Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Veggie ramen at Kagetsu

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Once a year the ramen chain Kagetsu produces a limited edition veggie ramen dish that is served for only a month or two. This year’s 2011 vegetarian ramen started in April, and it is delicious! As well as the ramen they have also produced a vegetarian gyoza side dish.

kagetsu veggie ramen 1

To try it visit your local Kagetsu quick before it is over. They are heavily promoting this dish right now with flags, posters and staff t-shirts. My local Kagetsu looks like this, and your local one probably looks similar.

kagetsu veggie ramen 2

To find your local one you can look at the Kagetsu ‘Shop List ’, which is all in Japanese, but if you can’t figure it out Google Translate may be of some help.

When you go in you’ll need to pay for your food and drink using one of these machines. You don’t pay the staff direct for your food.

kagetsu veggie ramen 3

Put your money in first. The machines takes coins from ¥10 and above, as well as ¥1000 notes. It doesn’t take larger notes so make sure you have enough change. On this machine the buttons for the veggie ramen and gyoza are on the second and third rows at the very left. The veggie ramen are ¥750, and the veggie gyoza are ¥300. The drink buttons are on the bottom right. It is fairly obvious from the photos on the machine. For each button you press you get a paper ticket, and when you have paid for all your food you hand the tickets to a member of staff and sit down.

They have table seating areas for groups as well as benches for people who are eating by themselves. There are various condiments on the table (soya sauce, chilli sauce, dashi, etc). If you are vegetarian make sure you don’t put the fish sauce on your food.

kagetsu veggie ramen 4

The lady in all the promotional leaflets, posters, flags and t-shirts is 未唯mie, a Japanese actress and singer. The advertising for this veggie ramen is aimed at health conscious women, rather than vegetarians. These veggie ramen dishes are much lower in fat, and higher in vegetables than traditional ramen, so the advertising pitches them as a healthier option.

After a short wait the veggie ramen and gyoza arrive. First here is a close up of the ramen. It contains about 30 different kinds vegetable! It also contains some kind of algae that is meant to be good for you. It isn’t obvious from the photo, but under all those veg are thin green noodles (the ramen). You can eat the noodles and veg with your chopsticks, and there is a spoon for the soup.

kagetsu veggie ramen 5

And here are the vegetarian gyoza. Like the ramen these are delicious. One tip – I recommend separating the gyoza when you get them otherwise they tend to stick together when they cool down.

kagetsu veggie ramen 6

Both dishes are really tasty, and it is just a shame that they don’t keep a veggie ramen dish permanently on the menu. Most people who were coming into this branch of Kagetsu seemed to be ordering this veggie dish rather than one of the usual meat ramen dishes.

Make sure you get to eat your veggie ramen before it is gone!

Ryoanji Temple and Yudofuya Restaurant in Kyoto

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Ryoanji is a famous temple in Kyoto, Japan. It is most famous for its rock garden, consisting of small white raked stones, with 15 larger rocks positioned in the gravel.

ryoanji temple kyoto 1

Just outside the garden is a model that shows the positions of the rocks. When viewed from the ground you can never see all fifteen rocks at once. Fourteen is the most that can be seen at any one time.

ryoanji temple kyoto 2

A lot of people sit and watch the garden for a few minutes before moving on.

ryoanji temple kyoto 3

ryoanji temple kyoto 4

Yudofuya vegetarian restaurant

If all that time spent looking at rocks has made you hungry, there is a traditional vegetarian restaurant in the grounds. It isn’t easy to be vegetarian in Japan, but if you are in Kyoto it is easier than in many other places due to the temple restaurants that serve vegetarian food.

It is called Yudofuya, and the main dish it serves is yudofo (which is tofu served in hot water). We didn’t have to book when we went there – we arrived before 12pm and it was fairly quiet. This was January by the way.

yudofuya vegetarian restaurant ryoanji kyoto 1

There are only three items of food on the menu, so we ordered all of them. First was the ‘vegetarian dish with yudofu’. Quite pricey at ¥3,300, but tasty. It consisted of lots of small vegetable snacks. Also pictured is the rice which cost us ¥200.

yudofuya vegetarian restaurant ryoanji kyoto 2

The third item is the ‘yudofu’. It is a big pot filled with loads of soft tofu. It cost us ¥1,500 and was very good.

yudofuya vegetarian restaurant ryoanji kyoto 3

All three dishes together are enough for two people. In the restaurant you have to sit on the tatami floor, and you get a great view of the garden out of the window.

