Being a Shropshire-born lad, I love markets. They’re the fabric of local culture which provides something one cannot attain on an everyday basis, whether it be artisanally crafted items or great, consciously sourced food.
The best that London’s vegan community has to offer was certainly on display at Street Food Union’s first Soho Vegan Market, which launched on Saturday 14 April on Rupert Street.
It was the perfect day to start a new market: the bitter cold and snow of March had been replaced with blue sky, sun and a noticeably uplifted atmosphere in the air.
There was no better place to lunch in Soho yesterday than outside, sat beside strangers lined up on bench seats in the heart of London, sampling the results of a dedicated growing food movement.
With some many stalls serving delicious food, I ate to my heart's content and these were some of Ethica Magazine's favourite offerings:
Bagels (or Beigals) are something of a staple here in London.
No night out in Shoreditch is complete without a early morning trip to Brick Lane for bagels. Whilst Vegals aren’t necessarily setting out to recreate that feeling, they certainly give you the chance to sample the classic deli round bread packed with vegan fillings.
The two fillings on offer here nod to traditional deli staples. The ‘Salt Bae’ is a take on a the classic salt beef bagel, consisting of richly seasoned seitan, sauerkraut and dill pickles (sourced from the same company that supplies Hoxton's famous Monty's Deli), and American mustard on a plain vegan bagel. This was perfect street food. A great combination of balanced flavours you can eat on-the-go.
Planty Hugs do one thing and they do it well: raw vegan cakes. There are plenty of different flavours on offer, including Almond and Caramel, Berries and Salted Caramel. Being a huge fan of mint-chocolate chip and still being on the lookout for a really good vegan ice-cream brand that makes the flavour (I'm looking at you Booja Booja), I opted for this combination.
The traditional biscuit base of a cheesecake has been substituted for crunchy chocolate granola, layered with mint infused cashew cream cheese, and topped with dark chocolate chips, which makes for a delicious dessert with a satisfying texture and a delicious balance of flavours.
Planty Hugs were probably one of my favourite stalls. I love the fact that you can buy the cakes in little pots, which not only makes them mess-free and easy to eat on the go, but they are perfect to take home and eat at a later date. If you’re in Soho market one weekend, go give them a look. I personally look forward to trying more of their delicious raw cakes in the very near future.
Spice Box’s reputation already precedes them. Based at KERB Camden Market, their vegan Indian food has already made an impact, having been featured in Time Out's London’s Top Ten Street Food list, and highlighted by the Guardian as a must follow vegan Instagram account.
Spice Box’s food centres around Indian flavours whilst avoiding ghee and milk used commonly in traditional Indian cooking.
Smokey Aubergine accompanied by red onions, flaked almonds, and homemade chutney layered onto a white naan (wholemeal is also on offer) was a revelation. Vibrant, rich in flavour yet light on the stomach it was the perfect weekend lunchtime treat.
Jake's Vegan Steaks
If vegan meat is your thing, Jake's Vegan Steaks is not to be missed. There are four offerings on the menu: The Classic, with caramelised onions, rocket and sriracha mayo, The Hot Deluxe with chili and fire roasted peppers, The Philly Cheezesteak, a vegan take on the American classic, and Steak Fries, with BBQ shredded seitan steak, for a properly satisfying vegan steak sandwich that won't see you going hungry for hours.
Vegan markets have been mushrooming up in London in the past couple of years. Hackney Downs, Broadway, Brixton's monthly vegan market, Islington and Vegan Nights in Brick Lane have all enjoyed much success and drawn the crowds, but up till now central London had been neglected.
In contrast to the aforementioned markets which primarily cater to the vegan community, Soho Vegan Market has the potential to attract a wider audience thanks to its location, thus introducing the joy of plant-based food to people who perhaps would never dream of having a vegan steak for lunch.
It was definitely interesting seeing the groups of tourists, local workers and residents buying food from the stalls yesterday, not necessarily because of it being vegan, but because it smelled and tasted delicious and was also affordable.
There’s a lot to be praised about Soho’s new vegan market. If the first weekend was a measure for the future, I look forward to their success.
Soho Vegan Market takes place every Saturday 11am - 4pm in Rupert Street, Soho, London W1