Is Bristol Really the Vegan Capital of the World?
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It’s no secret how much I love Bristol.
If you have read any of my older blog posts, or follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m damn right obsessed with the place. Like, so obsessed it’s a little creepy and I hope Bristol doesn’t get freaked out.
Bristol is just so many levels of awesome. Clifton is beautiful, Stokes Croft is cool, the Old City and harbourside is incredibly interesting, with each building telling a different tale.
I spent four years living in Bristol while I was at university, and had the best ever time there. And after returning recently, I can confirm that it’s not just the university bubble – Bristol really is that amazing.
It’s not the most obvious candidate for a city bae (as if I just used that term, I’m sorry), but trust me – everyone who lives in Bristol cannot get enough of Bristol. It’s just the best place ever.
Anyway, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have become vegan in the last year, after 3 years as a vegetarian and gradually eliminating animal products from my diet and lifestyle. I wasn’t vegan when I lived in Bristol; although I was in the process of developing an interest in plant-based food during this time.
But, it has recently come to my attention that two of my great loves, Bristol and being vegan, have joined forces. Yes that’s right – Bristol has been crowned the vegan capital of the world.
How did it get this title? There’s an online cookbook called Chef’s Pencil, and its researchers turned to Google Trends to look up the number of vegan-related searches.
Using this tool, Google gives each location a score to show the interest level of veganism, depending on the concentration of vegan-friendly searches. This is polling in 2019, kids.
In terms of countries, Australia came out #1 and the UK #2 for most vegan-friendly country in the world, and Bristol turned up as city #1 for the most vegan options available.
Other cities in the top five were Portland, Edinburugh, Vancouver and Seattle.
So, is this claim correct? I travelled to the city to find out.
Vegan Bristol: my return (after eating my way around the city)
When I lived in Bristol before, I didn’t pay all that much attention to vegan food. In fact, I thought veganism was pretty kooky back then – something that I didn’t believe I could ever do. I’m here to tell ya now, being vegan is one of the best things I’ve ever done (I think starting this blog is the best thing, but it’s a close second).
But nowadays, it’s hard to ignore. Basically every single restaurant and pub has ‘vegan friendly options’ displayed outside. I think you’d be pretty hard-pushed to find a restaurant that doesn’t have any vegan options.
And it’s not just that – meat based restaurants in Bristol (you know, the ones that have tip jars saying ‘every time you tip, a vegetarian cries’) aren’t doing so well. A meat liquor restaurant opened in Stokes Croft (possibly the vegan capital of the vegan capital) and, despite serving way more vegan options than any other meat liquor, it went out of business after just two years in business. Similarly, Grillstock went under – although another smokehouse ‘Bare Grills’ has taken its place.
Nonetheless, a few burger places did close in the area, including Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Bristol Live reckons this could be due to the ‘dude food’ mentality becoming unpopular, and this culture does typically involve meat (and more and more people are embracing veganism, ehhh).
Anyway, back to the vegan options. Basically everywhere I went had a significant amount of plant-based alternatives. I won’t even start on the chains – but basically everywhere from Pizza Express to Wagamamas serves top vegan nosh these days.
But here’s what I ate at some local Bristol restaurants:
- A full English breakfast, including tofu scramble, at Boston Tea Party
- Basically everything at Café Kino, a nonprofit café that’s all vegan
- A tasty rice dish and cocktail at Turtle Bay
- The beyond meat burger at The Mall
- Pie and mash at Pieminister
- A vegan roast including lentil bake, roast potatoes, red wine gravy and vegetables at The Shakespeare Pub
Guys, I ate so much food. It wasn’t healthy at all, I was carrying a massive food baby all week and oh my gad I felt so happy.
Bristol is the best place for new vegans, or vegans who are hanging around with non-vegans, to go. There are so many options and you never have to be ‘that awkward one’. And what’s more, it helps people who are interested about making the switch but think it to be too hard to see how easy and delicious it really is. It’s heavenly.
Vegan Restaurants in Bristol
The strange thing about Bristol is that you don’t have to eat at just vegan restaurants. Out of the places I mentioned above, only Café Kino in Stokes Croft is fully vegan. I’ll write a quick list of what I (and HappyCow) deem to be the best vegan restaurants in Bristol, and then we’ll chat about this interesting element.
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I’m just gonna mention it again, because it’s awesome here. They do fry ups and other breakfasts, burgers, mains, smoothies, juices, coffee, tea and cakes. Basically any food you need. It’s reasonably healthy and all fresh and home cooked. I ate here three times during my time in Bristol and had a fantastic experience every time. The nonprofit and collective ownership is cool as well.
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Owned by the same people who run the popular pub Gaulimaufry, Suncraft is an all-vegan establishment that nods towards future sustainable living. They grow a lot of their own herbs and don’t use single-use plastic. Food is also gluten-free and includes salads, wraps, savoury bowls, spinach potato pancakes and juices.
