Life as a vegetarian isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.
I’ve found that some of the quintessentially British comfort food is easily replaced. Full English breakfasts and Sunday roasts are equally as delicious using veggie substitutes.
However, there are some tasty treats that I’ve found impossible to replicate.
I’m yet to find an acceptable chorizo alternative, and sweet and sour chicken balls are the one item I find myself still craving longingly.
Then there is arguably the most British food of all: pie and mash.
Curious to see whether the East End favourite could be reborn in vegan form, I headed down to London’s first vegan pub, The Spread Eagle, in Homerton.
On its website, the pub declares that it’s ‘keeping tradition alive while celebrating the UK’s modern culture’, which means you’re served up a vegan ‘mince’ pie and a hearty helping of mash spread alongside one side of the plate, finished with a dousing of liquor.
First, the pie.
The pastry was thoroughly impressive, managing that perfect balance between crisp and slightly flaky on top, and softer throughout.
While substitutes for things like butter would have been used to craft the pastry, it was impossible to tell.
Any meat eater turned vegan or veggie will tell you that vegan mince isn’t exactly the same as beef mince, but it’s not too far off.
The Spread Eagle’s faux mince was rich in flavour and stuffed the pie to the brim. As you can see, it looked just like any meat mince pie too.
For many, the pie is the centrepiece of the east end dish. For me though, it’s all about the mash.
I’m somewhat of a mash master (not in making it, I must add, just eating it).
True story: as a child, while my mum was ordering the online shop and had nipped out of the room, I ordered more than 30 boxes of instant mash. I’ve always loved the stuff, in any form it comes.
I was apprehensive about how somewhere could make delicious mash while either missing out on the cream, milk and butter, or using a vegan alternative.
The most surprising moment out of the whole experience was just how ‘normal’ the mash tasted, despite the lack of dairy.
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The mash itself was quite lumpy, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it definitely had that buttery flavour that makes non-vegan mash so heavenly.
The liquor had a light minty twang, which worked, while obviously (and thankfully, in my opinion) there were no jellied eels in sight.
I simply couldn’t leave the pub without rounding everything off with an equally British offering – sticky toffee pudding.
Overall, the meal didn’t look like it would completely fill me up, but it was quite deceptive. I was pretty stuffed.
Honestly, while there is nothing quite like a good and proper pie and mash, this vegan alternative was a winner in my eyes.
I’ll definitely be back for more.