The past decade has heralded in a blase of meat-free tastes and flavours across the UK, with restaurants striving to provide a new, more innovative standard of vegetarian cuisine. While tired salad wraps and halfhearted quiches are still a fixture in some places, a growing number of restaurants are dedicated to creating high-end vegetarian dishes.
We're not talking healthy soups and jacket potatoes here, but imaginative, quality fare made with flair by brilliant chefs. The kind of cuisine a true foodie would rave about, vegetarian or not. So gourmands delight, as you come take a look at the top 20 UK destinations for gourmet meat-free cuisine:
Vanilla Black, London
Head chef Andrew Dargue wants to redefine contemporary non-meat cuisine at this Chancery Lane-based gem of a restaurant. He and his team experiment with all kinds of unusual and surprising flavours to create dishes that are the very antithesis of bland and uninspiring.
Must-try dish: Goats cheese and toasted cauliflower mille feuille with golden raisin, cashew nut potato and tamarind paste.
David Bann, Edinburgh
Alchemy is at play in this wonderful Edinburgh restaurant, which conjures up a wide variety of flavours and combinations in elegant Old Town surroundings. With influences from Thailand to India, the Mediterranean and the Pacific, its food is guaranteed to wow.
Must-try dish: Chilli crêpe with griddled potato and chocolate sauce - spicy rich tomato chilli with butter beans and kidney beans wrapped in a delicate crêpe and served with guacamole, griddled potato, crème fraîche and chocolate sauce.
Amico Bio, London
This rustic neighborhood abode serves up entirely vegetarian Italian food, with a daily changing menu. Founder Pasquale Amico sources ingredients fresh from his family farm in Capua, Italy and imbues veggie, vegan and even gluten-free grub with the infectious spirit of his home country.
Must-try dish: Pumpkin squash and potato tortino with pearl barley and green beans.
Terre à Terre, Brighton
This iconic Brighton Lanes hangout has been described by ever-critical food critic AA Gill as "probably the best vegetarian restaurant in Britain… singularly and eccentrically marvellous." Running for 21 years with chefs Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor at its helm, it delivers outstanding cuisine with a mix of tantalising textures and tastes.
Must-try dish: Better Batter and Lemony Yemeni Relish - soft buttermilk soaked halloumi dipped in chip shop batter, served with vodka-spiked preserved plum tomatoes, bright fresh pea mint hash with pickled quails egg, sea salad tartar and chubby chips,finished with lemony Yemeni relish.
The Gate, London
The food at the Gate is truly scrumptious and reflects the Indo-Iraqi-Jewish origins of its owners, Adrian and Michael Daniel. It began in 1989 and is still going strong in two London locations today, blending Indian, Arabic and traditional Jewish cuisine with French and Italian influences.
Must-try dish: Wild mushroom rotolo - wild mushroom duxcelle wrapped in thyme infused potato topped with goats cheese, served on French beans, creamy cep reduction sauce and finished with deep fried leeks.
Bistro 1847, Manchester and Birmingham
Named after the year the Vegetarian Society formed, this award-winning bistro is ambitious and innovative. Head chef Alex is always developing new concepts to wow his diners with and his eclectic, modern and beautifully presented fare is well worth the visit.
Must-try dish: Celeriac gnocchi with watercress cream, toffee apple, walnut praline and wood sorrel.
Redemption Bar, London
On the face of it, Redemption, an alcohol-free gastrobar, might not sound like much fun. But there's a lot of heart to this Portobello-based newbie on the food block, which aims to let you "spoil yourself without spoiling yourself" with an array of raw foods, healthy desserts and delicious-sounding mocktails like the Beet-o-tini.
Must-try dish: Raw chocolate mousse made out of avocado, agave syrup and raw cacao, served with coconut shavings and goji berries.
Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, Bath
This outstanding meat-free restaurant can be found in the heart of Bath, in one of the city's oldest buildings (it dates back to 1622). Ingredients are sourced from local artisans and served with panache by chef Richard Buckley and his team. Food is exquisitely presented but it's also friendly and casual.
Must-try dish: Dorset Blue Vinny mousse with red wine poached figs, fig chutney, thyme shallots, local leaves and curried pecans.
One of Europe’s finest and oldest gourmet vegetarian establishments also has a branch in LA and serves up meatless versions of classic fare such as organic bangers and mash and seasonal gravy. And there's a build your own meal option for all you indecisive diners out there.
Must-try dish: Indian pizza - baked roti topped with channa masala, saag, date and tamarind chutney and cucumber raita.
Fellinis is always packed out at weekends and no wonder. A family-run business, it makes no secret of its love of veggie food done good. A fine dining menu features seasonal food with a Mediterranean twist and a changing wine list to match. There's also a cinema and live jazz music on-site atZeffirellis.
Must-try dish: Crisp baby spinach crepe filled with wild mushrooms, tarragon and melting brie served with roasted Charlotte potatoes, vegetables and a leek sauce.
Spanish tortilla with caramelised onion and red peppers is just one of the tasty delights on offer at this legendary Soho restaurant. Rustling up internationally inspired vegetarian food since 1988, as well as vegan and gluten-free grub.
Must-try dish: Smoked tofu and white bean sausages, with carrot, parsnip and potato mash, wilted kale and pear cider gravy.
The all-women team at the beloved Hansa's restaurant in Leeds have been dishing up Gujarati vegetarian home-cooking in the area since 1986. "I have modified my style of cooking to suit most palates, whilst still maintaining the distinct Gujarati taste," says founder Hansa Dabhi. "Over the years the whole atmosphere around us has changed. People have come to accept that there is life beyond meat."
Must-try dish: Maragi-nu-shak - a delightfully spicy curry made with wholesome African beans (Maragi) .
222 Veggie Vegan, London
Pumpkin and pine nut risotto and oyster mushroom and spinach raclette are just two of the many starring turns in the menu at 222 Veggie Vegan. Its lunch buffet is legendary, but better still plump for the a la carte dinner option from internationally-renown vegan chef Ben Asamani.
Must-try dish: In-house special stir-fry with either organic brown basmati rice or organic wheat-free noodles. Prepared with seasonal vegetables and your choice of seitan or marinated tofu.
222 Veggie Vegan, West Kensington, London
The Waiting Room, Stockton on Tees
This warm and friendly restaurant has been flying the flag for vegetarian cuisine in the North East since 1985 and has won multiple awards from the likes of The Vegetarian Society and The Observer Food Awards. At its heart is a series of simple yet creative dishes which never fail to please.
Must-try dish: Roast sweet potato, cashew and Applewood plait.
This South Indian restaurant has three branches in London, with food that's easy on the wallet and bursting with flavour. The chefs here are from Udupi, a small town famed for its traditional South Indian cuisine. Rest assured you will never leave here hungry and a warm welcome awaits.
Must-try dish: Bhel Puri - a crispy poori served with tender potatoes, onions and puffed rice sev mixed with sour and garlic chutney.