yudofuya vegetarian restaurant ryoanji kyoto 4

The restaurant soon became busy, so you probably should arrive early.

yudofuya vegetarian restaurant ryoanji kyoto 5

Here is the menu which you can just about make out from my photo. I’ve written the text out under it. Our three dishes came to a total of ¥5,000.

yudofuya vegetarian restaurant ryoanji kyoto 6

Yu-dofu (boiled soy bean curd with vegetables): ¥1,500
Rice: ¥200
Vetetable dish with yu-dofu: ¥3,300
Beer: ¥500
Sake: ¥500
Juice (Cola, Orange, Kirin-Lemon): ¥200

There is also a note explaining that if you only order a drink there is a ¥300 cover charge. And if you want to share the Yu-dofu dish between multiple people (without ordering other dishes) they’ll charge ¥200 for each extra person to cover ‘chopsticks and spice’.

Conveyor belt sushi in Japan

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Conveyor belt sushi, known there as ‘kaiten-zushi’ (回転寿司) is a popular way of eating sushi in Japan. These photos are from one of the Hamazushi restaurants which you can find all over Japan.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 2

Above is one of the seating booths. There is a conveyor belt running by your table with many dishes rotating round. You can pick what you want off the conveyor belt.

Here is a closer view of what it looks like from your seat. Above the conveyor belt is a list of all the dishes, a touch screen for ordering items if you can’t get them off the belt, and cutlery.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 1

Below the conveyor belt are some condiments, and a hot water tap. With the hot water tap you can make yourself some free powdered tea. You need a small spoon of the green powder (it is very strong so don’t take too much), then you push your cup against the black button to get the hot water.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 5

When you enter you are given a card with your table number. You’ll need to give it back after your meal so they know which table you were sitting at.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 3

If you go at a busy time the dishes will be plentiful and fresh from the kitchen. If you go at a quite time there might not much much of a selection, and the food which is on the belt might be a bit old. It is not just sushi on the conveyor belt; you’ll also find cartons of soft drink and desserts.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 7

Don’t worry though if you can’t see what you want, as you can order anything on the menu from your own touch screen. All the dishes are numbered on the menu, so you can quickly flick through the touch screen system to select which dish you want, and how many of them you want. They will be freshly prepared for you and put onto the belt.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 4

They are put onto special ‘customer order’ plates, which have some kind of sensor in them. When the plate gets near your table, your screen will start beeping. It will even flash a photo of the dish on the touch screen in case you forgot what you ordered.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 6

It is therefore very important that when taking ‘non ordered’ food from the belt that you don’t take them off these ‘customer order’ plates. You’ll be stealing someone elses order if you do!

A quick note for vegetarians – there are some things you can eat but not very many. Most of the dishes are fish (obviously), but even some of the non-fish dishes have fish flakes, or fish dashi on them so you have to be very careful.

If you can speak some Japanese you can ask them what dishes might be safe (but don’t expect the staff to give you a quick answer). Asking whether a dish contains fish/fish sauce/dashi/sea food, etc, usually results in a confused look from the staff and them making a quick trip to the kitchen.

In a smaller sushi joint they’ll even be able to create custom orders for you if you can explain yourself. Vegetarian safe options at this restaurant included cucumber sushi, natto sushi, sweetcorn sushi, inari, and we were able to get them to custom make the aubergine sushi without the usual fish flakes.

kaiten conveyor belt sushi japan 8

All the plates are colour coded according to their price. Most main dishes were ¥100, with deserts being ¥150-¥200. They are only small though so you may get though a stack of plates. Even so these conveyor belt sushi restaurants are a pretty cheap way to get full.

Air France VLML vegetarian in flight meals

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

After booking a long haul flight with Air France I used my booking code on the ‘Manage your reservation’ section of their website to try to select vegetarian VLML meals for my flights. Their website allowed me to select a vegetarian meal for one of the flights, but not the other.

I therefore called up their customer services centre, and after managing to navigate my way through their menu system got to speak to a real person.

I asked for a VLML vegetarian mean for all my flights, and after she asked if I wanted a VGML meal, we managed to get the right VLML one booked.

The VLML code if you aren’t familiar with the airline meal codes stands for vegetarian lacto-ovo meal. It is vegetarian (no meat, no fish), and dairy products are allowed.

VLML meal 1 – Dinner

When it was time for dinner the flight attendant brought my VLML meal straight to my seat. I didn’t need to ask – and I got my meal before everyone else (I think they do this with the special meals to make sure they go to the right person).

air france vlml vegetarian in flight dinner

The main item was (I think) two rolled omelettes with tomato sauce. It was very tasty. There was also a salad with camembert cheese, an orange, apple compote, a stick of bread, and a chocolate cake. The omelette was the highlight, followed by the chocolate cake.

