Why Veggie Pret is Britain’s most important restaurant
A year after opening in Soho, Pret a Manger's meat-free meals are challenging the curse of the factory food era - and the vegan brownies are a smash hit!
23 May, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
Pret’s vegan mac and greens
THIS is the future – bravo Pret!” reads a handwritten note, framed in green on the wall. This branch of Pret a Manger in Soho is Britain’s most important restaurant.
Why? Because it marks the moment when meat-free meals went mainstream – offering hope for the future of our planet.
Veggie Pret in Broadwick Street opened last June. Bosses expected sales to plunge 30 per cent and for this pilot project to last just a month. But to everyone’s surprise, sales rose 70 per cent.
Veggie Pret is now a permanent fixture for the company, with a second branch already trading in Shoreditch.
I eat meat, but this is fantastic news – especially during National Vegetarian Week, which runs until May 21. Reducing the amount of meat that we eat is a simple, achievable way of helping the environment and reducing global warming. The UN says that going meat- and dairy-free is the single most important step we can take. Animal welfare is another key consideration.
I popped into Veggie Pret for lunch. It looks much the same as other branches, although the signage and cutlery are now green. Gone is the bestselling chicken Caesar and bacon baguette. You won’t find the ham, cheese, tomato and bacon croissant – my particular guilty pleasure. Instead, the menu offers a mixture of vegetarian and vegan (no dairy) options. Some are familiar; others more experimental.
Those clever little pots hog the top shelf: a poached egg with avocado and spinach; Asian greens with sesame seeds – you know the drill.
I chose badly. The famous Courgetti is a tangle of spiralised courgettes with red pepper, mint, parsley, pinenuts and yoghurt. Straight from the fridge, flavours are chilled and muted.
All the salads look ravishing, starring ingredients such as turmeric cauliflower, pickled cabbage and red quinoa.
In the hot section, vegan macaroni cheese had (temporarily) sold out, leaving only cheesy rivals.
Wraps and tortillas jostle with sandwiches and baguettes. One vegan creation boasts chakalaka beans with dairy-free coconut yoghurt.
I craved cheese, choosing a satisfying toasted wrap with avocado, refried beans, mature cheddar, chipotle ketchup and fresh coriander.
Their vegan brownie is a smash hit. At first sight, it looks flat and low-rise. A thin layer of salted caramel oozes oddly from the middle. But flavour is intense and moreish – I nibbled on mine all afternoon.
Coffees can be ordered with frothed almond milk. I tried a warming special of a chai-style drink infused with golden turmeric.
Another unique line is kombucha, a delicately fizzy and fermented green tea with a subtle hit of lemon and ginger.
Back on the feedback wall, I read another note: “Thank you for supporting the vegan gods”.
Yet more than 50 per cent of customers at Veggie Pret are regular meat eaters, just like me. This is the crucial demographic. Realistically, not everyone wants to go veggie or vegan. But we must cut down on the mindless, everyday consumption of cheap meat – the curse of the factory food era.
35 Broadwick St, W1F
020 7932 5274