Places to pig out - but without the pig

This week, our expert panel reveals the 50 best places to get a top-class vegetarian meal - whether you're on your own or in carnivorous company. Nikki Spencer took notes as they revealed their meat-free recommendati ons
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The Independent Culture
10 Best Veggie Restaurants & Cafes In London 10 Best Veggie Restaurants & Cafes Outside London 10 Best Restaurants For A Special Vegetarian Meal 10 Best Restaurants For Meat-Eaters & Veggies To Dine Together In London 10 Best Restaurants For Meat-Eaters & Veggies To Dine Together Outside London

THE EXPERTS

l Alan Todd, a vegetarian for more than 15 years, is co-author of Vegetarian Britain and Vegetarian France.

TV presenter Julia Carling has been a vegetarian for 15 years. She is a regular presenter on cable channel VH1.

Gilly Cubitt is the editor of BBC Vegetarian Good Food magazine.

Interior designer and TV presenter Anne McKevitt has been a vegetarian for 22 years. Her House Sensation is published by Quadrille (pounds 19.99).

Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs stopped eating meat six years ago. Robbie Earle, captain of Wimbledon FC, has been vegetarian for five years. The story of his time with the Reggae Boyz in the World Cup, One Love, is published by Andre Deutsch (pounds 14.99).

1

FUTURES!, LONDON EC2

"Some vegetarian places tend to be a bit `hippy dippy', but this one certainly isn't," says Alan Todd. Futures! is a slick, modern and large vegetarian cafe which becomes a very lively bar in the evenings (when they serve only snacks). A great place to watch the world go by while tucking into a cooked breakfast or main courses of pan-fried artichoke hearts with red pesto and ciabatta. Futures! also runs a takeaway operation at 8 Botolph Alley in Eastcheap (0171-623 4529).

Where and when: 2 Exchange Square, London EC2 (0171-638 6341); Mon-Thur 7.30am-10pm, Fri till 11pm.

How much: breakfast pounds 4.95, main courses pounds 4.95-pounds 7.

2

GREENS, MANCHESTER

"I have to admit I do get a bit put off by some veggie restaurants," admits Julia Carling of this restaurant in Manchester. "I find the food can be a bit heavy and tasteless, but Greens is lovely." Greens caters well for vegans, who can enjoy nearly half the dishes on the modern, international menu. Treats include filo-pastry strudel with mushrooms, ricotta, spinach and tomatoes, accompanied by braised onion gravy.

Where and when: 43 Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury, Manchester (0161-434 4259); daily 5.30pm-10.30pm, Tue-Fri lunch.

How much: starters from pounds 3, main courses pounds 9.50.

3

LANESBOROUGH, LONDON SW1

"Unlike some nameless chefs who scoff at us for being sandal-wearing bean-boilers, executive chef Paul Gayler understands how to create imaginative dishes with a typically light touch that leave meat-eaters envious," says Gilly Cubitt. The Conservatory Restaurant is the place to go when you've got something to celebrate. Gilly sums it up simply as, "Top-notch food in luxurious surroundings - with prices to match."

Where and when: The Conservatory, The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1 (0171-259 5599); daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.

How much: three-course set dinner pounds 29.50.

4

MONGOLIAN BARBECUE, LONDON SW19

"Great for vegetarians because you can choose what you like and they stir-fry it in front of you," says Robbie Earle, who recommends his local Wimbledon branch. You can help yourself to 18 different varieties of vegetables, with tofu for vegetarians and three fish and five meats for carnivores. There are 13 other branches in London and four in Ireland.

Where and when: 162 The Broadway, London SW19 (0181-545 0021); daily for dinner. Other branches open for lunch (0181-947 7500 for times).

How much: all-you-can-eat stir-fry buffet for pounds 10.95.

5

THE OILY JOHNNIES, WORKINGTON

Mary Anne Hobbs describes the pub lunches here as ones "that would feed a woolly mammoth. You'll need a tractor to tow you home!" Owners Sean and Suzanne Duxbury only took over this pub, which overlooks the fells (above), last year but they've already developed a reputation for their food. There are always vegetarian dishes on the menu and they also take special requests.

