Vegetarian food was never really synonymous with fine dining, but today a new generation of sleek, modern restaurants offering meat-free fine food is banishing the sector’s former reputation.
The number of high-end vegetarian eateries is rising fast, despite the recession, prompted by culinary innovation by leading chefs, interest in healthy lifestyles and a growing belief that carnivorous cuisine is bad for the environment.
And the majority of the food enthusiasts are the increasing number of meat-eaters who are now consuming less flesh – so-called “meat-reducers” – and not the estimated 5 million Britons who are wholly or partly vegetarian.
There are now 30 top-range vegetarian restaurants, up by 50% since 2007, according to Alex Bourke, founder and compiler of the Vegetarian Guides to meat-free eating in Britain.
“Vegetarian couples do not want a special date marred by the sight of foie gras on the menu nor the aroma of roast lamb wafting from the next table,” said Bourke. “And ethical veggies often are not comfortable using plates and cutlery that have been used for meat, or having to witness the next table tucking into roast beef. There are no such problems at gourmet vegetarian restaurants.”