London’s first vegan pub is officially open. Stylist’s Jenny Tregoning went down to check it out…
Whether you’ve adopted a fully plant-based lifestyle, are vegan-curious or among the 150,000 individuals who signed up to try Veganuary this year, the number of people giving up animal products has rocketed recently.
In response, high-street restaurant chains are clamouring to improve their vegan options, while major supermarkets are rapidly expanding their meat- and dairy-free ranges. Good news all round.
Now, a completely vegan pub has opened in Hackney. And we’re not just talking about the 100% vegan menu from street-food pioneers Club Mexicana (although there is that). The Spread Eagle, on Homerton High Street, serves only vegan wines, vegan beers and vegan cocktails. There’ll be no pork scratchings at the bar either, as all snacks are meat- and dairy-free.
Hell, even the fixtures and fittings are vegan, with original leather barstools having been specially reupholstered in cruelty-free fabric.
The brainchild of Club Mexicana founder Meriel Armitage, together with publicans Luke McLoughlin and Sherri-Lee Estabrook, the idea was to create a modern take on the traditional East End boozer. There’s a central bar to perch at, as well as table seating for 50 and a Parlour Room for private parties (complete with a neon Mexican-style shrine). Walls have been painted a deep teal, alongside mustard-coloured curtains, shelves of succulents and vintage-style bare bulbs. Nab one of the Chesterfields or cosy cocktail chairs and you could settle in for hours.
The food is certainly a big draw. Those familiar with Club Mexicana’s mind-bendingly delicious Mexican street food (served during their stint at Pamela in Dalston and regular spots at Kerb street food market in Camden and Dinerama in Shoreditch) will be pleased to see favourites such as baja tofish tacos and jackfruit carnitas on the menu.
But the new additions are where things get really interesting. Tearing apart the ‘chorizo’ quesadillas, the smoked ‘cheeze’ was as melty, stringy and messy as the real deal, while the ‘pork’ in the tacos al pastor with charred pineapple and coriander salsa had all the texture of meat, but with none of the guilt. You can even get vegan ‘scallops’ – oyster mushroom stems that have been sautéed in garlic and served with a mint salsa verde.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the MFC – that’s Mexican Fried ‘Chicken’. The chefs at Club Mexicana make their own seitan, which is battered, deep-fried and piled high in a burger bun with mustard ‘mayo’, pickled cabbage and dill – as filthy as anything Honest Burger could rustle up. My meat-eating husband honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Dessert, meanwhile, came in the form of soya ice cream, rolled in cornflakes, deep fried and served with salted caramel. Crunchy, creamy and wickedly indulgent – I could have eaten it twice over.
To go with the Mexican theme, I recommend trying a tequila sour. In place of egg white, the ingenious team at The Spread Eagle have used aquafaba, the water used to cook chickpeas, to mimic its frothing effects. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean your drink tastes of hummus – the froth is flavourless, unrecognisable from its eggy counterpart and dangerously drinkable.
Beer lovers will be right at home here, too. There’s a strong selection of 16 different craft beers on tap – from breweries including Beavertown, Five Points and Siren – plus their very own Spread Eagle Lager. And wine drinkers aren’t neglected – choose from whites, reds, rosés and even orange wine, plus a cloudy, vegan-friendly prosecco.
Indulgent vegan street food, Instagrammable interiors and all the cruelty-free wine and beer you can handle (careful now)? We’ll see you at the bar.
The Spread Eagle, 224 Homerton High Street, London, E9 6AS, is open seven days a week. Food is served Thursday to Sunday only, thespreadeaglelondon.co.uk
Images: all photography by Jade Nina Sarkhel, except close-up taco image, by Annie Morris