you’re vegetarian and especially if you’re vegan. Unless the idea of puree being referred to as an emulsion fills you with dread, then it’s worth checking Bistro 1847.
If you have their take on fish and chips, also available as a vegan option, then prepare yourself for some of the best chips you’ve ever tasted. The portions aren’t huge and as you’d expect from a foodie place everything comes on a massive plate, but ingredients are fresh and perfectly cooked.
If you go for the al la carte menu you can get two courses for £19 or three for £25, and given the quality of the food this is pretty good value for money. If you’re feeling even more experimental, there are also five and seven course taster menus with the best locally foraged ingredients. These menus aren’t any good if you’re vegan, sadly, but if you love feta and quail eggs and you’re feeling flush then why not check them out. Booking is best for weekends, but weekday evenings are a bit quieter.
26 Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham B2 5HU, Tel: 0121 236 2313
The Old Moseley Arms
This is my local pub and favourite place to get a curry. It’s cheap and friendly and they sell beer too, so obviously it wins on all counts. The curries are really tasty and the menu has different options for meat and vegetarian options.
On the vegetarian side, there are about five or six options to choose from for each curry, so you get a choice of the style of curry, Jalfrezi or Dhansak for example, as well as the veg you want in there. And unless you go for one with paneer or a milder cream based curry, pretty much all of the vegetarian options are suitable for a vegan diet.
The Old Mo has won the CAMRA award for the best real ale pub in Birmingham two years in a row, so it’s a big hit with beer lovers too and can get a bit busy on weekends, but if you can find a corner it’s worth it. A proper pub with a lovely atmosphere, it has quite a few regulars but is friendly and welcoming, you can grab a veg samosa from behind the bar if you just fancy a nibble, or treat yourself to a real feast that won’t empty your wallet.
53 Tindal Street, Birmingham B12 9QU Tel: 0121 440 1954
The Warehouse Café
This cafe has a great reputation, and it’s not hard to see why. The menu is innovative, the food is tasty and the staff are friendly. It’s totally vegetarian, so not somewhere to take your meat addicted friends or family, unless you want to force them to try eating something green for a change (and wafer thin turkey-ham that’s been in the fridge for there weeks does not count, whatever they say).
The menu changes frequently, but the lunch menu has some reliably tasty wraps and burgers on it, and the dinner menu, as you would expect, branches out to some larger, more substantial dishes that could be seen on the table at one of them dead posh restaurants you hear about in that London. You know, like what Jamie Oliver runs. Without the frozen meals, obviously.
Anyway, this would be my recommendation if you fancy something a bit more upscale but not ridiculously expensive. It’s not licensed, so you’ll have to take your own alcohol if you want to drink with your food, but they also do tea, coffee (soya milk is of course on hand) and soft drinks. Prices are reasonable and booking is recommended, especially on the weekend.
54-57 Allison Street, Birmingham B5 5TH, Tel: 0121 633 0261. www.thewarehousecafe.com
Chinese food is usually a pretty good option if you’re vegetarian or vegan, and Café Soya is freaking amazing for both, as well as any committed meat eaters. It has a huge vegetarian menu – most of which is vegan too.
They have a massive range of fake meats – you can have fake prawns, fish, chicken, pork and beef, which all have a good texture and yeah you’ll know you’re not eating meat but after a few months without any meat, it was almost worrying. They also have lots of things with tofu and a few dishes with just vegetables and no soya masquerading as anything at all.
Be careful to specify if you don’t want any egg in your fried rice and prepare to be vigilant when your dish comes out – the food is always excellent and tasty but mistakes have been known to happen. With such a large menu though, it’s hardly a surprise. Café Soya is a bit more expensive than your usual take away food, but the portion sizes are hefty and the dishes all very tasty.
Booking on the weekend is generally a good idea. There are two venues – one in the Arcadian and the main venue, which is and has karaoke booths if you fancy torturing your loved ones with drunken renditions of Robbie Williams songs, opposite the outdoor markets. The bigger venue has a larger menu to choose from.
