Top 50 Gastropubs

How to create the perfect veggie menu

By Amelie Maurice-Jones | 29/07/2022

This comes after Deliveroo reported a huge rise in demand for plant-based food in January, with orders of plant-based dishes up 117% in 2021 on the previous year. 

The Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk, which was crowned the UK’s Top 50 Gastropub 2022, offered both a vegetarian and vegan menu. The veggie menu included a starter of avocado toast with chilli, lime and coriander, a delica pumpkin burger main and pear millefeuille, hazelnut and tia maria dessert. 

Beetroot salad, smoked potato gnocchi and pear, date and nut crumble were all features of the pub’s vegan menu. Sides included onion rings and seasonal greens. 

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The pub’s owner Brendan Padfield gave top tips in curating a plant-based menu. He said: “Be careful not to reduce things to the lowest common denominator. 

“Many chain operators have caused annoyance to many vegetarians by reducing all ‘veggie’ options to vegan dishes to keep things simple and thus reduce labour cost and also wastage.  

“However, almost always this path leads to a reduction in quality for vegetarian dishes. Wastage permitting, try whenever possible (and most importantly economic) to construct vegetarian dishes separately and if an easy vegan derivative is still then possible, then so much the better.” 

Padfield’s ‘must-try’ dish from the gastropub’s veggie menu was the minestrone with summer truffle, fresh borlotti beans and salted ricotta, which he said had been met with rave reviews. 

“Small courgette balls, borlottis, Isle of Wight tomatoes, ricotta cheese with a tomato consommé topped with truffle – what is there not to love?” he added. “Great flavours and superb texture - it’s a bowl of summer goodness.” 

Peak District pub the Duncombe Arms, which placed 28 on this year’s Top 50 List, also offered a vegan menu. Guests can choose from three starters: rainbow tomato tartare with black olive and yellow pepper, chilled pea soup with toasted sourdough or pear and walnut with radicchio, Castelfranco, lettuce and apple. 

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The most important thing to consider when curating a plant-based menu giving the customer something that was good value and interesting, according head chef at the Derbyshire-based pub Jake Boyce.  

“Keep it simple, delicious and seasonal. Let mother nature sort the combination out and treat it with love,” he added. 

Gazpacho, samphire, oyster leaf and young peas and tender stem broccoli, radish and onion and caper jam were both dishes available, and diners could opt for either caramelised apple and hedgerow sorbet or vanilla poached clementine and Negroni sorbet to round off their meal. 

The chef’s plant-based menu recommendation was the pub’s roast cauliflower, hazelnut and kale, or its seaweed roasted pink fer potato, salty fingers and cultured cream. 

He said the popularity of veggie and vegan dishes had risen massively over the last few years and now accounted for around 10% of food sales. Boyce believed more pubs should invest in a vegetarian offering.  

“It’s no longer something for a specialist restaurant, it’s something for all and that’s the way forward,” he added. 

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Other gastropubs serving vegan menus included the Plough in Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire, which their website vouches is “packed full of flavoursome favourites with plant-based twists”.   

From a nourish bowl complete with pomegranate seeds, hummus and watercress, to a mezze flatbread with giant couscous, avocado and Greek-style salad, there really is something for everyone on the gastropub’s menu. 

At the Greyhound at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, a £55 seven-course vegan tasting menu is on offer. The experience starts with Secrets Farm beetroot tartare with whipped ‘cream cheese’, capers and minus 8 verjus.  

From there, guests are invited to taste dishes including shallot tarte tatin with macadamia and white onion and summer truffle with homemade cavatelli. The menu is then rounded off with blackberry and cocoa custard parfait.