I love food. I just felt the need to declare that. I grew up in a household filled with food lovers and professional chefs who really honed my appreciation for the art and beauty of cooking and the love of a good olive oil (not all olive oils are created equal!). What I have never really loved is meat. I remember reluctantly eating onion fried liver as a child and wondering if truly there could be anything worse in life (I had obviously yet to encounter brussel sprouts.) However, growing up between my Grandparents house in Leeds and my parents home in Nevis the option of not eating meat wasn’t ever really considered. So, for most of my early childhood and teenage angst years I flowed with the status quo and ate allllll the chicken and fresh fish with plenty veggies and fruit to my hearts content. Don’t ask me how I convinced my parents to eliminate red meat from my diet, but somehow I did.
By the time I had graduated from Sixth Form college I had already declared myself to be Vegetarian. My mother’s reaction was pretty typical of any Caribbean parent at that time as she let me know quite emphatically that she would not be cooking different pots every day just to suit my dietary ‘whims and fancies’. I accepted this (whilst of course feeling unloved in the most dramatic of teenage ways) and learned to invite myself to my Seventh Day Adventists friends homes for dinner and cooking lessons. I have to say that so much of the knowledge which I have garnered in my evolution to plant based eating (I do prefer plant based as an identifier as veganism in my mind is an entire lifestyle and, well my shoe collection obviously proves that I am not quite there yet) came from the kitchen of my SDA friends. Learning how to make my meals fully nutritionally balanced and packed with flavours and textures came from them and I will be forever grateful for that. My home cooked food is super simple to prepare and I treasure the fact that everything I eat (ok,most of it) actually comes from the earth.
When I returned to the UK (hello London!) in 2002 I was a fully confident but still learning plant based eater. Eating out back then was still a bit of a challenge and most of my dining out experiences consisted of a super sized side salad with hummus (which I love) and copious amounts of yummy bread or I would steer the gathering to Brick Lane where the most amazing Indian and plant based friendly restaurants resided. Things have certainly improved since then though and London is definitely proving itself to be a city where it’s good (and easy) to be a plant based eater. I am seriously spoiled with a plethora of restaurants, caterers, vegan focused events (the monthly vegan nights pop up in Shoreditch is a must) and supermarkets filled with choices which reflect my needs and wants.
Although I am presently looking and somewhat appreciating an extension of my hips and thighs due to the over consumption of the most delectable vegan doughnuts from Doughnut Time, overall I am a pretty healthy vegan (trust me there is some seriously bad but SO good vegan junk food out there) and I have managed to cultivate a ‘go to list’ of sorts of my favourite eateries in this amazing city which for now I call home.
Eat of Eden based in Brixton Market serves up THE most delicious plant based curries and their fusion of Caribbean and European dishes are created with love and a real understanding of how to ‘fill up meh belly’ without me feeling bloated and lethargic afterwards. I also really love the fact that you can order a big ole jug of alkaline water to accompany your meal. Really wholesome food which is always served with a genuine smile.
Redemption Bar in Shoreditch feels like Vegan heaven. You know when you simply do not have to worry about what you are going to choose as everything is so damn good? That’s what Redemption Bar feels like to me. Everything is just so lush! Their mocktails and desserts are what really just tip them over into the zone of OMG! Perfect date spot too 😉
I discovered All Nations Vegan House, a family-owned Caribbean-Vegan restaurant during a trip to Dalston Market (during a plantain and green banana run) one day last Summer. The food was so damn delicious that I didn’t even manage to make it to the market. With a menu which is clearly and quite proudly guided by the ‘Ital is Vital’ Rastafarian philosophy of cooking you are guaranteed food which truly ‘satisfies your soul’ (sorry, couldn’t help it!). Right now, the Pinto Bean stew and Pumpkin Punch are my faves!
The Vurger Co serves up some of the best Vegan burgers I have ever tasted in life. They are huge and sloppy and filled with plant-based goodness which leaves you feeling satisfied and admittedly a little smug in a ‘hey, I just had a juicy burger which didn’t involve harming animals or add any more carbon emissions to the planet kinda way’. My choice is overwhelmingly the Classic Black Bean because it noice!
There is no way that I could not include Mildred’s in my top 5! I remember almost 10 years ago when a very considerate date introduced me to Mildreds and I was so in love with the concept that I considered saying yes to a long term relationship with him on this basis alone. I am still in love with Mildreds, the date? Not so much.
Mildred’s in my mind is the forerunner of Vegetarian and Vegan focused restaurants in London and they still manage to be consistently innovative and in demand. Definitely a book ahead vibe.
I adore their Soul Bowl filled with delicious veggies, quinoa, cashew cheese (notice a trend here?), mixed sprouts, seeds and topped with sesame dressing. It’s a huge bowl too and reminds me so much of the bowl food in Bali. Fresh, good for you and energy giving.
Need to know more about plant-based eating and my particular love of food? Feel free to connect via any of my social media platforms:
Chantal Miller is a London-based island girl (Nevis and Jamaica) who loves food, films and creating joy-filled and wellness-focused events. She is the founder of Island Girls Rock, a non-profit initiative celebrating women of Caribbean heritage which is dedicated to supporting and showcasing Caribbean culture through fostering cultural connections and championing collaborative opportunities between women of the Caribbean and its Diaspora.
You can listen to the multi award-nominated Island Girls Rock podcast here and here
Chantal spends a lot of her type advocating for wellness within her community and has also been known to produce, host and facilitate workshops surrounding agency in storytelling.