Where can a gluten free vegan eat out in Kent?
If you live or work in London, you’ll find that new places that cater for dietary requirements such as gluten free and vegan are popping up all over the place. I even chatted about some of my favourite London lunching spots previously. But now that I’m not working in London regularly and am mainly based in the Kent countryside where I’m happiest, eating out has become a real challenge. I love getting creative in the kitchen but, let’s face it, what kind of foodie would I be if I only ever sampled the fruits of my own labour?!
So, having established that eating out occasionally is a bit of a necessity, what’s a Kentish country bumpkin to do for vegan and gluten free eats? You may be surprised at the number of options available…
- The Dirty Habit, Hollingbourne
This pub was one of our favourites long before going vegan. Nestled in a lovely spot for walking (although perched part way up a fairly steep hill, be warned), eating here is a real treat. We’d previously had a couple of very good meals where we’d called in advance and advised of my being a Coeliac and received really great service with dishes adapted where possible to suit my choices. Recently, however, we were driving past one mid week lunchtime with empty bellies and decided to chance our arm, expecting nothing more in response to our “gluten free, vegan” enquiry than a bowl of chips. We were both pretty much bowled over by the flourish and presentation of an entirely vegan menu. And it wasn’t even the standard hummus/falafel vegan fare frequently encountered out and about (although hummus wrap was an option): the vegan menu was very well thought out, imaginatively described and the dishes were beautifully presented. I opted for seared pineapple with coconut rice, peppers and pomegranate with a side of chunky chips. NOTE: we asked twice about whether the chips were gluten free and were told they were cooked separately – WIN!
On a splendid sunny afternoon, there’s nothing better than savouring creatively prepared vegan food out in the garden with attentive service – and that’s exactly the experience we had at the Dirty Habit.
- Wagamamas, Sevenoaks
Bit of a wild card for you here as I am all for the local independents and generally don’t love a food chain. I make an exception for Wagamama’s though. We’ve had great service in most of the branches we’ve been into (ignoring the case where @plantpoweredcyclist’s yasai samla curry got mixed up with a distinctly NOT vegan dish) and they have a strict rule that only the manager can take the order of tables where there is a dietary requirement. When we popped into the Sevenoaks branch for the first time we were absolutely thrilled with the level of attentiveness we were shown: the manager sat us down with their allergen guide, walked us through it and demonstrated how knowledgeable he was about the food preparation processes by advising on a couple of juices that I couldn’t have. If I’m feeling a little low, I find the yasai itame to be a wonderful pick me up – a hug in a bowl, if you will – and green tea on tap is always a good thing. I’d love to be able to try the samla curry myself though and was disappointed that this one can’t be adapted to be gluten free; I can only assume that they use soy sauce or wheat flour to thicken the sauce. In either case I feel like they could easily adapt their recipe with no detriment to the taste and make it more widely available to more people.
- Souper Juice, Tunbridge Wells
To be honest, every time I’ve been here it’s been after I’ve stuffed my face already elsewhere so I’ve only sampled their juices so far but if you are looking for a lovely fresh green juice, this place is fab. They do have an extensive food menu and have an entire section on their blackboard dedicated to vegan options – I’ve yet to give them the challenge of catering for a gluten free vegan! This is a really nice spot which is slightly out of the main drag and so tends not to be overly busy: ideal if you want to explain more complex dietaries.
4. Singhs, Gravesend
Sorry everyone, I was too hungry on this occasion to snap a picture for you! A fairly extensive vegan menu but you’ll need to get your server to clarify with you if the dish you want can be gluten free once you’ve selected as they don’t have a gluten free menu. It was great to be able to have a corn bread for dipping in the place of naan breads and we really enjoyed our selection of curries. This place is reasonably priced but in a bit of an odd location and looks like it could do with a little TLC. It is, however, ideally situated within easy walking distance from…
5. Vegan Antics, Gravesend
Fairly recently opened, this little cake shop/cafe keeps a wide range of treats in stock (all vegan) – from cupcakes to shortbread slices. Gluten free options are sometimes available but still a little more limited than I’d like (although, naturally it would just take me longer to decide what I want in that case). @plantpoweredcyclist loved the cakes he tried and took away a panini for later.
6. The Veg Box Cafe, Canterbury
One of my favourite spots in Canterbury. Tucked away down towards the end of a cobbled street (but conveniently situated opposite Canterbury Wholefoods – of course), this place always feels cosy, is filled with wonderful smells from the homecooked food and has a wonderful atmosphere. I love the bulk foods dispensers behind the counter and nearly always opt for whichever curry they have on special.
Everything in here is suitable for veggies, most things are vegan friendly and a large proportion of the offerings are labelled gluten free. I also love that their cups and plates etc are all eco friendly. Take a stroll along the river and watch people floating along in gondolas then pop along here to while away some time in a quiet corner.
7. The Monument, Canterbury
Lovely vegan pub, thoughtfully decked out, located a little outside of the main town but within easy walking distance. I was really pleased with the gluten free menu and how helpful the staff were. I did feed back that other oat sensitive Coeliacs might be a little disappointed if they ask what is in the gluten free desserts – as unfortunately staff were unable to determine if the desserts contained oats. After out visit I got in touch with the pub to check out their cross contamination controls:
Regarding our desserts, with the exception of the battered oreos and the jam doughnut, all of our remaining desserts are suitable for those with an allergy or intolerance to gluten. Our apple crumble sundae and both the lime and white chocolate cheesecake and the chocolate torte do however contain gluten free oats so for those with additional allergies, these should be avoided.
We train our staff to advise at the point of sale that we are not a gluten free kitchen. We do actively cook with glutenous flours to create our seitan based dishes. We do however take many steps to try and avoid any cross contamination where possible.
We have an entirely separate fryer for gluten free items (including chips), we have separate boards for prep as well as separate knives, prep locations and cooking utensils. We also have strict hand washing procedures as standard, however we ensure that whilst dealing with gluten free meals that cleanliness is paramount so avoid contamination.
Yay for separate fryers and great processes to avoid cross contamination!
8. Ponga Foods @ Drakes, Maidstone
Yes, AT LAST, there’s somewhere a little more local for us to frequent (and by frequent, I do perhaps mean “move into”). Gluten free, vegan, palm oil free and refined sugar free – and you WOULD NEVER KNOW.
Alternative Chef Steph, the founder of Ponga Foods and creator of every delicious bite served here puts many years of experience in the food industry to great use – imagining up fantastic vegan versions of everyones favourite comfort foods: from grilled cheese toasties to cheesy doughballs with pizza sauce. The menu changes regularly to maximise readily available ingredients so every dining experience is consistently a surprising delight.
Do you have any great hidden vegan and gluten free dining gems in Kent you’d like to share? I’d love a few more places to try!