Where and when: Winscales Road, Workington, Cumbria (01900 603217); every day for lunch 11.30am-2.30pm, evening 6.30pm-9.30pm.

How much: vegetarian lasagne pounds 4.50.

6

BEATROOT, LONDON W1

"Very entertaining, a bit like watching TV," says Alan Todd about sitting outside this small but lively world food cafe right in the heart of Berwick Street market. You can either eat in (or at one of the few pavement tables) or take out, selecting hot dishes such as stir-fry and shepherd's pie or salads. The food is priced according to the size of the container you use. The menu is 80 per cent vegan, with lots of vegan desserts.

Where and when: Berwick Street, London W1 (0171-437 8591); Mon-Sat 9.30am- 7pm.

How much: containers pounds 2.50, pounds 3.50 and pounds 4.50. Cakes from 90p.

FOOD FOR FRIENDS, BRIGHTON

"Most vegetarians just want to eat nice light, tasty food like they serve here, not solid stuff that's like lumps of lead," declares Anne McKevitt, who especially loves the cakes at this incredibly popular vegetarian restaurant. Dishes range from spicy pumpkin and tamarind soup and tempura satay, to mushroom and garden pea risotto. They also offer some vegan dishes.

Where and when: 17a-18 Prince Albert Street, The Lanes, Brighton (01273 202310); daily 8am-10.30pm, Sun from 9.15pm.

How much: about pounds 7.50 a head.

8

CHUTNEY MARY, LONDON SW10

"A very nice dining experience and good vegetarian choices," says Robbie Earle of this rather sumptuous award-winning Indian restaurant that recently celebrated its 10th birthday. Chutney Mary is not vegetarian, but like many Indian restaurants caters extensively for non-meat eaters with numerous starters and main courses as well as a vegetarian platter, a selection of three vegetable dishes, dhal and salad served with saffron rice for pounds 10.

Where and when: 535 King's Road, London SW10 (0171-351 3113); daily lunch, dinner, 7pm-11.30pm.

How much: two-course set dinner pounds 25-pounds 30.

9

S&M CAFE, LONDON W10

"Mushroom sausages, buttered mash and onion gravy to die for. Prepare to gain half a stone in one sitting," says Mary Anne Hobbs. This lively and friendly sausage and mash place (hence the name) does both meat and at least five veggie sausages. It's also a favourite with Gilly Cubitt, who recommends the guest beers. They always have a vegan mash infused with olive oil.

Where and when: 268 Portobello Road, London W10 (0181-968 8898); Tue- Sat 11am-10pm, Sun last orders 8pm.

How much: vegetarian sausage and mash pounds 5.

10

ROCINANTES, BRISTOL

A favourite with the Vegetarian Good Food team, this is an organic restaurant specialising in meat and fish, but it also has some good vegetarian options, with a tapas menu at the front of the restaurant and a more formal menu at the back.

Where and when: 85 Whiteladies Road, Bristol (0117-973 4482); daily for lunch (12noon-3pm) and dinner (6pm-10.30pm) with coffee and drinks in between.

How much: tapas about pounds 10-pounds 15 a head including drinks; a la carte about pounds 25 a head. VEG, LONDON SW3

Not the area you'd expect to find a thriving Chinese vegan restaurant in, but this rather grand, spacious establishment attracts everyone from Harrods' shoppers to students with its all-you-can-eat hot buffet lunch at pounds 4.99. A favourite with Alan Todd, one of Veg's avowed aims is to introduce meat eaters to a vegetarian diet - and it seems to be doing a pretty good job. The reason they serve beer is apparently to encourage these potential converts. Their imitation meat dishes are a big hit - duck made up of layers of marinated tofu and even vegetarian chicken drumsticks.

Where and when: 8 Egerton Garden Mews, London SW3 (0171-584 7007); daily 6pm-11.15pm, lunch 12noon-2.30pm.

How much: buffet lunch pounds 4.99, set meal pounds 13.50.

12

HENDERSON'S SALAD TABLE, EDINBURGH

This old established vegetarian restaurant was the place Anne McKevitt, who grew up in Thurso in Scotland, had her first proper vegetarian meal many years ago. She says it's changed a bit - they now have live jazz and folk music in the evenings - but the food is still delicious. During the day it's self-service; at night it's waitress service. Not surprisingly, they have an amazing array of 16 different salads.

