UPDATE: since writing this post in 2014, several pub chains have made a concerted effort to put vegan dishes on the menu, so make sure you visit their websites to see what’s on offer.
Big pub chains are notoriously unfriendly to vegans, so there’s not much excuse for us to visit them. However, you may find yourself having to visit one from time to time, whether that is due to not having other restaurants around or being outnumbered by friends who want a cheap meal out.
Because of this, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the big chains and explore what vegan options are available to you, should you find yourself visiting one in the future.
Yates is a pub that I’ve visited personally quite a few times, as it’s a favorite among my friends on football days for being cheap and conveniently located. My personal experience is that they are terrible for vegetarians, let alone vegans. Looking at the allergy information on the website, there are only a handful of vegan items available at the moment. These include: long grain rice, naan, poppadoms, mango chutney, bombay aloo potatoes, aloo palak, side salad and bread sticks. What I found interesting was that the chips, breaded mushrooms, samosas, bhajis and spiral fries are considered vegan until cooked in oil, and then they’re not considered suitable any more. I suppose that’s because other meat dishes are cooked in the same fryer?
JD Wetherspoons is slightly friendlier to vegans, and they even have an option on the website which allows you to “choose your menu.” For example, you can tick vegetarian and gluten-free, and find what dishes are suitable to your needs. You can even print it out to bring with you so you don’t forget which items you can consume. Unfortunately, while they do make it easy to find vegan dishes, there aren’t very many choices. At the moment, vegan items on the menu include a freedom salad (Giant couscous, carrot, chickpeas, soya beans, peppers, lentils, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, mint, rocket and balsamic vinaigrette dressing), jacket potato with beans, side salad without creamy dressing, onion bhajis, vegetable samosas and Sweet potato, chickpea & spinach curry with extra poppadums (instead of naan bread).
I’ve written about my local Vintage Inn on a previous post (see The Badger’s Sett) and how very un-vegan friendly it is. Unfortunately, each pub has a slightly different menu which changes seasonally, so you’ll have to visit the page for your local Vintage Inn pub to see what is suitable for vegans. Even then, they don’t supply allergy info so you’ll have to ask at the pub or try contacting them beforehand to find out what dishes are vegan or can be made vegan. All in all, they’re ok if you’re vegetarian (quite nice, actually), but terrible if you’re vegan.
The Slug and Lettuce
I haven’t actually eaten at a Slug and Lettuce, so can’t give you a personal view. However, they do have allergy information online showing vegan-friendly dishes. These include: dry coleslaw, giant potato wedges, sticky bbq sauce, Frank’s hot sauce, fries, salad mix for garnishes, breaded mushrooms, mixed olives, red pepper tapenade, veggie skewers without the cheese or pesto (avocado and pepper), mushrooms, hash browns, toast, guacamole, French dressing, chapatis, hummus, penne arrabbiata (without the bread), chips, mixed side salad and sweet potato salad.
The Hungry Horse website posts a gluten-free menu but unfortunately not a vegan/vegetarian one, so once again we have to scroll through the allergy information PDF to find out the vegan-suitable dishes. These include: baked beans, garlic ciabatta, flat mushrooms, dressed side salad, onion rings, chips, hash brown bites, twister fries, chip shop curry, smokey bean chilli, sizzling vegetable skewers, tandoori vegetable masala, poppadoms with mango chutney, onion bhajis, roast potatoes and baked beans. Vegan sauces include: BBQ Sauce, habanero, ASCO Chipotle & Cola, piri piri and Bombay bad boy.
I also had a look at a few other pubs including Toby Carvery, Harvester, Sizzling Pubs, Scream Pubs and O’Neills. Each website had menus available online showing the vegetarian items, but did not have allergy information sheets so I was not able to clearly identify vegan dishes.
What has been your experience eating at big chain pubs as a vegetarian or vegan? Are there any other pubs you think should be included in the list?