Exploring cities as a vegan has never been easier. Options are continually expanding, with new plant-based eateries springing up regularly.
On a recent break in Manchester, I got a taste of what this culturally vibrant city has to offer for vegans. My twin brother lives here, and as a vegan himself, he was happy to tag along and try out some new places. So, here’s my run-down of some of Manchester’s best vegan options!
The Eighth Day Co-operative on Oxford Road doubles as a big health food shop, and a café serving organic vegetarian and vegan food. You can buy a range of products from supplements to bean-to-bar chocolate. The café serves really good, healthy food, varying daily. You can expect a cooked breakfast, sandwiches, dishes such as dahls and casseroles, and homemade cakes and puddings. I’d recommend Eighth Day as a great choice for an affordable lunch or a spot of tea.
If you’re planning on visiting Manchester Museum, its in-house café The Teacup (with another branch on Thomas Street) is a quick lunch-time option. There’s a reasonable falafel sandwich on offer, with a range of salads; check to see which ones are vegan. Take your coffee black – the soya will curdle. A vegan chocolate brownie is also available.
A trip to the Northern Quarter is a must, for its array of shops and nearby cultural offerings, such as Chetham’s Library and the National Football Museum (not one for me). If you’re particularly hungry, I’d recommend Earth Café for a hot plate of food and a cold drink. All food is sourced from the market a few yards away, and served up as dishes including chickpea curry, lasagne and vegan roulade. You can choose two mains and two accompanying dishes – rice, potatoes, salad – for a mere £7. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, the relaxed atmosphere, and the friendly service.
One place I missed was Real Junk Food, an outlet on Oxford Street looking to change attitudes towards food waste. They intercept food that would otherwise go straight to landfill, and craft it into meals. Instead of paying a set price for an item, they ask for a pay-as-you-feel donation.
Within the huge indie emporium that is Afflecks, you can find the vegan Beach Hut café, serving jerk jack fruit and Ital curries. Heroes Café also have some vegan options.
For dinner, Manchester has no shortage of chain restaurants such as Pizza Express, Ask Italian, and Zizzi. Burrito bars are popular and cost-effective, including Pancho’s and Chilangos. At the former, you can pack a generous portion of tofu or chilli, beans, salsa and salad into a spinach wrap, for a very good price.
Mowgli, founded only in 2014, serves fantastic Indian street food in tiffin boxes. Its separate vegan menu offers plenty of choice, including a hot chip butty (roti with spiced potatoes), chickpea curry, and dahl. The food surpasses the vast majority of Indian high-street restaurants, and the service is quick and friendly. It’s located in the Corn Exchange, a good spot for dinner and a drink. Two more Mowgli’s are opening this year to complement two other restaurants in Liverpool, so watch this space.
For your caffeine fix, the endless stream of Starbucks, Costa, and Caffé Nero has got you covered. Independent coffee shops include Takk in the Northern Quarter, the Fig and Sparrow and Grindsmith (try its bigger Deansgate site).
There’s also the Cat Café. When I originally got wind of the first cat café opening in Edinburgh, I had my doubts. Was it right to keep the cats cooped up and make money from their appeal? But after visiting this one on Manchester, I’m fully reassured. The well-groomed cats have known each other since kittenhood, and as housecats, they seem to have no inclination for the outdoors. The café is roomy, with wooden platforms built into the walls for them to stroll around. Customers agree to not pick them up, or bother them if they’re sleeping. For £6, you get half an hour in the café with free drinks and the company of several haughty cats, who will mostly lounge above you, turning an indifferent eye to your admiring gaze. But you’ll enjoy it anyway.
I hope that this guide is useful to anybody looking for vegan options in central Manchester!