Where and when: 94 Hanover Street, Edinburgh (0131-225 2131); Mon-Sat 8am-10.30pm, Wed-Sun bistro salad table 12noon-10pm, Mon-Tue 12noon-3pm.

How much: lunch about pounds 6 a head, dinner pounds 8.

13

THE GATE, LONDON W6

"This is grown-up veggie food," declares Gilly Cubitt of this light, airy and tranquil converted studio which is tucked away down a Hammersmith side street. There is a wide choice at each course, including options for vegans. "The pasta of the day is always good and huge, while there are plenty of original ideas, such as their Stonehenge of Vegetables," adds Gilly.

Where and when: 51 Queen Caroline Street, London W6 (0181-748 6932); Mon-Fri 12noon-3pm, dinner Mon-Sat 6pm-10.45pm.

How much: about pounds 20 per head with wine.

14

CAFE PACIFICO, LONDON WC2

"I can't think of a more intoxicating combination than the strawberry margaritas, salsa-dipped nachos and refried beans they do here," says Mary Anne Hobbs. Cafe Pacifico, which opened nearly two decades ago, was the first Mexican restaurant in London and over half the menu is vegetarian - or they can make it that way. They also do a children's menu with vegetarian options.

Where and when: 5 Langley Street, London WC2 (0171-379 7728); Mon-Sat 12noon-11.45pm, Sun 12noon-10.45pm.

How much: main course about pounds 18 a head, including drinks, with starter pounds 25. Children's menu pounds 2.75.

15

PATAGONIA CAFE, BOLTON

"A trendy, American-style coffee bar in the middle of Bolton which is like something out of Friends or Frazier," says Alan Todd, who adds that the staff are "lovely" and the food "wonderful". Patagonia Cafe isn't vegetarian but it does have an extensive vegetarian selection on the menu, with American club sandwiches, homemade soups and veggie chilli as well as vegan dishes.

Where and when: 116 Bradshawgate, Bolton (01204 528533); Mon-Sat 9am- 5pm, closed Sun.

How much: about pounds 5 a head.

16

FICTION, LONDON N8

An ex-bookshop (hence the name) in Crouch End (above) which Gilly Cubitt describes as "informal, friendly but professional all-veggie restaurant" with "generous portions and imaginative ideas". Typical dishes include "Good Gamekeepers' Pie" with mock duck and wood-roasted squash filled with lemon and garlic mushrooms. Licensed with a selection of organic wines and also fruit juices.

Where and when: 60 Crouch End Hill, London N8 (0181-340 3403); Tue-Sat 6.30pm-10.30pm, Sun for lunch.

How much: about pounds 15 for three courses.

17

ZOO CAFE, HULL

"A nice cafe with soups and salads," according to Alan Todd. But what makes it particularly special, he says, is the staff: "They are just lovely people with a good sense of humour and very responsive." The cafe caters for a real mixture of clientele, from students to OAPs, and features mainly vegan dishes, such as leek, chick pea and sage soup, and penne with courgettes, peppers and mushrooms. The Zoo is also popular for its deluxe hot chocolates with cream and Cadbury's Flake.

Where and when: 80b Newland Avenue, Hull, Yorkshire (01482 494352); Mon- Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-4pm.

How much: soup pounds 2, main courses pounds 4.

18

HINTLESHAM HALL, HINTLESHAM

"A country mansion with wonderful gardens and an impressive vegetarian menu," is how Alan Todd describes this luxury hotel which was formerly owned by Robert Carrier. You don't have to stay at the hotel (double rooms from pounds 115 a night) to dine in the restaurant, which offers dishes such as brochette of char-grilled vegetables with gruyere, and goats' cheese, tomato and courgette tart served with braised baby root vegetables.

Where and when: Hintlesham, Ipswich, Suffolk (01473 652334); daily 12noon- 1.30pm, 7pm-9.30pm. No Sat lunch.

How much: set lunches Mon-Sat pounds 21, Sun pounds 23, excluding drinks.

