Eating in London and Lisbon for Vegans & Vegetarians (& Anyone Who Wants Great Tasting Healthy Food)

Cancer sucks, but taking good care of yourself doesn't have to. If I had to give up delicious food to eat right, I wouldn't do it. Because I need to avoid hormones in my food, at home it's easy to buy organic food and cook from scratch to make the tasty meals I want to eat. Traveling is trickier. The easiest way to eat right while traveling is to seek out vegan food. Here are the great places I found on my recent trip to London and Lisbon.

Vegan London

Le Pain Quotidien: A worldwide chain of organic cafes that's springing up in more and more locations. I loved eating here when in Paris and Los Angeles last year, so I was happy to find several locations around London. This is one of those restaurants where there's so much good food on the menu that I never know what to order. They serve the usual cafe foods -- salads, soups, sandwiches, quiches, pastries -- but done brilliantly. They serve fish and meat, and the numerous vegan options are noted with a V on the menu.

Dessert at Le Pain Quotidien:
Coconut milk pudding with chia & raspberry.

Vitao: Vegan food in Soho. They've got a mostly organic buffet for lunch, a more formal dinner, and green juices all day. It's a small space, so if you're at all claustrophobic, avoid peak meal times. So delicious we braved the crowds twice.

Vitao: vegan food in Soho, London.

Drummond Street: A whole street full of vegetarian Indian restaurants, all serving the traditional thali meals with a range of dishes served on a steel tray with several small steel bowls. The street is just south of Camden, not far from the British Library.

With my Le Pain Quotidien latte
in front of the British Library.

Leon: I found this cafe chain because of their tag line "Naturally Fast Food," and ate their organic porridge for breakfast almost every day I was in London. (Yes, porridge is way tastier than it sounds!)

Holland and Barrett: A health food chain with stores throughout the UK. Good for when you want a  picnic lunch instead of restaurant food.

Vegetarian Lisbon

It was easier than I thought it would be to eat vegan in Portugal! And not just in Lisbon. My first recommendation below is a little vegan restaurant in Sintra, which is a popular day trip from Lisbon because of its castles and palaces.

Soul Food: Organic vegan food in a beautiful garden at the foot of Moorish castle ruins in Sintra, just outside of Lisbon. They make veggie juices, too, but the selection depends on the vegetables they happen to have on hand that day. The food was so good that after a full lunch and juices, we lingered for a long time over home-made herbal tea and vegan chocolate cake for dessert. (What? We were hungry after hiking through castle ruins all morning.)

The Green Room: A trendy cafe with lots of great vegan options, like a black bean burger with mango and a root vegetable salad. It's in the Cais do Sodre district, just south of the central part of Lisbon, and unlike most restaurants in Lisbon, it's open all day from noon until after midnight. Most restaurants in Portugal close after lunch and don't open again until 7:30 or 8 p.m. for dinner.

Terra: Beautiful vegetarian buffet with a wide range of Portuguese foods on a winding little road in central Lisbon. (Note of warning: If you use the Happy Cow app to find this place, don't pay attention to where it's placed on the map; it's about a block away from where it's listed.)

Os Tibetanos: Vegetarian curries with vegan options noted on the menu. It's just north of the central part of Lisbon, near the Avenida metro stop where many business hotels are located. It looks small on the outside, but inside has a secret indoor garden that's absolutely beautiful. The food is good, the atmosphere great.

Natural Food Markets: Brio and Celeiro Dieta organic supermarkets are both in central Lisbon. Lots of good options for picnic lunches, and Lisbon has great public squares for picnicing.

Thank you, Happy Cow, as always, for turning me on to many of these restaurants! Not all of the restaurants above are on Happy Cow, but it's a fantastic starting point for any trip.

I posted my Paris and Prague vegetarian recommendations here in November, 2012.

Last Minute Trip to London and Lisbon

I had the opportunity to tag along on a trip to England and Portugal, so I jumped at the chance. I'm home now, jet-lagged but with lots of ideas for new mysteries to write...

Here are my top 10 highlights from the trip. I'll also be posting more photos of gargoyles and castles over at Gargoyle Girl.

1. The British Library's Murder in the Library exhibit in London. 

The A to Z of crime fiction kicked things off with Agatha Christie, and included Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, locked room impossible crime mysteries, train mysteries, the Golden Age of detective fiction, xenophobia in early mysteries, mysteries for kids, and more.

2. Ghosts and Gargoyles in Cambridge. On a day trip to Cambridge, I ran into lots of gargoyles and heard stories about Cambridge traditions including the "night climber" tradition that's been going on for centuries. Under the cover of darkness, students risk expulsion to scale the towers of university buildings and leave behind items such as a Santa hat on a spire and even a car on the rooftop.

3. After arriving in Portugal, I spent my birthday exploring the ruins of a Moorish castle outside of Lisbon! 

4. Birthday dinner at The Green Room Cafe in Lisbon

5. Great coffee. Below, a "bica" (espresso) break at Cafe A Brasileira in Lisbon, a 100-year-old cafe where writers and artists congregated in the 1920s and '30s.

6. Great food and great company. I frequented Lisbon vegetarian restaurants including Os Tibetanos and Terra, where I met up with friends who were in Lisbon at the same time, and ate at the hidden Soul Food restaurant in Sintra at the foot of the Moorish castle. (I found so many great options for vegetarians that I'm going to do a full post about them later this week.)

7. Castle Sao Jorge. High on a hill in the Alfama district of Lisbon, peacocks and cats run wild on the castle grounds. So. Many. Hills...

8. Legend of the ravens on Lisbon's coat of arms. According to legend, two ravens guarded the grave of St. Vincent and continued their vigil as his body was transported to its final resting place in Lisbon. The legend gave me the gem of an idea to begin writing a new short story.

9. Architectural details of Lisbon. Below, the remains of the Convento do Carmo, destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

10. Lastly, all the little random things I didn't plan on. I took trolleys through the hilly streets of Lisbon, found friendly people in beautiful settings, and had picnics in centuries-old squares. Not too bad for a trip without much planning to a country I'd never been to before.