Let me give you a disclaimer straight away: I am neither vegan nor vegetarian, not full-time, anyway. I do tend to go vegetarian in certain countries whose cuisine is a little too meat-based for me, especially when it comes to the snout-to-tail movement, which I applaud, but cannot bring myself to eat. And, for the planet and my health, I regularly try to have vegetarian meals or days, but a full conversion is not on the horizon.
The reason I feel qualified to write this story, however, is because my daughter has long had an interest in vegetarianism with leanings toward vegan food. She is now fully vegetarian with the odd slip into pescetarianism.
Her conversion — for her health, sustainability, and love for animals — started in high school in Australia and evolved across several countries, fully developing when she was a college student in Leeds, UK. As a parent, I was by her side along much of this path, trying out dishes, sampling meat alternatives, and embracing certain, but not all, aspects of vegetarianism.
Here I have listed places we lived, and visited, with specific recommendations from my daughter, and places I have tried and loved myself.
Despite France’s general fondness for meaty cuisine, Paris has an amazing number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. They may not lie in the path of most visitors, but as long as you know where to look, you can eat well and with a good conscience. An added bonus is that these cafés and restaurants are often nestled in neighborhoods that you might otherwise miss, allowing you to discover hidden places.
Let’s start with what is probably the most famous vegan restaurant in Paris: Wild & the Moon. This vegan chain has eight or nine restaurants across the city, offering healthy and sustainable meals. Right in my old neighborhood in the 17th arrondissement is another one of my favorites — Le Potager de Charlotte — which is all about plant-based cuisine and natural wines in a lovely setting. That said, one of the most photogenic vegan cafés is probably Café Maisie, near the Tuileries. For vibrant, vegan African cuisine, head down to Rue des Petites Ecuries in the 10th arrondissement, where you’ll find Jah Jah by le Tricycle, a fun, alternative place.
Pro Tip: In Paris, asking for non-dairy milk in traditional cafés is still often returned with a blank look, but chains such as Starbucks and hipper cafés all have alternatives to cow’s milk. Ask for lait d’avoine (“oat milk”) or lait de soja (“soy milk”).
I am choosing Leeds over London because you get everything in London, where it’s hardly worth mentioning. Whereas, outside of the capital, it can be harder. Leeds is a great place with superb restaurants and many vegan and vegetarian options. It is a student city with several universities, colleges, high schools, and other institutions of higher learning.
My daughter studied in Leeds and has introduced me to some of her favorites, which include her absolute winner, Döner Summer. The vegan restaurant specializes in the cravings that never leave a vegan: kebabs served in pita bread, gyros, burgers, and fried chicken — all made with meat substitutes. Then, there is Wawin, with vegan Chinese dishes where even the vegan prawns cannot be distinguished from the real ones; Fint, for a vegan/vegetarian breakfast with a Scandinavian twist; and Little Tokyo for vegan/vegetarian bento boxes. Whenever I visit Leeds, we eat our way around the world.
Pro Tip: To not just beat green, but also stay greener, the Clayton Hotel in Leeds is part of a green initiative to reduce the hotel’s footprint and offer more vegan dishes in their in-house restaurant.
The Middle Eastern countries are all, at the very least, vegetarian-friendly because of the Indian and Asian influences, and religious restrictions. Snacks such as falafel and hummus are daily staples, and many rice dishes and curries are vegetarian. Doha is a city that has embraced vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, with many hip cafés and restaurants catering solely to these practices. One of my favorites is Evergreen Organics in Gate Mall, which serves non-meat burgers, lasagna, and other comfort foods. Whereas Mylk, in the same mall, simply has the best vegan cookies.
But, you know, sometimes I feel a little old in vegetarian restaurants and want something a little more upmarket. Enter the Four Seasons Folia restaurant. In the serene setting of the spa wing of the five-star beachside hotel, Folia not only offers a fantastic terrace looking out over the gardens and Doha Bay, but the food is also delicious. It’s a little more upmarket than simply a falafel wrap — although, I do love them. Try the Green Papaya Salad, the truffle pizza (an absolute must), and the mushroom sliders. And, while you’re there, stay for a spa treatment. Because, why not?
