Back when I first turned vegetarian in 2008, dining out often required a fair bit of planning. The token vegetarian option at most restaurants usually included two of my most detested ingredients: mushrooms or goat cheese (or on some disastrous occasions, both). So the majority of the time I tended to stick to Italian places — you can never go wrong with pizza or pasta. Once in a blue moon, I’d come across an exclusively veggie or vegan restaurant, and it blew my mind. But over the past few years, meat-free diets have exploded in popularity. 7% of the UK population are now vegan, and 14% are vegetarian — that means that almost a quarter of the UK is following a meat free diet!
So it’s no surprise that the number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants has skyrocketed in the past few years. If you’re looking for some of the best meat-free eateries in the UK, Newcastle is the place for you. There are so many great places for veggies and vegans in the area, choosing where to go first can feel impossible! To make things easier, I’ve narrowed my extensive list down to five of the very best veggie and vegan restaurants in Newcastle for you to check out.
Shoe Tree Café
I didn’t discover this vegan paradise until last year, and I can’t believe it wasn’t a part of my life sooner. Located just minutes away from the gorgeous Heaton Park, it’s the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat after a Sunday morning stroll. If anyone you know claims that a vegan diet is full of boring, ‘rabbit’ food, Shoe Tree Cafe is the first place you should bring them. The menu is full of mouth-watering vegan comfort food, from burgers to pancakes to nachos. My go-to dish is hands-down the breakfast burrito. It’s filling, delicious, and the perfect way to start the day. I’d even go as far as to say that Shoe Tree Cafes’ vegan sausages are the best I’ve ever tasted.
As if the amazing food wasn’t enough to tempt you, in non-COVID times the café has a fantastic range of events on offer. Just a handful of previous events include life drawing, live gigs and photography exhibits. The events are great fun, and reasonably priced, so make sure to check them out when the café re-opens.
Shoe Tree Café: 150 Heaton Park Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5NR.
Sky Apple Café
Since opening its doors in 2002, Sky Apple Cafe has been the go-to place for vegetarians and vegans in the city. Dining here is an experience in itself — the sky blue walls are dotted with white fluffy clouds, making you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s light, bright, and beautiful — the perfect place to enjoy a delicious lunch.
I’ve sampled much of the lunch menu, and I’m yet to find something that isn’t absolutely delicious. The volcano is by far the most popular dish — a fried tortilla in the shape of a volcano, smothered in salsa and sour cream and filled with beans, melted mozzarella and sweet potato. There’s plenty of vegan dishes available too, including the chilli cheezburger and the refried beans quesadilla.
As well as the daily lunchtime menu, the café often opens in the evening, with a menu offering three course meals for a very reasonable price. And make sure to stop by on one of their chippie nights, to sample some mouth-watering deep fried halloumi or tofu ‘fish’. Even meat eaters would find it hard to find fault with these delicious dishes.
Sky Apple Café: 182 Heaton Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5HP
When eating out as a veggie or vegan, it can be hard to find food that’s both nutritious and delicious. It always seems to be bland salads or big, messy burgers and nothing in between. This is why I love Little Green so much — they don’t sacrifice taste for health. This is probably because the café is owned by a professional nutritionist, who clearly knows how to make healthy food taste rich and flavoursome.
The restaurant offers an amazing range of comfort food, such as their fabulous selection of stone-baked, hand stretched pizzas that taste like they’ve come straight from Italy. But they also offer a range of more hearty and warming dishes, such as the Little Green curry and the always scrumptious soup of the day. If you pay them a visit, make sure to do so on a Sunday so you can give their Sunday lunch menu a try — the mince and dumplings are a particular highlight.
And just like Shoe Tree, the restaurant hosts a number of events, including film screenings, talks from registered nutritionists and workshops on how to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. The restaurant also sells a range of eco-friendly household products and cruelty-free makeup, so don’t forget to check them out.
Little Green: 83-89 Goldspink Ln, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 1NQ
Try to scroll through Vegano’s Instagram profile without your stomach rumbling, I dare you. It’s one of those places that leaves you thinking ‘surely all this stuff can’t be vegan?’ But it is, and it’s so, so good! It’s the perfect place to take that friend who refuses to acknowledge just how tasty vegan food can be. There’s not a single dish in the restaurant that I wouldn’t want to try, and I’m making it my mission to get through the entire menu.
The thing that customers praise the most is the mouth-watering selection of Italian food. The pizzas look and taste so authentic, and the flavours are ones that vegans couldn’t find anywhere else. They’re all delicious, but if you’re stuck for choice make sure to try the Nduja, it can’t be beat. Vegano also offer a great selection of burgers, and some of the tastiest kebabs you’ll ever have, vegan or not. With the perfect location of right in the city centre, Vegano is a restaurant that you can’t not try out.
Vegano: 33a Blandford Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4HZ
I was thinking of keeping this list for cafes and restaurants that were exclusively vegan or vegetarian, but to leave out Butterfly Cabinet would be doing it a disservice. This café is easily one of the most popular in Newcastle, with queues regularly stretching outside the door. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure to eat there, you’ll know exactly why. The quality of the food is unbeatable, the menu is incredibly vast, and the portions are absolutely huge — seriously, come with a big appetite!
The café is famous for its fantastic breakfasts. As well as offering the usual full English and various egg dishes, it also offers some new and exciting alternatives, such as the vegan chilli breakfast wrap. And of course, you can’t go to Butterfly Cabinet without trying the pancakes. In true American style, they’re incredibly fluffy, super filling and absolutely delicious. They come in a range of flavours, so you’re sure to find one that you absolutely love.
As tasty as the breakfast menu is, the lunch menu is even more impressive. If you’re a bean burger fan, it’s just the place for you as there’s a huge selection available, including the BBQ burger, the fajita burger and the blue burger. If like me, you prefer meat replacement, you certainly won’t be short of options. The fakey bacon is a key ingredient to many of the veggie and vegan sandwiches, and it’s absolutely delicious. For a real treat, try the veggie thanksgiving sandwich — it comes with your choice of white or granary bread, fakey bacon, Quorn sausage, veggie stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayonnaise. It’s hands down one of my favourite sandwiches, and well worth waiting in the queue out of the door for.
Butterfly Cabinet: 200 Heaton Road, Newcastle, NE65HP
What’s your favourite vegetarian or vegan restaurant in Newcastle? Let me know in the comments below!