Vegan Gastronomy Tour – Ireland & England

Last summer I went on a trip to Ireland and England and visited many locations where it’s not easy to find vegan food. It was particularly difficult to find anything to eat during the many long bus rides between towns when our only stop was usually a gas station “convenience store” or possibly a small town where there were maybe two restaurants. On those occasions, I either didn’t eat or ate if I found fruit. I would often scour the store for something vegan – sometimes getting lucky. I ate a lot of Starburst candy, which seems to be vegan in Europe (no gelatin according to the wrapper) and, at one place found Alpro soy pudding and enjoyed that. (Sadly, I recently found out that the corporate owner of Alpro is just as bad as Dean Foods here in the U.S.) A big constraint was that this was a group bus tour so I had to stay within the confines of the locations visited by the tour and the break time allotted. I was the only vegan on the trip so I was on my own food wise. It was challenging, but I survived!

I used HappyCow.net to find vegan friendly restaurants in the cities I would be visiting. Some cities had no veg friendly listings at all.

Our first stop was Dublin, Ireland and I arrived the night before the tour was to start in order to settle in. Luckily Dublin had a few choices. I picked Cornucopia Whole Foods, which was in walking distance of our hotel and is eco friendly in addition to serving only vegan and vegetarian food. The restaurant is fairly inexpensive and is very student friendly. A lot of younger people were dining there during our visit. Diners order at the counter and get to choose a main dish and two sides. There were several vegan options available when I was there. The food was ok. I liked some of my choices better than others, but I was not blown away. The first night of the tour, dinner was arranged by the tour guide at Le Bon Crubeen Restaurant, where they made a special meal for me (as there are normally no vegan options.) The restaurant manager was very gracious and went out of his way to accommodate me. I had a delicious salad with a Portobello mushroom main course and a fruit plate for dessert. Other than the salad, the meal was average, but beautifully presented. I do give points for the way in which the staff bent over backwards to accommodate me.

Our next stop was Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is a larger city and we were on our own for dinner so I wanted to find a place walkable from our hotel. There are no all vegan restaurants and the only place listed as vegetarian was not open for dinner. So I did my best. The first night I went to Pizza Express, where they had a couple of vegan options and I could pick my own toppings. I went with a lower calorie pizza with various vegetables and a rocket (arugula) salad in the center. I suppose it is lower in calories since they cut out the center of the pizza to put in the salad. The pizza tasted fine, but unfortunately I was still hungry when I left. And it was not cheap. The next night, I went for Indian food at Archana, a restaurant that was recommended to me by the hotel staff. I ordered the Baingan Bharta (made with eggplant) and the vegan bread choice. The owner was very friendly and helped me to find the vegan options on the menu. The food was a bit spicier than I expected, but was delicious. I had a nice chat with some other patrons and it was a great experience.

Then it was on to Ballina, Ireland for an overnight stay—an almost total wasteland for vegan food. During a search online, I found a couple of expensive restaurants that promoted that they could accommodate a diner with a vegan food request, but both also had fois gras on the menu and I had major concerns about patronizing such restaurants. Both restaurants were too far, so that was settled. The Best Western Plus Ballina Manor Hotel restaurant had a vegetable plate option and the cost was reasonable. Sadly, in a rushed decision—because restaurants and everything else close early in Ballina—I opted instead to join some other members of my tour at a restaurant across the street from the hotel. They made me a pizza with dough, sauce and some mushrooms. It was so forgettable that I didn’t take a photo of the meal or the restaurant. I should have had the vegetable plate. It would not have cost that much more and I’m sure it would have been a hundred times better.

Next stop was Inisheer Island, part of the Aran Islands of Ireland. We stayed at South Aran House B&B, which has a restaurant on their property. They have one vegan option on the menu which I ordered the first night there and it was delicious. The owner of the B&B is the chef. He made a special breakfast for me in the morning and a different breakfast the following morning, even adding a veganized version of the hash brown patties (at my request), for which he had substituted regular fried potatoes the day before. While we were out walking around on the island, we found a lovely little restaurant called Teach an Tae, where I was able to get a nice fresh green salad for lunch. Since the B&B owners were so accommodating, a few of us decided to have dinner there again the second night of our stay. The owner/chef made a completely different vegan dinner especially for me – another delicious meal. I had particularly worried about the food options on Inisheer Island due to its remoteness and the small number of restaurants, but it turned out to be my favorite (and easiest) dining destination of the trip.

The next day, it was time to take a ferry ride from Dublin, Ireland to Holyhead, Wales on the Stena Line. It is a voyage of about 3½ hours so we had lunch on board. The vegan options were almost non-existent. The staff were eager to help me so they made me some Linda McCartney vegan sausages (not on the lunch menu), mashed peas, salad and French fries (not cooked in the same oil as the fish – I asked). Not the best or the healthiest meal, but it was the best I could get. We were supposed to have dinner in Liverpool, but we were running late so we stopped in Wales along the way and I had a choice of two restaurants – pizza or Indian. I went for Indian (can’t recall the name of the restaurant). They had no eggplant dishes, which I found unusual for an Indian restaurant, but they did have a vegan bread (although completely different from what I had at the restaurant in Belfast.) The food was spicy again, although I had asked for mild. The meal was ok – not my favorite.

