Vegan food has come a long way in the UK since the first vegan society was founded in 1944. Over the years, animal-loving chefs have invented new ways to combine plant-based ingredients to create delicious and filling meals. Vegan restaurants are now a staple across Yorkshire and are a great way to try something new, even if you’re just a little curious. Harrogate is no exception to this trend – the beautiful Victorian spa-town is full of great places to eat, so I was delighted to take a vegan food tour with Yorkshire Appetite.
The tour was designed around a few main concepts: Firstly, the restaurants and cafes we visited were places that our tour guide already visited regularly and appreciated. This deep familiarity with the staff and the quality of the food meant that the tour menu could be developed with the establishments to showcase the very best vegan cuisine in Harrogate. Secondly, the tour would avoid explicitly vegan restaurants as these are easier to find. Instead there was a focus on eating well at restaurants that don’t just cater to a vegan diet and might slip off the radar for most with meat-free diets. Thirdly, no meat substitutes were allowed! Now that there’s a whole range of vegan protein widely available, simply swapping out meat is a little too easy. This tour was built around creativity and the use of plant-based ingredients in interesting ways – vegetables are the star.
My journey to Harrogate was itself a treat, as I’d never taken this line on the train before. The spring sun shone across the beautiful rolling hills and I loved watching the sheep with their lambs as the train sped by. Once I arrived at the station it was just a short walk through Harrogate’s towering Victorian buildings to the first location where I met with our lovely guide Louise and the other guests. On this occasion we were all living a meat-free lifestyle, but all folks are welcome, whether they’re experienced vegan foodies or omnivores looking for new and interesting flavours.
The cuisines of many different cultures were featured during this tour which took us through 5 locations in Harrogate. First was our starter, then we walked to our first main, our second main, our dessert, and of course a delicious beer to finish off the day. I’m going to keep the exact locations secret so as to not spoil the tour, but I’ll tell you all about the wonderful food!
The first location was a Mediterranean restaurant. This was a great chance to get to know the other tour guests in an intimate and beautifully decorated restaurant. We talked about our reasons for going on the tour, and the factors that led us to a meat-free diet. Louise let us know exactly what to expect from the tour which was just as laidback and gentle as I had hoped. There was no rush between different courses – instead we took our time walking between locations in the sun and learning all about local history from our guide.
Our starter was a platter of Mediterranean treats with a vegan twist. Delicious olives and tapenade with flatbreads, authentic greek falafels filled with herbs and spices, spiced cannelini beans in a rich sauce, filo pastry folded with roasted vegetables and much more. I really enjoyed dipping into the platter and learning about the adjustments that had been made to make the recipes vegan but still authentic – Louise knew so much about food! Towards the end of the starter our British politeness did kick in a little though, with some hesitant gesticulation towards the last of the delicious spicy beans.
We stepped out into the sunlight and started towards our next location. As we walked, our guide pointed out important historical spots and some other great restaurants to visit at a later date. The first part of our main course was served at a lovely bar, decorated with colourful bunting and bright art prints.
Time for an all-time favourite – Pizza! This vegan pizza was topped with onions, peppers, olives, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of vegan cheese. The star of the show however was the incredibly light and crispy pizza crust. This was all washed down with a tart rhubarb cider, and I was a very happy camper…with 3 more locations to go!
Our second main course was a slightly longer walk away, but with Louise’s wonderful commentary and the beautiful Harrogate scenery it didn’t feel like a trek at all. We arrived at a Spanish tapas restaurant complete with a courtyard that felt right out of Andalusia, filled with families celebrating in the hot sun. Salads were a welcome sight in the heat, and we were treated to roast cauliflower covered in chopped almonds, and refreshing tomatoes dressed with vinaigrette and pomegranate seeds. The virgin cocktails were an absolute highlight too. By this time we were all starting to feel full, but naturally we still had room for dessert.
As someone who doesn’t handle dairy so well, vegan ice-cream has been a godsend. At our final location we bypassed the queue at a very popular ice cream parlour, and tasted a whole slew of different oat, soy, and coconut-based ice-creams. There were so many flavour combinations I was blown away, and completely understood why people were queueing in the heat. Take the strawberry ice-cream for example – it was made with real blended strawberries, not an artificial taste in sight! We were all invited to choose our favourites (I chose mint, please don’t judge me!) and walked through the park, snacking on our rapidly melting ice-creams and taking in the sights.
Our final location was a pub that served several delicious vegan beers. I went for a very hoppy lager-type beer to refresh me after those sweet treats. Sitting outside and mulling over all the different cuisines we had experienced together that day was delightful, and I was already planning another visit to Harrogate. Though the experience had only lasted one afternoon, I felt that I’d had a day out that was full to the brim. After my moment of relaxation, I headed back to the train station.
I would absolutely recommend this tour without hesitation. Whether you’re a committed vegan, an environmentally-conscious foodie, or an omnivore looking for hidden gems within Harrogate, this is a wonderful introduction. I left that beautiful town feeling full and happy, but already impatient to return once more and indulge in the other eateries that Louise had pointed out to us. If you want to learn more about Yorkshire’s rich history and cuisine in the company of friendly like-minded people and a fantastic guide, this experience is for you.
You can buy a gift voucher for the Vegan Food Tour of Harrogate for £55 per person. Price includes all food and drink.