19

SABAI SABAI, LONDON W6

"Not veggie but they do offer a pretty comprehensive menu, including pad Thai, mussman and delicious red, green and yellow curries using bean curd," says Gilly Cubitt, who reveals that the BBC Vegetarian Good Food team have fond memories of a very cheery Christmas lunch at this Thai restaurant. Sabai means to relax, and Gilly says this large restaurant (80 covers) is a good choice for "larger (noisy) groups".

Where and when: 270-272 King Street, London W6 (0181-748 7363); lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily.

How much: about pounds 12 a head for three courses.

20

EST EST EST, KNUTSFORD

"I tend to eat at this Italian restaurant if I'm in the Manchester area after a game. They do good pasta with sauces, and they're also happy to do something special if you say what you want," explains Robbie Earle. David Beckham and Posh are also regular visitors, according to the manager. There are 15 branches of this upmarket pizza and pasta chain throughout the north west, including Liverpool and Manchester (01565 755191 for details).

Where and when: 81 King Street, Knutsford, Cheshire (01565 755487); Mon- Fri 10am-2.30pm and 6pm-11pm. All day Sat, Sun and Bank Holidays.

How much: about pounds 15 a head, including wine. Set menu pounds 10.

21

THE PLACE BELOW, LONDON EC2

"All-veggie restaurant offering comfort food, and warm and friendly service in the humbling surroundings of an austere crypt," is how Gilly Cubitt describes this lunchtime eating place. "They use top-quality ingredients and serve them quite simply in delicious combinations," adds Gilly, who recommends leaving room for one of their "proper puddings". The Place Below is also open all morning for breakfasts. In the summer they have tables outside - a bonus in the City.

Where and when: St Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside, London EC2 (0171-329 0789); Mon-Fri 7.30am-2.30pm, lunch 11.30am-2.30pm.

How much: about pounds 12 a head for three courses.

22

SAFFRON VEGETARIAN BISTRO, SOUTHAMPTON

"An informal, relaxed and comfortable place to sit around in the afternoon or have a snack at lunchtime," says Alan Todd. As well as catering for vegetarians and vegans, Saffron's food is all additive-free. The bistro also serves all-day veggie breakfasts, as well as homemade cakes and freshly baked scones and baguettes. Dinner features dishes such as Thai curry and Mexican vegetable platter. Licensed.

Where and when: 5 Bedford Place, Southampton, Hampshire (01703 369666); Tue-Sat lunch, Wed-Sat dinner.

How much: lunch up to pounds 5, pounds 14.95 for three-course dinner. CLIVEDEN, TAPLOW

Not somewhere Julia Carling goes regularly but on a recent visit to celebrate her birthday "they made a fantastic effort, even though I hadn't told them beforehand that I was vegetarian." She says: "I had a capuccino of porcini as a starter and it was the most delicious, exquisite taste I've ever had. The whole meal was really fabulous." Both restaurants, the more formal Waldo's and The Terrace, cater for vegetarians, but The Terrace has a separate vegetarian menu with dishes such as roasted tomato, artichoke and basil soup, and goats' cheese ravioli on onion comfit.

Where and when: Taplow, Berkshire (01628 668561); daily lunch and dinner. Waldo's Tue-Sat dinner.

How much: a la carte pounds 45, set pounds 26 a head in The Terrace; Waldo's pounds 58 three-course set menu.

24

THE BLUEBIRD, LONDON SW3

Robbie Earle reckons that most Conran restaurants are a pretty good bet for vegetarians, although Anne McKevitt is not convinced about Mezzo, which she singles out for still making vegetarians feel a bit awkward. Robbie's favourite choice is the Bluebird's pasta dishes with various sauces, such as al ceppo with Gorgonzola and rocket, although they have more than half a dozen other vegetarian dishes such as tomato tart with rocket pesto and parmesan. It's another place to check out the celebs: Madonna was in the other day, but with her new hair style it was a while before anyone recognised her.

Where and when: 350 King's Road, London SW3 (0171-559 1000); daily lunch and dinner.

How much: two-course set-menu pounds 12.75.