Main venue, Upper Dean Street, Birmingham B5 4SG, Tel: 0121 622 3888
Arcadian, 70 Hurst Street, Birmingham, B5 4TD, Tel: 0121 683 8350. www.cafesoya.co.uk
A good place for a sandwich and a bowl of awesome sweet potato wedges – deep-fried with the skin on until they’re sticky, they’re easily the best thing on the menu. The vegetarian and vegan all day breakfasts are good for a bit of stodge in the morning (or whenever if you’re that way inclined) but for some reason they can’t manage a vegan version of the mini breakfast. They also do a range of vegan cakes and cupcakes, so it’s great if you want something sweet.
Cherry Reds has two locations, one in the city centre on John Bright Street and one in Kings Heath, and each has a regular roster of pop-ups on a monthly basis. The food can be a bit hit and miss – we went once and they had no tofu, sweet potato or salad left at 7pm on a Thursday evening – but they have a good range of beer and someone can usually tell which of them are safe to drink (ie, no weird fish guts used as a filter because obviously that’s a thing essential to most brewers for whatever reason).
If you’re planning on going to to one of the pop ups nights, it’s best to check in advance if there will be a vegan option available, but we didn’t when we went to Pika Pika, a Japanese evening in the Kings Heath branch, they were more than happy to accommodate and made us something a bit off menu. Reasonably priced, you can probably book if you really want to, but it’s not essential and probably not that common.
City Centre, John Bright Street, Birmingham, Tel: 0121 643 5716
Kings Heath, York Road, Birmingham, Tel: 0121 441 3155. www.cherryreds.com
The British Oak
A beautiful pub with a great heritage, The British Oak has a number of different rooms to pick from as well as a large outside seating area. In my opinion though their best asset is their chef, Paul, who is himself vegan and not afraid to experiment with ingredients to recreate traditional pub grub without the death toll.
The British Oak still do the usual stuff, from a huge range of pizza with as much sausage and mozzarella on there as you could possibly want, to a the usual chips and meat combos, but they also have a sizable vegan menu as well.
Yep, vegan. Not a vegetarian menu, because it’s all vegan. You can have some of the options with cheese on it if you can’t live without it (like a weak and sickly calf, I guess) but why bother? With steak made from seitan protein, fish made from soy, five bean chilli and a massive bean burger, most of the pub classics are present.
Plus the chips are fantastic and there’s even a dessert section, which makes me do a little cry just thinking about it, because usually the dessert menu is nothing but a list of stuff I’d like to eat but can’t. Here though there’s a range to choose from and not just the usual watery sorbet you’ll be lucky to find.
1364 Pershore Road, Birmingham B30 2XS, Tel: 0121 458 1758
Ort in Balsall Heath is an art café that hosts loads of stuff in it’s small, boho hipster venue, including slam poetry events, live music and exhibitons. As well as all that culture, you can get a decent meal, including a vegetarian or vegan Sunday roast, and the majority of the food on the menu is vegetarian, with the odd fish dish thrown in now and then.
As their website says, they’re not trained chefs, so don’t expect anything fancy, but if you’re happy with beans on toast (butter optional), a chunky sandwich or a tasty soup, then you won’t be disappointed. Unless they’ve run out of ingredients, and as they’re in a pretty miniscule venue then this has been know to happen from time to time.
In particular, if you fancy a nut roast on a Sunday then make sure you get down there sharpish, don’t turn up at 3pm if you’re not prepared for disappointment. Ort is licensed but there’s nothing on draught, so it’s all bottles and the odd can.
The staff might not be able to tell you which of their beer is vegetarian, but as the menu is described as pescatarian I guess they’re not all that fussed about isinglass, so just be aware you might need to do a bit of investigation before you pick a bottle. Soya milk is on hand though so teas and coffees are all good to go.
