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Lunches in and out - Itsu, Leon, Gujarati Rasoi

Lunch for me is normally leftovers - cheap, cheerful, and usually better than the vegan options I can lay my hands on near the office. (What's not to enjoy about eating last night's tea out of a tupperware box while hammering away on your keyboard? Yes, everything.)

Anyway, an out of the ordinary week had me going to Itsu, the chain of Japanese places you can find in more and more postcodes across central London. They used to be all cagey about what was and wasn't vegan on their menu, and they wouldn't respond to questions on the subject, the goons.

Still, now they've smartened up their act, and they're starting to actually tell the world what's planty and what's omni on the menu (all in a PDF here). Armed with that info, I went for a mix of veggie dumpling soup and maki rolls.

The soup could have done with a few veggies - all a bit beige, no? - but I love dumplings and crystal noodles and all their work, so I was happy. The sushi wasn't half bad either, though if anyone could tell me how to eat maki rolls with dignity I'd be eternally in their debt. I mean, if you take a bite into the rice, the whole thing landslides onto your plate and then you have to pick up each speck individually. The other alternative is you try and stuff the sushi into your gob in one go, and you look like a snake doing that thing where they dislocate their jaw to swallow an egg. Tips gratefully received.

There's also a Leon in the general London Bridge area, which does some decent vegan options. They recently added some milk free shakes to their menu (vegan!) which I was, I admit it, quite excited to try. I love milk(less) shakes.

I went for banana (there's also chocolate and coffee options too), here's what I got:

(They're not skimping on portions, I just drunk a bit before I took a picture!) To my milkshake loving self, there are two things every shake should be: thick, and fairly sweet. And they shouldn't be grainy. This kind of fell down on all counts. (I'm guessing the grains were unpowdered cinnamon.)

It was OK, I might get it again if I was having a Leon lunch, but I wouldn't rush back for one.

But chain food only goes so far round London Bridge. Happily for veg*ns around and about that area, there's Gujurati Rasoi, whose presence in Borough market doubles the number of veggie food stalls (surely a missed opportunity for some veggie stalls there?!)

They're veggie rather than vegan, but the only non-vegan thing there when I visited was a bit of yoghurt - everything else was plant-based. Oh yes.

Of course, that meant I had to try everything. Three curries, rice, and a bhaji the size of a wrestler's fist. I was highly impressed.

There was a cauliflower curry, a lentil dhal, and a potato based curry too, along with the option of topping including a sharp tamarind dressing, onion, and coriander. The potato curry was particularly fine. Alas, this picture doesn't do it any justice - but trust me, it tastes so much better than it looks here (I know that's not hard!)

It's a bit on the expensive side (north of £7 with the bhaji), so not an everyday meal, but it's the best thing you'll find in Borough by a country mile.

My bought-in lunch bonanza was caused by the fact I was out of the office on a course for three days, so no cooking facilities or tables to eat at. But I wasn't just eating out last week - I did manage to bring in some of my usual stuff and find a quiet corner to trough it in. In today's autumnal sarnie section, I bring you fig, avocado, and chard wrap with toasted pumpkin seeds and chick peas, normally served with a banana and a big flask of lapsang souchong.

Maybe that tupperware lunch isn't so bad after all...

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  1. I envy all of your local options - except for the maki rolls. You can have those all to yourself. ;)

  2. The tupperware lunch looks the best and probably the cheapest. :-) I've given up trying to eat maki rolls gracefully. I usually just take it apart with the chopsticks. At least with sushi rice, it still all kinda clumps together in bite size pieces.

  3. Your wrap looks good! I've never thought of putting figs in mine but I will now when I see figs! I always prefer my homemade lunches to the vegan options out there especially if the place does not specifically say what the vegan options are and I have to ask... For the maki rolls, I do the snake thing, no other choice! lol

  4. If I had to order in my lunch I think I would be putting you in charge of it - your lunch looks so much better that the lunches you bought out - the sushi looks great - I never eat sushi elegantly so can't really advise on eating it other than to hide in a corner :-) And those curries look decent too.

  5. Your comment about the Leon drink makes me feel better about not ordering one last week! I saw them for the first time and was intrigued but didn't really want one at the time. It seems I can give them a miss, although I am really keen to get to Itsu to try out their vegan options. Sadly there isn't one near my work or home so I don't seem to find the opportunity - I'm sure it will come along eventually. Most of the time my work lunches are like yours though, and I figure it's probably for the best financially and nutritionally :)

  6. Yummy the dumpling soup & sushi both look utterly delish and what a cute banana milkshake label - I love thick and fairly sweet (not too sweet) mylkshakes, I don’t like grainy ones either. The meal at Gujurati Rasoi looks pretty hearty especially for the cold days! I remember how cold it was back in the UK during the fall! I was just reading about food/restaurants in London online and one of them was ‘Bunny Chow’, and the resturant is called ‘Bunny Chow’ and the dish is originated from South Africa and it looks crazy to eat this out of bread. Have you ever tried a vegan version of this before?

  7. I'm glad I read this before trying those Leon shakes... A friend told me he'd seen them on the menu recently but I had a sneaking suspicion they might not be thick or creamy... Glad I haven't got round to trying them yet, they sound a bit disappointing! (I'm also of the opinion shakes could be thick!)


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