25

WITHIES INN, GUILDFORD

"Oddly enough, I like the idea of Sunday roast," says Julia Carling, "and here there is so much choice that there is no way you would miss the roast beef." The five or six vegetarian options include mushroom stroganoff and vegetable pancakes. The Withies Inn, which is one of the oldest inns in the south of England, is incredibly popular, so booking is essential. In summer, you can eat outside in the pub garden.

Where and when: Withies Lane, Compton, near Guildford, Surrey (01483 421158); Mon-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch only.

How much: main courses pounds 9.25-pounds 25.

26

BLAH BLAH BLAH, LONDON W12

A favourite with both Gilly Cubitt, who describes it as "a west London veggie institution", and Anne McKevitt, who says: "The food tastes beautiful and looks beautiful - and you'll have to undo a button on your trousers!" Anne often takes people here if she has a to go for lunch with someone at the nearby BBC. "They expect some posh restaurant; I take them to Goldhawk Road, which is not the nicest street, but when they taste the food they are converted." Unlicensed, but you can bring your own wine. No debit or credit cards.

Where and when: 78 Goldhawk Road, London W12 (0181-746 1337); Mon-Sat lunch 12.30pm-2.30pm, dinner 7pm-11pm.

How much: three-course lunch pounds 12, dinner pounds 16.

27

THE FEAST, TRURO

"A vegetarian restaurant and cafe with desserts that are out of this world, plus a good selection of Belgian beers," says Alan Todd. The menu is international and includes dishes such as leek croustade, numerous curries, and carrot and coriander soup. The restaurant is also open on Friday and Saturday evenings every last weekend of the month, when the food is themed around a particular country.

Where and when: 15 Kenwyn Street, Truro, Cornwall (01872 272546); Mon- Sat 10am-5pm.

How much: dish of the day pounds 3.50, soup of the day and roll pounds 2.

28

LEITH'S, LONDON W11

"It's a mainstream restaurant but they do a separate veggie menu. It's great when places do this," enthuses Anne McKevitt. Anne is particularly fond of Leith's pastry dishes. "Just because you're vegetarian doesn't mean you want thick wholemeal pastry - I hate it!" she says. A pioneer of modern British cooking, Leith's has been joined by another branch in Soho which doesn't have a separate vegetarian menu but always features a number of vegetarian dishes.

Where and when: 92 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (0171-229 4481); Tue-Fri lunch, Mon-Sat dinner. Leith's Soho, 41 Beak Street, London W1 (0171-287 2057); Mon-Sat dinner, Mon-Fri lunch.

How much: set dinners around pounds 22.50 (vegetarian), pounds 27.50 (non-vegetarian) at W11 branch.

29

ORGANIC CAFE, LONDON NW6

This cafe/restaurant in a lovely quiet street (tables outside when weather permits) has quite a reputation for its cooked organic breakfasts (not all vegetarian) which are served with its own homemade tomato ketchup. Gilly Cubitt also recommends stocking up on the homemade chutneys and chilli jam while you're there. About one-third of the main courses are vegetarian, as well as a tart of the day and a soup. They regularly hold opera and flamenco evenings, which are very popular. Licensed.

Where and when: 25 Lonsdale Road, Queen's Park, London NW6 (0171-372 1232); daily 9.30am-4pm and 7pm-10.30pm.

How much: veggie breakfast pounds 5.50, two-course dinner pounds 12.50.

30

MARRYAT, NEW MILTON

"The double-baked cheese souffle is excellent," according to Julia Carling, who visits this award-winning Hampshire hotel, health and country club with her boyfriend's family, who live nearby. The restaurant is well-known for its wild mushroom dishes (it organises an annual foray in the autumn when you head off on a hunt in the New Forest) and always has a number of vegetarian dishes on the menu, such as fine tomato and raclette cheese tart flavoured with pesto.

Where and when: Chewton Glen Hotel, New Milton, Hampshire (01425 275341); lunch Tue-Sun 12.30pm-13.45pm, dinner daily 7.30pm-9.30pm.

How much: three-course lunch pounds 23.50, three-course dinner pounds 47.50.

31

RIVERSIDE VEGETARIA, KINGSTON UPON THAMES

"Lovely food in a lovely location," according to Alan Todd, who says this restaurant on the Thames would be a good place to take a date. The restaurant has an international menu featuring about 40 dishes, from tofu teryaki and masala dosa to nutty parsnip soup. There is also a branch in Croydon, although, as Alan Todd puts it, "Same name, same menu but very different view."

