Sizzling on the grills of London restaurants are a category of items that only recently earned a spot across many menus in the Forest City.
With 2018 drawing to a close, vegan items are holding their largest presence ever in London’s local food industry.
WATCH: What’s cooking in London: Exploring the local vegan industry
It was the August of 2016 when Glenn Whitehead held the grand opening for his all-vegan restaurant, Plant Matter Kitchen.
Located in the heart of Wortley Village, the brand has now expanded to Plant Matter Bistro and Plant Matter Café, both of which can be found closer to downtown.
However, veganism wasn’t always a sure bet. According to Whitehead, pretty much everybody told him Plant Matter Kitchen was a bad idea. He says a lot friends, family and advisors suggested he offer non-vegan items as well.
“There was a lot of push for that, but we didn’t really want to do it that way,” said Whitehead.
As for the spread of London’s vegan food industry, Whitehead says he’s surprised of how fast its grown.
“There’s our three restaurants, the two Globally Locals, Curling Brewing Company out in Oakridge… all the numbers are indicating that veganism is kind of the future.”
Beyond the vegan-dedicated
Even meat-providing restaurants have adopted vegan items.
John Stobie of Stobie’s Pizza says it was his wife’s best friend who informed him of veganism, a lifestyle that he previously had no knowledge of.
In 2015, his family’s pizzeria began offering vegan options for their toppings, and since then, sales have earned the non-animal products a permanent spot on the menu.
“When we first started online ordering, we noticed that the majority of the orders were for vegan items… it’s fantastic. We absolutely love having that market.”
Annie Nightingale has been vegetarian for nine years and vegan for the past three.
Living in London, she says her options were often limited to a few items on restaurant menus.
“The largest drawback was how awkward and uncomfortable I felt,” said Nightingale, adding that she would constantly be asking employees to modify her order.
“When you have to explain the circumstances that are not an allergy and not health-related, you can get some weird vibes from people.”
Nightingale’s boyfriend, David Murch, says he’s not a vegan, but he adds that the industry’s recent growth has provided benefits for his relationship.
“It expands options and makes going out easier… I love vegan food and I love all food.”
If the past few years in London’s restaurant industry are any indication, veganism is here to stay.
While its spread won’t convert meat-eaters overnight, it certainly makes expanding one’s palate an easier task.
For those who are curious about the vegan diet, VegFest London will returning to the Western Fair Agriplex on Nov. 10.
Whitehead predicts that this year’s festival will break “10,000 guests.”