The strawberry Eton mess at The Gate — Hammersmith, and locations across London
The Gate is just so slick. Unsurprisingly, maybe, it's had a few decades to hone it — the Hammersmith restaurant's been the darling of the vegetarian scene since it first opened in the eighties. It's expanded to Islington and Marylebone with further restaurants, catering for a range of dietary needs — everything's vegetarian, but gluten-free, vegan and autism-friendly dishes are all on offer as well.
Like everything they do at The Gate, the desserts are simple enough to feel effortless, with just enough frills and garnishes to feel like an occasion. Don't miss the strawberry Eton mess if it's on the menu — vegan, but not noticeably less rich and creamy than the full-dairy, multi-egg version.
The Gate, 51, Queen Caroline Street, W6 9QL. See website for other locations.
The peach and chilli pan fry at Persepolis — Peckham
This Persian restaurant, tucked into a Persian grocery store, does some of the best vegetarian cooking south of the river. The sundaes are vegan on request.
It's hard to whittle down the menu to the best of the desserts. The menu changes daily and with the seasons so the desserts are on rotation, but you might find a dish of saffron poached pears, or sholeh zard — an Iranian saffron rice pudding, made without milk — or a peach, barberry and chilli pan fry, served with vegan ice cream.
Persepolis, 28-30, Peckham High Street, SE15 5DT
The Cool Cookies at Cookies and Scream — Islington
This vegan bakery has graduated from a Camden Lock stall to a permanent cookie bar, where you can get a seat and a coffee to go with the fresh-from-the-oven cookies and pies.
But the beauty of the Cool Cookies, meant to be eaten straight from the fridge, is that you can buy them to takeaway and stock your own freezer for days, weeks or months to come, transferring them to the fridge in batches. Best of the range have to be the Wookiee Bars, with double chocolate chip and chocolate coating, and the Scream Sandwiches, two chocolate chip cookies glued together with coconut and vanilla paste.
Cookies and Scream, 130 Holloway Road, N7 8JE.
Freakshakes at The Canvas Cafe — Shoreditch
Technically a drink, but a drink that takes a tankard, spoon and probably a bib to handle. The freakshake is a towering pile of milk, cream and ice cream, garnished with chocolate, or meringues, or brownies, or probably all of those. About as non-vegan as you can get without actually throwing a steak into the mix.
But the good people at Canvas have done some inventive stuff with soy, maple syrup and other sleight of hand tricks to create a vegan freakshake, as bright, ridiculously large and ornate as the traditional version. The dark chocolate one topped with vegan meringue and macaron sounds like the most decadent, and so the one most in keeping with the spirit of the freakshake.
The Canvas, 42 Hanbury Street, E1 5JL
Baklava at What the Pitta — Shoreditch, Croydon, and Brick Lane
As well as doing one of our favourite kebabs in London (vegan or otherwise), plant-based kebab chain What the Pitta! are nailing it on the dairyfree dessert front, with their vegan baklava. Order by the piece (£2.50 a slice) or by the £24, 24 piece party tray because imo, post-lockdown is no time for single-digit dessert orders.
What the Pitta, BOXPARK Croydon, George Street, Croydon, CR0 1LD. See website for other locations.
Sticky toffee pudding at Tendril Kitchen — Soho
Chef Rishim Sachdeva's (mostly) vegan residency's never less than big, lavish proof that plantbased food can be as exuberantly rich and decadent as the non-vegan sort. More so, to be honest, when it comes to Tendril's take on classic desserts: a chocolate ganache — bittersweet, creamy, crazy rich — and a sticky toffee pudding often feature on the changing menu, and we'd recommend going for the latter, but opting out of the custard it comes with (no reflection on Sachdeva's custard skills, we just strongly believe everything's better without). We don't often say this about desserts, but consider sharing it, or risk being rolled out of the restaurant. Tendril's portions are punishingly generous.
Tendril Kitchen, in residency at The Sun and 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street, W1F 9NG.
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The tiramisú at Cafe Van Gogh — Oval
What’s not to love about this all-vegan south London gem? A not-for-profit venue that funnels all the revenue back into its community projects, it’s as lovely in spirit as it is of interior. And it's a beauty — walls are scattered with chaotically hung Van Gogh prints, and a huge Starry Nights-inspired mural's painted on the turreted ceiling, arching above your seat, and the dessert menu's an (incredibly good value) mix of loaf cakes and classics (sticky toffee puddings, and apple crumbles). If it's there when you visit, don't miss the tiramisu: rich, fluffy, light, punchy — you can tell it's a vegan version, but that doesn't change how good it is in its own right.
Cafe Van Gogh, 88 Brixton Road, SW9 6BE.
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The granitas at Gelupo are always vegan and always impressive, and Chin Chin Labs in Camden always has a vegan flavour, such as coconut and makrut lime, on its nitro ice-cream menu.