Where and when: 64 High Street, Kingston upon Thames (0181-546 7992); daily 12noon-11pm. 265 High Street, Croydon, Surrey (0181-688 7998); Mon-Fri 12noon-3pm and 5.30pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12noon-11pm.

How much: three courses pounds 11, lunchtime pounds 4.95-pounds 5.95 for main courses.

32

DEMUTHS, BATH

This popular vegetarian restaurant situated in a Georgian terrace is another favourite with the BBC Vegetarian Good Food team, who like its extensive menu. Demuths serves dishes from all around the world, such as Moroccan baked tagine and "ever-so-light, multi-coloured terrine". About half of its meals are vegan. Also serves vegetarian and organic wines and beers.

Where and when: 2 North Parade Passage, off Abbey Green, Bath (01225 446059); daily 10am-10pm, except Sat 9am-11pm.

How much: lunch about pounds 7, three-course dinner pounds 16.

33

QUINCE AND MEDLAR, COCKERMOUTH

Twice winner of a Vegetarian Restaurant of the Year award and three times runner-up, this restaurant in a listed Georgian building is highly recommended by Alan Todd. "Its candle-lit, wood-panelled dining room is the perfect place for treating yourself," he says. Dishes include starters such as parsnip and apple mousse wrapped in leaf spinach, and wild mushroom and chestnut coulibiac followed by rhubarb ice-cream and homemade chocolates.

Where and when: 13 Castlegate, Cockermouth, Cumbria (01900 823 579); Tue-Sat from 7pm. Booking advisable.

How much: about pounds 15 a head, excluding wine.

34

THE IVY, LONDON WC2

"I'm big fan of potatoes," declares Julia Carling, "and the Ivy has the most fantastic chips." She's not a regular "but when I can afford it I love to come here and have a bowl of salad and chips." The bubble and squeak is another of her favourites. The Ivy usually features a number of vegetarian dishes on its a la carte menu, as well as a weekly vegetable plate (pounds 9.75) and vegan menu, but, of course, you can only sample them if you can manage to book a table - not always easy.

Where and when: 1 West Street, London WC2 (0171-836 4751); Mon-Sat 12noon-3pm, Sun 12noon-3.30pm, daily dinner 5.30pm-12m't.

How much: three-course set weekend lunch for pounds 15.50. BUTT & OYSTER, IPSWICH

"Here you don't get that poor-second-cousin feeling that you often get with veggie pub grub," says Alan Todd. "There are several options and it's very good quality and in a wonderful location," he adds. The Butt & Oyster is at the end of a single-track road next to a boatyard on the banks of the River Orwell. "When your wheels are in the water, you're there," explains the landlord. There are always three or four vegetarian dishes, including vegetable pancakes, leek and vegetable pie, and mushroom stroganoff. Very popular in the summer.

Where and when: Pin Mill, Ipswich, Suffolk (01473 780764); daily lunch 12noon-2pm, dinner 7pm-9pm.

How much: main dishes from pounds 4.95.

36

RANI, LONDON N3

"Lovely Indian food, all beautifully put together," is how Anne McKevitt describes this modern and stylish Indian vegetarian restaurant well known for its bhel pooris and tomato curries. Rani has recently expanded its Gujarati menu rather incongruously to also include Italian fresh-topped pizzas. Licensed.

Where and when: 7 Long Lane, London N3 (0181-349 4386); daily 6pm-10.30pm, Sun from 12.15pm.

How much: two-course set menu pounds 22.90 for two people, pizzas from pounds 5.50.

37

AMANDINES, DISS

"A lovely vegan and vegetarian cafe and restaurant in the town centre, a stone's throw from the old church and market place," says Alan Todd. Amandines, which has been open for 12 years, serves breakfasts and teas as well as full meals such as veggie chilli and sherpherdess pie.

Where and when: Norfolk House Yard, St Nicholas Street, Diss, Norfolk (01379 640449); Mon and Wed-Sat 10am-4pm.

How much: main courses pounds 4.50, soups such as spicy cauliflower served with organic walnut bread pounds 2.90.

