November is a big month for veggies with the Vegetarian Society announcing the winners of its best independent restaurant competition. Honours went to The Dandelion & Burdock in Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire, and Middlesborough's Waiting Room, but there are a host of veggie eateries serving up exciting dishes, imaginatively presented. They are ideal for the kosher diner ready to try an alternative to traditional haimishe restaurants.
(Erskine Road, London NW3, www.manna-veg.com, 020 7722 8028)
A cut above most vegetarian establishments, the classy décor with crisp tablecloths and warm lighting are a far cry from the cheap and cheerful café interior synonymous with most vegetarian venues. Highlights on the menu include the bounteous chef salad, lentil, lemon, and herb cake with celeriac and swede mash, and wild mushroom and oregano ragoût. Definitely a cut above.
(Lexington Street, London W1, www.mildreds.co.uk, 020 7494 1634)
Just because you are in W1 does not mean you have to eat at the stodgy Hare Krishna meat-free joint off Soho Square. Instead, there is the trendy Mildred's. The cheerful venue does not take bookings so be prepared to queue. But it will be worth the wait for veggie burger and fries, mixed mushroom and ale pie and stir-fried Asian veg in sesame oil and teriyaki sauce with ginger, marinated tofu and toasted cashews. The fennel and chickpea tagine comes with date and pistachio couscous. Any hint of meat would ruin it. Desserts include warm chocolate and prune pudding with mocha sauce and vegan ice-cream; or tofu, banana, lemon and coconut cheesecake with maple syrup and soya cream.
(Parkway, Camden High Street, London NW1, www.greennote.co.uk, 020 7485 9899)
This lively new restaurant-cum-music-venue has hosted Jewish singer songwriter Jonny Berliner and Sephardi favourites Los Desterrados. But you don't have to go there for the music. Enjoy the international tapas and sharing plates that feature marinated baked tofu, spinach and feta parcels and Indian potato patties. It's not exactly haute cuisine, but the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is fun.
Eat & Two Veg
(Muswell Hill Broadway, London N10, 020 8883 4503, and Marylebone High Street, W1, www.eatandtwoveg.com, 020 7258 8595)
Creamy leek tart, Indonesian style rendang curry and spring vegetable cakes are some of the more interesting dishes on Eat & Two Veg's menu which you can enjoy in its red 1950s diner-style booths. Avoid the dry protein substitutes in the schnitzel and sausages, however. Desserts include a fabulous vegan fruit crumble with vegan ice-cream. Alternatively, just go for one of their divine smoothies or cocktails.
The Waiting Room
(Station Road, Stockton on Tees, www.the-waiting-room.co.uk, 01642 780465)
You won't see any fake-meat fare at the joint winner of the Vegetarian Society best vegetarian restaurant award. The current menu boasts warming aubergine cannelloni, pumpkin, pea and Parmesan risotto with butternut squash, and homemade lemon meringue pie or chocolate mascarpone roulade for dessert. This certainly raises the vegetarian restaurant bar and is worth the trip even if you don't live in the area.
(Kelvinhaugh Street, Glasgow, 0141 5765018)
The popular 78 is a vegan bar which serves up meat-free dishes Scottish style, like baked haggis with baby potatoes and a mustard cream sauce, and sweet potato and cabbage soup. For dessert, try the dark chocolate tort on a nutty biscuit base with cream and berries, or the crispy banana parcel with rum sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Dandelion and Burdock
(Town Hall Street, Sowerby Bridge, www.dandelionandburdock.uk.com, 01422 316000)
An entirely vegan establishment - using no animal products whatsoever - although you wouldn't necessarily notice. Enjoy herb pate and walnut bread, pea and wild mushroom risotto, and dairy-free cheesecake as you look over the Manchester-Rochdale canal in this modern, airy restaurant.
Terre a Terre
(East Street, Brighton, www.terreaterre.co.uk, 01273 729051)
No vegetarian restaurant round-up would be complete without including this gourmet meat-free heaven. Vegetarians and carnivores alike rave about this long-running establishment which was the first in the country to treat vegetarian dining like its posh meaty equivalent. Dishes include ratatouille and ebony oil served with warm tomato consommé, thyme tomato jelly and aubergine hash, finished with tomato pulp dust. Or there is fried potato rosti topped with buttered spinach, finished with cream, garlic, parsley and nutmeg. It's enough to make the most fanatical of meat freaks drool.