The next day, we moved on and our next overnight stay was at the Redesdale Arms in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds. Another non-vegan friendly dining location. I checked out my very limited options, then opted to join others from my tour group and dine at the pub restaurant at our hotel. There is another restaurant there which was a little more upscale. I believe they had one vegan option on the menu, which was a pasta dish so I had that. The meal was enjoyable. But I must say that the restaurant staff was pretty abrupt and unfriendly so that took away some points.

The next day we were in Bath and I had very little time to grab something to eat on the bus on the way to London. I raced into a couple of places and was told no, they had nothing vegan. I was starting to panic – it was a long ride to London and I had not eaten since breakfast that morning. I had to find something. Luckily I ran into some other people from my group and they pointed me to a small Turkish restaurant called Marmaris where I was able to get some tabbouleh and hummus and pita for the ride. That was my dinner and it was definitely not ideal, but I had no other choice.

The final stop of the trip was London. I expected London to have a number of all vegan restaurants, but I was wrong. There were more vegetarian restaurants with vegan options, but not so many restaurants that serve dinner and are somewhat more upscale. Of course London is a large city and finding an all vegan or vegetarian restaurant in the area you are staying might be a challenge. However the public transportation in London is excellent so it is easy to get around to other parts of the city. The first dinner in London, and the final meal with the tour group, was set up by the group leader at Masala Zone, an Indian restaurant. There was almost nothing vegan friendly on the menu and of the two choices I had, both were very spicy. I was very unhappy with this restaurant both due to menu and attitude of the manager, so I would not recommend it. And since it is not particularly vegan friendly, why go there? There are many other choices.

On the second night, I used HappyCow.net and found Itadaki Zen, a cute little vegan Japanese restaurant . The menu features a number of different combination meals. I decided on the Itadaki-Zen Kimpab Set. I enjoyed my meal, but still felt a little hungry afterward. When I got back to my hotel and checked HappyCow.net, I realized that one of the Amico Bio locations was in Holborn – within walking distance, so I went over there to check it out. I wound up getting some of their vegan homemade ice cream–YUM! Amico Bio is an organic vegetarian restaurant with vegan options and very friendly service.

On my final day in London, I went to the Museum of London. The fact that the Cloth Fair location of Amico Bio was nearby played a small role in my decision on which museum to visit. There are some menu differences between the Cloth Fair and Holborn locations, the first is in the business district and latter is open later. I walked over to the Cloth Fair Amico Bio to take a lunch break during my museum visit and had a nice lunch: a salad with vegan mozzarella and pasta with eggplant in a tomato sauce. I had a long day of sightseeing and was late getting to the Amico Bio in Holborn for dinner, but they kindly let me in. I started with the olive miste appetizer and a salad and had the daily risotto offering as my main course. I admit that I preferred the lunchtime pasta to the risotto. The menu does change, if not daily, then frequently.

During most of my trip I mostly had Weetabix cereal for breakfast, other than on Inisheer Island. This was available at most of the breakfast buffets at the hotels. It came in its own individually wrapped package and I didn’t see anything in the ingredients that did not appear vegan. Breakfast was included at all of the hotels where we stayed. Some buffets had soy milk available. A couple did not, but when I requested soy milk, a restaurant staff person at both hotels went out and brought some back for me from a nearby store! They may not be vegan friendly in Ireland and England, but generally speaking they do have great customer service. At our final hotel, in London, I had a different cereal – they had the little boxes – and was also able to have the hash brown patties for breakfast as I had in Dublin. They came premade/frozen. I looked at the package and everything appeared vegan. Strangely, all of the other hotels had what looked like the same hash brown patties, but I was told they contained egg. So either they were wrong or they were a different brand. Because I did ask about them in Dublin and was told they did not contain any egg product. There was always fruit available at the buffets.

One bright spot throughout the trip were Pret a Manger restaurants, which all carry some vegan options (sandwiches, chips, salads). They are all over in Ireland and England and I had lunch at a few of them in various locations. The food is good and fresh. Selections vary by location. They also have some U.S. locations now – lots of them in New York City.

I hope my accounts above can help you plan a future trip, enjoy some of the better eateries and avoid the not so good ones. Bon Voyage!

About Linda Stein


Linda is a lifelong avid traveler to locations near and far with a passion for discovering vegan restaurants and vegan food to try along the way. She has been a vegan since 2007. She has spent the majority of her working career as a paralegal. She is a member of the Bucks County Vegan Supper Club where she met Lydia and Mauro and James and Chris.

Comments
3 Responses to “Vegan Gastronomy Tour – Ireland & England”
  1. KathyD says:

    This is a great post. I have been considering visiting Britain and thought it might be difficult to eat well there. I appreciate your candor so that I can have realistic expectations and plan accordingly.

  2. Tracey says:

    So interesting. Thank you. I live in rural West Wales and am not over blessed with vegan eateries to sayrthe least! If im travelling I do try to research websites etc ahead. I’ve found you get the best meals in the most unexpected places. Never be afraid to ask. Happy Vegans Travels everyone!

  3. Manuel says:

    You should come to Mallorca Spain on a Euro Vegan Voyage http://www.MallorcaVegan.com

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