38

TERRE A TERRE, BRIGHTON

Highly recommended by readers of BBC Vegetarian Good Food for its imaginative menu. And with dishes such as sushi and Thai green curry, this vegetarian restaurant is popular with both veggies and non-veggies. The restaurant has recently moved into more spacious premises, but booking is essential at weekends. (Brighton is a pretty good place to live when it comes to vegetarian food: the vegetarian charity Viva! recently published a guide with 150 entries in the town.)

Where and when: 71 East Street, Brighton (01273 729051); Tue-Sun 12noon- 10.30pm, Mon 6pm-10.30pm.

How much: starters from pounds 4.75, main courses pounds 7.75.

39

SONNY'S, LONDON SW13

"The best mash and the best risotto - and you know it's done with vegetable stock," says Julia Carling of this popular local restaurant in west London. Unfortunately, like quite a few Modern British restaurants, it only has one vegetarian starter and main course, so if that day's offering of butternut squash and parmesan risotto isn't to your liking, you're a bit stuck. Sonny's has a cafe next door which is open from 10.30am until 4pm. There is also a Sonny's in Nottingham (3 Carlton Rd, Hockley, 0115-947 3041).

Where and when: 94 Church Road, London SW13 (0181-748 0393); daily lunch and Mon-Sat dinner.

How much: pounds 50 for two, including wine, three-course Sun lunch pounds 17.50.

40

JD WEATHERSPOON'S, COUNTRYWIDE

"This pub chain seems to be making a bit of an effort with its vegetarian food," according to Alan Todd, who says that it's good to get a real choice rather than just one or two veggie options. On the menu you'll find spinach and red pepper parcel, which is supplied by Cranks, veggie burgers, nachos, and mozarella and tomato penne, as well as mushroom and potato bake, and vegetable chilli. JD Weatherspoon's currently has 306 pubs in town and city centre locations throughout the UK. It plans 80 more this year.

Where and when: Call 01923 477777 to find your local; food Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 12noon-9.30pm.

How much: main courses about pounds 4.45.

41

MILDRED'S, LONDON W1

"I love going here for a quick bite at lunchtime if I'm in Soho," says Anne McKevitt, although you won't find her here in the evenings. "I find it depressing looking at the Formica tables. When I go out at night I want to feel that I'm going out somewhere special," she explains. The menu changes everyday and depends on what's at the market, but there is always a stir-fry with satay sauce and dishes such as masa harina, a Mexican fritter. They also serve organic house wine.

Where and when: 58 Greek Street, London W1 (0171-494 1634); Mon-Sat 12noon- 11pm, Sun 12noon-5pm.

How much: three courses around pounds 10.

42

THE 13TH NOTE CAFE (& BAR), GLASGOW

"A superb vegan cafe and restaurant with a staggeringly extensive menu," says Alan Todd. Most evenings the 13th Note, which serves European and Asian foods such as cashew korma, and bruschetta and pate with oat cakes, has live music downstairs.

Where and when: 50-60 King Street, Glasgow (0141-553 1638); daily 12noon- 11.45pm, food served until 10.30pm.

How much: starters pounds 1.20-pounds 2.50, main courses such as veggie bangers and mash pounds 3.50-pounds 5.

43

RASA, LONDON W1

"This is a grown-up vegetarian place - there are no pine tables and the food is great," says Anne McKevitt, whose only complaint about this upmarket vegetarian Indian is the high price for drinks. "It really bugs me when restaurants charge pounds 2 or pounds 3 for a bottle of water," she says. Both branches are also popular with Gilly Cubbit, who loves the "interesting dishes with unusual and colourful combinations of vegetables."

Where and when: 6 Dering Street, London W1 (0171-629 1346); Mon-Sat lunch and dinner. 55 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 (0171-249 0344); Mon-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun dinner only.

How much: pounds 25 a head, pounds 15 a head in Stoke Newington branch.

44

BEN'S THAI, LONDON W9

This Thai restaurant is a firm favourite with local resident Julia Carling, who usually orders a green curry to go. "It's one of those places that doesn't actually list a vegetarian green curry on the menu but they will happily do one if you ask. They also have lots of other vegetarian dishes on the menu," she says. Not surprisingly Ben's, which always has a vegetarian curry as well as a stir-fry and a rice dish on offer, is very popular with the pub crowd.