Pro Tip: When you are visiting the National Museum of Qatar, pop into Thalatheen on the museum grounds. They offer superb vegan food in a trendy setting.
Bali is a serene, mostly Buddhist island known for its wellness retreats. It stands to reason that vegetarianism is popular by default and a healthy cuisine available pretty much everywhere here. My daughter was lucky enough to spend a year abroad in Bali, and, obviously, as a dutiful parent, I visited her there.
She introduced me to some delicious foods, ranging from Nasi Goreng (which can be served with chicken or pork but easily changed to just vegetables) to Nasi Campur — both rice dishes available in every restaurant and food stall in Bali. There was vegan massaman curry with sweet potatoes and mushrooms instead of beef, and my absolute favorite, Martabak. It is a sweet or savory, always-vegetarian food in between an omelet and a pancake. I have to admit to returning repeatedly to the Sindu night market in Sanur and eating both options, for my main meal and dessert. From Ubud to Sanur, you will find that every restaurant has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, but personal favorites include Lilla Pantai in Sanur and Zest Ubud.
Pro Tip: If you want a spectacular setting, head to the Tempayan in the Tanah Gajah resort. No, it is not an exclusively vegan or vegetarian restaurant, but one that always has some options on the menu with a very understanding kitchen staff who are willing to adapt dishes.
You’d think that with the meat-loving Aussies, vegetarian or vegan options would be near impossible to come by, but no. In fact, I came across my first all-vegan fast-food place in Melbourne when my daughter worked a Saturday job at Lord of the Fries. I inadvertently sampled a burger and a hot dog only to find out they had been 100 percent plant-based after the fact. Whereas, vegan cuisine is generally more difficult to find.
For vegetarians, Melbourne’s cosmopolitan population offers great often mostly vegetarian Asian restaurants and plenty of seriously good Italian food. In fact, head straight to Funghi e Tartufo (can’t you just smell the truffle just saying the name?) right in the heart of Melbourne’s laneways. As the name suggests, most dishes involve mushrooms and truffles, but if those are your thing, you cannot go wrong here.
Pro Tip: For a quirky option, try the Union Kiosk in the Royal Arcade. This tiny place specializes in “jaffles,” a toasted sandwich to you and me, with what sounds like a meaty menu, but is 100 percent vegan.
I am putting Delhi here as an option simply because it is India’s capital, and as such, might have more choices when it comes to street food, cafés, or fancy restaurants. But with more than 40 percent of the population of India following a meat-free diet, eating out in India for vegetarians is probably the easiest of any country. While vegan food is more difficult to procure, there is still a much larger slice of the population following that policy as in many other places.
With all my travels, one of the best breakfasts I ever had anywhere was in Rajasthan when I had to get up early to go on a tiger safari. A vegetarian curry was offered, spiced but not too spicy, warming and perfect for setting me up for the day. Since then, I keep searching breakfast curries out wherever possible.
The Happy Cow listing service — which lists fully vegan and vegetarian restaurants on their website — has 91 listings for India, while the vegetarian options are officially listed as more than 1,000, but in truth will be too many to count.
Food great to try for vegetarians but to be avoided by vegans is, for example: naan bread, often made with yogurt; paneer, which looks like tofu but is a milk-based cheese; and dhal, which is safe to eat, but the spices used in the preparation are often tempered in ghee, so instead, you can ask for vegetable oil to be used.
Pro Tip: There are a few destinations with more vegan restaurants than others, such as Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, and Bengaluru, which even won an award for the most vegan-friendly Indian city. But, if in doubt, try searching on Vegan First, which lists Indian vegan restaurants.
For more tips on how to sustain a vegan lifestyle on the road, check out these 5 Tips For Eating Vegan On The Road.