It’s not the cheapest place, but it has a great atmosphere and you can kind of claim you’ve been getting some culture while you’re there, even though you’ve just had a tea and noshed on a sandwich.
500-504 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham B12 9AH, Tel: 07845 083 322
One of the great Bitters n Twisted venues across the Midlands, Bodega does really tasty South American food, including burritos, tacos and nachos. They have a separate vegan menu on their website, but if you go in just ask for a vegan version of any of the vegetarian dishes and they’ll be happy to accommodate.
The guacamole is vegan friendly and tastes gorgeous, so whatever you go for it’s worth getting an extra helping. Also a must are the batatas frites, or sweet potato fries, which are thin and crunchy but still melt in the mouth in the middle. Bodega are famous for their street food burrito, which also comes in veggie options, plus you can pick your level of hot – from mild to extra hot.
Extra hot can be a bit of a gamble though; sometimes it’ll blow your head off and make you cry, while other times it’s a bit less punchy, so you take your chances.
It’s also worth checking out the brilliant cocktail menu, which includes non-alcoholic version that are refreshing and perfect if you don’t have the inclination to get totally fried at lunchtime.
12 Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham B2 5RS, Tel: 0121 448 4267
A mobile food van that serves totally vegan everything. If you go, buy a cookie straight away. Don’t even question it, just buy one. Double chocolate chip if you can get it. They’re some of the best cookies I’ve ever had, crunchy but still lovely and soft in the middle, with big fat bits of chocolate. If I ever meet the guys from the Vegan Grindhouse in a dark alley, I might be very tempted to use threats of violence to extract the recipe for these cookies from them.
Of course, the Grindhouse is really more about the burgers. All totally animal product free, as you’d expect from the name, they’re American street food style. Try the Deathproof Burger challenge if you’re hungry – a massive three burger monstrosity with all the toppings for £10 – eat it all and get your next burger for free.
My boyfriend tried it and apparently it was a doddle. He wanted another one. I wanted to punch him because I had to have a (fake) chicken burger, as his order was all the burgers they had left. Anyway, do it, get your photo on their Facebook looking like a piggy, or just, you know, buy a normal human burger and then you can cram in more cookies.
Various locations around Birmingham and beyond
This is no gourmet pizza place with traditional wood fired whatevers, it’s a take away pizza place that does amazing vegetarian pizzas with the option to have vegan cheese if you like.
The pizzas are deep dish (you can ask for thin crust, but really, why?) and great value. A small pizza with 4 slices starts at just £2.99, and the extra large, with 10 slices, range from £7.99 for the Margherita to £9.99 for one of their speciality pizzas.
The vegetarian hot is my favourite, but you can get a vegetarian pepperoni or sausage pizza, or even a vegetarian chicken nuggets or a ¼ pounder burger with fries. With branches in Handsworth and West Brom, it’s a bit of a trip if you’re not local, but if you like pizza, especially if you’re vegan or can’t cope with dairy in general, then it’s worth going. Delivery is available, but check the website to see if you’re in their area.
Handsworth Wood, 103 Cornwall Rd (junction of College Rd), Birmingham B20 2HY, Tel: 0121 523 9275
West Bromwich, Unit 15b, New Square, West Bromwich B70 7PP, Tel: 0121 552 3529. mrsinghspizza.co.uk
Other places worth checking out…
Carters of Moseley
Decent vegetarian range, but perhaps not the best option for vegans. Award winning.
2c Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 9EZ, Tel: 0121 449 8885
Beautiful Thai food with a vegan menu on a Monday.
32A Poplar Road, Birmingham B14 7AD, United Kingdom +44 121 444 0999
Curries and sweets, all totally vegetarian and apparently all totally amazing.
1045 Stratford Road, Birmingham, West Midlands B28 8AS, United Kingdom +44 121 778 5501
Review by: Sally Watson-Jones for Grapevine Birmingham.