There’s no shortage of food festivals in London – but if you don’t eat meat, you know what it’s like, right? There might be some risotto to try, perhaps a little goats’ cheese, but the rest of the day could be entitled ‘a study in chocolate’ because that’s all you’re going to get to eat.
As food obsessives, what we would love is a gourmet vegetarian festival focused purely and entirely on food and drink. A reasonably-priced event at a beautiful venue that simply celebrates the deliciousness of meat-free fare. Veggie cuisine doesn’t constantly have to be linked to ‘isms’ – religion, politics, environment, animal rights, healthy eating or whatever. There are vegetarians who only want to, you know, eat.
We’ve rounded up this year’s veggie and vegan festivals – curiously all taking place within a three month period. They’re aimed mostly at vegetarians committed to both cruelty-free food and cruelty-free living. Some are primarily about food and drink, others are more concerned with the lifestyle, but on the whole they balance both.
Combining food (in particular, special dietary needs) and lifestyle, this popular festival is divided into two sections. V Food features lots of stands from shops, restaurants, artisan producers and well-known brands; whereas V Living showcases lifestyle products like non-leather shoes and sustainable household items. You can sample food, meet the producers and attend talks on topics such as ‘how to lose weight, especially around the middle, with a vegetarian diet’ by nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville (we love the ‘especially around the middle’ bit).
Additionally, the Vegan Society’s inaugural awards for volunteers will be announced on Saturday afternoon, followed by their 70th anniversary celebrations, including a tea party with brownies from Brixton-based vegan bakery Ms Cupcake, live entertainment, drinks and nibbles. You’ll get more out of the day if you’re also interested in attending the Allergy & Free From Show, taking place at the same venue at the same time, entrance to which is free with your ticket.
Tickets: £7.50 advance, £10 at the door – but there’s also an option for getting free tickets from the website. Kids go free. 4– 6 July 2014, Olympia Grand.
London Vegan Beer Fest
With the emphasis firmly on vegan beers rather than the vegan cause, this unique drinks event is inspired by a similar one in LA. It’s founded by influential vegan blogger Sean O’Callaghan of Fat Gay Vegan blog and co-hosted by Kip Dorrell of the acclaimed blog Messy Vegetarian Cook. The idea is to showcase independent breweries who make vegan-friendly beer that hasn’t been filtered using animal finings such as gelatine, crushed bone, fish swim bladders, and egg and milk products (as many beers are). Breweries participating this year include small microbrewery Clarkshaws from East Dulwich, and Notting Hill-based Moncada.
Boasting a ‘summer garden party’ atmosphere with a crowd of around 400, this non-smoking event is held in the lawn and hall of St Margaret’s House, behind Bethnal Green’s The Gallery Café vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant will provide a vegan barbecue of burgers, hot dogs, sausage baps, kebabs and salads; and will additionally sell ‘hand-held food’ such as wraps. Note that the ticket price is for entrance only; you’ll have to pay for all food and drink separately, only cash is accepted, and you’ll need to show a photo ID to buy alcohol. With on-site picnics, live bands and charity karaoke, it’s no wonder tickets are selling fast – with many having sold out already.
Tickets: vary from £5 to £10, depending on admission time slots – see website for details. 12 July 2014, from 1pm, St Margaret’s House, Bethnal Green.
London Vegan Festival
Organised by the Campaign Against Leather and Fur (CALF), this is a more conventional vegan festival, focused on the vegan lifestyle. Attracting over 2,000 vegans and vegan-curious, especially families with kids, it’s been going since 2004 and is currently in its 14th year. We were unable to contact anyone to find out about this year’s program, but a report on last year’s mentions over 100 stalls featuring animal rights groups and organic products, talks on vegan nutrition and the benefits of the vegan lifestyle. There is also music and meditation workshops, film screenings, and entertainment from magicians and vegan body-builders. Expect raw foods, dairy-free breakfasts, burgers, salads and desserts; plus vegan beer and cider
Tickets: £2. Free for under-12s. 17 August 2014, from 11am, Kensington Town Hall.
VegFest UK London
This is the big one. Founded by VegFest UK, which has been organising Europe’s largest veggie events since 2003, the London festival returns to the city for the second year expecting several thousand visitors, as in previous years. There are over 200 stalls selling lifestyle and food products, the latter including sushi, pad thai, Caribbean stews, Indian snacks, ‘artisan vegan meats, cheeses and desserts’, chocolates and gluten-free foods; plus a separate raw vegan zone. You’ll enjoy free gifts if you get there early; plus free samples, discounts on products, book signings and healthy eating workshops.
Other highlights include one-to-one ‘meet the expert’ sessions, and high profile international speakers speaking on subjects as varied as ‘is soya a superfood or a health risk?’ and ‘do vegetarians age faster?’ There’ll be veggie and vegan celebrities, and cookery demonstrations from the likes of chef Pasquale Amico, head chef of Amico Bio restaurants, and Melissa Morgan, founder of Ms Cupcake bakery. Along with kids’ activities and cookery classes, there’s live music, comedy and film screenings to keep you entertained. Additionally, voting is now open for a range of awards, including ‘best vegetarian restaurant’ and ‘best vegan shop’, and the gongs will be given out on Saturday evening.
Tickets: Advance: £10 (£6 concessions). At the door: £12 (£8 concessions). Under-16s free. There are also ‘buy one get one free’ offers until 23 August, and ‘buy one get one half price’ until 15 September – see website for details. 27-28 September 2014, Olympia West.