Where and when: The Warrington, 93 Warrington Crescent, London W9 (0171-266 3134); daily 12noon-2.30pm and 6pm-11.30pm.

How much: about pounds 10 for a starter, main course and rice.

45

THE DINING ROOM, REIGATE

"This place was recommended to me," says Robbie Earle, "and it is excellent, with a good choice of vegetarian dishes. You have to book well in advance, as the chef is on Ready Steady Cook, so it's very popular." On the face of it, Tony Tobin's place doesn't offer much for vegetarians, but, if you ask, the kitchen will put together a choice of about six dishes for you, such as roasted marjoram polenta with baby vegetables and essence of carrot.

Where and when: 59a High Street, Reigate (01737 226650); Mon-Fri lunch 12noon-2pm, Mon-Sat dinner 7pm-10pm. From 14 March, open for Sun lunch.

How much: about pounds 40 a head, including wine.

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WORLD FOOD CAFE, LONDON WC2

"Wobbly chairs and willfully decadent desserts," is how Mary Anne Hobbs describes this vegetarian cafe in the veggie heartland of Neal's Yard. As the name suggests, it provides a global menu from light meals to larger meals as well as, of course, those enticing desserts. You can sit on benches overlooking the yard with its bakery and numerous shops.

Where and when: First floor, 14 Neal's Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2 (0171-379 0298); Mon-Sat 12noon-5pm.

How much: light meals pounds 5.45, bigger meals pounds 7.45.

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BANN'S VEGETARIAN CAFE, EDINBURGH

"It's modern, light and airy - and it's almost like snacking in an art gallery, as they always have exhibitions here," says Allan Todd. At least half the varied menu is vegan. Dishes range from bruschetta and chilli to veggie haggis. The cafe also does veggie breakfasts for pounds 5.95. Licensed, with organic wines and beers. In the day, it tends to serve cheaper, faster food. In the evening, it's more of a dinner menu.

Where and when: 5 Hunter Square, Edinburgh (0131-226 1112); daily 10am- 11pm.

How much: main courses pounds 8, desserts pounds 2.25.

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BAH HUMBUG, LONDON SW2

"Laid-back restaurant in a crypt which is very Bohemian," says Gilly Cubbit, who recommends the food as "colourful, hearty and filling". The house speciality is Cantonese mock duck, which is popular with vegetarians who miss the texture of meat. Good place to go with a group of friends, as after the meal you can check out the music at the Bug Bar next door. The restaurant won the Time Out 1998 Best Vegetarian Meal award, and serves a few fish dishes.

Where and when: The Crypt, St Matthew's Church, Brixton Hill, London SW2 (0171-738 3184); Mon-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12noon-11.30pm.

How much: about pounds 25 for three courses with wine.

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THE STANDARD, LONDON W2

"This was my local Indian restaurant when I first went veggie and I love it," enthuses Julia Carling. "I adore spicy food and particularly Indian food. It's always a good option when you're vegetarian." One of Julia's favourite dishes at this large (130 seats) north Indian restaurant is mattar paneer. They also do numerous vegetable side dishes, as well as curries and a vegetable thali.

Where and when: 21-23 Westbourne Grove, London W2 (0171-229 0600); daily 12noon-3pm and 6pm-12pm.

How much: about pounds 10 a head, excluding drink.

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THE INN AT WHITEWELL, WHITEWELL

"My favourite place in the UK," says Mary Anne Hobbs of this traditional inn in the Forest of Bowland which dates, in part, back to the 15th century. Mary eats fish and they have many fish dishes on the menu, as well as always offering a vegetarian option. "The setting on the edge of the Pennines is almost as glorious as the fish," says Mary. You can also stay overnight in one of the inn's 15 rooms.

Where and when: Whitewell, nr Clitheroe, Lancashire (01200 448222); daily bar lunches 12noon-2pm, dinner 7.30pm-9.30pm.

How much: three-course dinner pounds 35 a head, lunch starters pounds 3-pounds 5, lunch main courses pounds 6.50-pounds 12.50.

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