Eat Your Greens
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This is a relatively new restaurant that fits right into the vibe of ‘hippy and hilly’ (from the Daily Telegraph) Totterdown. It serves up different lunch and dinner options, including their Eat Your Greens burger, and vegan roasts on Sundays. Drinks include smoothies and juices. It has an old-style décor, not out of place in its neighbourhood. Definitely one of the best vegan restaurants in Bristol south of the river.
So, after my week in Bristol, I thought that there weren’t really many vegan restaurants in Bristol – just a lot of vegan options. After looking on HappyCow, I can see that there are 14 solely vegan restaurants in Bristol and 33 vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Bristol. Which is a fair amount, don’t get me wrong, but there are many, many more (nearly 100) even in Hanoi, Vietnam.
So what is it about Bristol? It’s definitely partially to do with the fact that vegan options are everywhere. I really think you’d be hard pushed to find something you couldn’t eat in a Bristol restaurant – and most of the time it would be something absolutely delicious.
I also did notice on HappyCow that there are a lot of vegan companies in Bristol. Getting married and want a vegan wedding? There’s a company for that (a lot of them). Want to stay at a vegan B&B? Sure thing. Looking for vegan organisations? You can find that on HappyCow. You can also join Bristol Vegans Facebook Group. I still lurk in there sometimes, forever pretending that I still live in Bristol.
It’s also just to do with the Bristol vibes, man. It’s a very forward-thinking city, somewhere that embraces new ideas and actually wants to learn about them, rather than shove them in the dark because ‘we’ve always done the alternative’. I didn’t see a single paper straw during my time in Bristol, which is a similar vein.
But What About India?
When I saw this post being shared, I read a comment by someone saying that veganism is nothing new, and it comes from India. Thus an Indian city should be the vegan capital of the world.
I’ve never been to India, so I can’t comment from personal experience. I have enjoyed Indian food that is more authentic than what we get in the UK, and can attest that their vegan options are fantastic.
I’m finding conflicting things online too – research showed that only around 20% of Indians are vegetarian. However, Indore has a 49% population of vegetarians, much higher than Bristol (these people will still eat dairy but typically not eggs), and the town of Palitana in Gujarat banned the consumption of meat and dairy in the city and its holy sites. If that doesn’t make a vegan city, I don’t know what does!
If we look at a history of veganism, we can see that it has strong roots in Indian and Mediterranean cultures, but in modern history it was adopted in the UK quite early on.
So is Bristol the vegan capital of the world?
I think it’s very hard to pass judgement about this – but one thing that it certainly is is a fantastic city for vegans. There are so many plant-based alternatives in the city, and with such amazing food that is cruelty-free, better for you and better for the environment, why not go meat free?
I hope Bristol gets even more vegan-friendly, so more people see this lifestyle as a real alternative. I love being vegan and will talk about it til the cows come home (pardon the pun) (just to clarify I mean safely, to an animal sanctuary and live until old age happily) and I do strongly believe that it’s the best future for us, for the planet, and for the animals.
More Vegan Reading
If you’re reading this and still wondering exactly why I’m vegan, here are some helpful resources so you can learn more! I just want to clarify: I only became vegan 6 months ago.
It took me a long time and a lot of research to get to the stage where I decided that the only logical thing to do was cut all animal products out of my diet (I already chose cruelty-free products at this point). But now I do wish I’d made that decision sooner.
I’m not here to preach, because I get how challenging it is in modern society to go against the grain and decide against animal products. But it’s one of the best ways we can help animals and the world, not to mention the amazing health benefits.
So please, take a peek at the below with an open mind. And know that, wherever you are in the world, there are so many vegan options now and it’s only increasing. You won’t have to miss out on anything.
Best Vegan Articles
- The Independent – Veganism is the biggest way to reduce our impact on the environment
- The Independent – Best Reasons to Go Vegan
- Dairy is Scary (warning: this is shocking and was the thing that finally put me off cheese)
- Land of Hope and Glory (again – very shocking and hard-hitting)
- What the Health
- Cowspiracy – such an important watch for environmental veganism
From extra activism to yummy recipes, there are so many vegan youtubers to follow. If you’re looking to transition into a vegan diet but are concerned about sticking to it, follow these guys and watch a video daily. It’ll keep the reason why you’re doing this topped up in your mind.
This is what I did for the first two months after being vegan – and I haven’t felt the urge to eat any animal products since.
- Earthling Ed is one of the most famous. He’s also opened a fantastic vegan restaurant in Hoxton, London called Unity Diner.
- Joey Carbstrong makes delicious vegan meals, does outreach and quite often has an adorable animal or five on the channel.
- That Vegan Couple do a lot of commentary videos – they get a lot of hate but I think they always put across their message in a pretty dignified way! They do mukbangs and vegan newsdesks which are always fun.
- Cheap Lazy Vegan is one of my main go tos for easy vegan recipes. She also runs a vegan restaurant in Calgary, Canada.
- Those Annoying Vegans also do mukbangs and funny sketches.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about vegan food in Bristol! If you have, please share it or follow me on Instagram and Facebook. Peace and veg <3