During January, after the Christmas and New Year indulgences, many are thinking about adopting a healthy eating regime. This may also revolve around cutting down on meat, and there has been a significant rise in the consumption and demand for vegan products in the last year. It was reported in the media that there was a 1500% growth in the plant-based market in the UK alone, making it a huge market for restaurants and supermarkets looking to jump on the next food trend.
For the majority of vegans, however, this is not a food trend. This is a huge lifestyle change, with veganism not only the food we eat. This is often the first step for many on a lifelong journey, and one that many organisations and charities, such as Veganuary, are supporting. Emma Phillips, who runs a North East food blog, identified that there was a definite interest in dairy and meat free alternatives when her own partner switched to veganism in 2015.
Canny Food chronicles the restaurants they visit and the food they eat at home as a way of demystifying what veganism is, although they have never actually called themselves a vegan food blog. The blog now receives over 50k view per month, and they appear in the Top 100 Foodies chart. Emma is taking part in Veganuary as a way of transitioning away from her vegetarian diet, although she ate a wholly vegan diet at home. Through her own experiences she noticed there was a worry for those with dietary requirements, especially linked to allergies, regarding dining out. Most organised events in the area focus on meat-eaters, with the odd vegetarian meal in the mix, but few offer vegan – and in turn – dairy-free menus. This is what led her to come up with the concept of Vegan Restaurant Week, a UK first. The event is scheduled to run in the north-east of England from the 23rd to the 29th January, and Emma has invited restaurants and cafes from all over the region to participate. And what better timing – with Veganuary 2017 in full swing!
While it may appear this event is aimed at vegans and vegetarians, Emma is clear it is all-inclusive:
Many people today eat meat-free meals at home as it is more cost effective or they are conscious of the environmental impact of animal agriculture. We have friends who don’t follow the same diet as us but like to eat at vegetarian and vegan restaurants to try something different. We’re hoping Vegan Restaurant Week will encourage people all over the region to visit the local independents involved and try out what’s on offer, whether they eat meat or not.
January is often a struggle financially for many, with eating out way down on the list of priorities. Each participant has tried to come up with something that may tempt people out of frugality, however!
Zapatista, for example, are devising a special vegan menu for the event which they will be promoting alongside their regular dishes. The Duck House in Corbridge have created vegan dishes in their developmental kitchen such a Sweetcorn Panna Cotta and Cauliflower Tart, which should appeal to any foodie. While there are the expected vegetarian and vegan eateries in Newcastle involved like The Bohemian, Wildflower and Sky Apple, we also wanted Vegan Restaurant Week to demonstrate there are many places further afield that those following a plant-based diet in the region should visit.
It is also worth noting that most of the participants are not actually vegetarian or vegan establishments, which shows how far the food scene in the region has progressed over the last few years. Those involved have a vegan option available all year round, which is why I’m keen to promote them too. While eating in an omni restaurant isn’t to every vegans tastes, those wanting to provide more than salad should be supported. With over 35 restaurants already participating Vegan Restaurant Week, it looks set to prove that there is more to the North east than kebabs and sausage rolls!
There’s still time to participate in Vegan Restaurant Week! If you’re a North-east based restaurant keen to get involved, drop Emma a line to find out more: [email protected]