VLML meal 2 – Breakfast

When it was time for breakfast I again got the correct VLML meal brought straight to my seat (if you order a special meal you are probably best off sticking to your allocated seat rather than changing at the last minute). And again I got my meal before the other passengers in this section.

air france vlml vegetarian in flight breakfast

For breakfast they had given me an ordinary piece of bread, a croissant, some canned fruit, and a caramel Alpro Soya. The bread wasn’t very exciting – and the Alpro Soya was the highlight of the Air France breakfast.


In terms of getting the VLML meal orders correct Air France did a perfect job. You can’t get much better than having the right meal brought to your seat.

In terms of content, they could do a bit better. The portions were quite small and the breakfast lacked imagination – two types of bread (although as this is a French airline multiple types of bread is to be expected!). If they doubled the amount of omelette for dinner, and gave something like corn flakes as an option for breakfast, it would be a better VLML experience.

How to be a vegetarian in Japan

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Out of all the places you can visit in the world, one of the hardest for being vegetarian must be Japan. In Japan you will find it hard to find restaurants where you can get vegetarian food, and you will find your options for vegetarian food in supermarkets more limited then they will be in most other countries.

thali spice restaurant takamatsu chana masala

The Japanese vegetarian problem

The problem for vegetarians in Japan is caused largely by the Japanese love of fish. You will find fish, fish extracts, fish sauce (dashi), or other fish derivatives in all kinds of food. Most Japanese food will contain some fish, even if it does not look like a fish dish. Many restaurants serving foreign food will sneak fish into their food as well to make the taste more appealing to the Japanese.

A fishy tale

To illustrate how difficult it can be to avoid fish listen to this. I went to Tokyo and found a review of a vegetarian restaurant that sounded good on a vegi website. It was a restaurant serving tofu – a popular choice for vegis! On getting to the restaurant my friend and I thought we’d double check what was in the food. We asked in Japanese and it turned out that they put fish dashi (fish sauce) in ALL their tofu dishes :( That’s right, even a tofu restaurant which had been recommended by a well know vegetarian website turned out not to be vegetarian.

Ground up beef

There are other difficulties. The Japanese sometimes put ground up meat into their food. For example you may find that a tomato pasta dish which looks perfectly innocent actually contains ground up beef inside it. You won’t find it on the menu. You’ll only find out if you can talk to the waiting staff in Japanese.

Even bread isn’t safe. Some wholemeal breads in Japan contain Gelatin!


Another difficulty is caused by the unwillingness of Japanese restaurants to do custom orders. In most other countries, if you ask for your food to be prepared without a certain ingredient (something you have to a lot as a vegetarian) the restaurant will agree to do it.

And why shouldn’t they. If there is a pasta with bacon on the menu it is pretty easy to prepare it without the bacon isn’t it? Well not always to the Japanese. You’ll find that if you ask for a modification to be made to a dish on the menu, they will think for a moment and then say ‘muzukashii’. This is the Japanese word for ‘difficult’. This is their way of saying they can’t do it.

I don’t understand why it is so difficult not to place one of the ingredients onto a dish which has to be prepared from scratch, but if you are in Japan you have to get used to it.

That is not to say that it can’t be done. I’ve been in many restaurants that were happy – or at least willing to make changes to items on the menu. You just have to ask them politely and then explain very carefully.

So what can you eat as a vegetarian in Japan?

Your range of vegetarian options in Japan will depend on where you are in the country, how much research you have done, and whether you can communicate in Japanese.

If you don’t speak Japanese then you will be safest eating in foreign restaurants. I found that real Indian restaurants offered the best vegetarian food throughout Japan. Note that I’m talking about foreign Indian restaurants such as Nepali Indian restaurants and not the Japanese style Curry restaurants where you are unlikely to find any options.

Indian – the world’s safest vegetarian food

India is the world’s most vegetarian friendly country and this becomes obvious when you go to a real Indian restaurant. You will usually find multiple vegetarian options in an Indian restaurant. You will also find that the staff in these restaurants that are from India will often speak English. This is a double bonus for the hungry vegetarian in Japan. If the chefs are Indian then it is unlikely that any fish sauce or flakes will be put into your food.

Italian – an often safe option

After Indian restaurants the next best option is the Italian restaurant. You will usually be able to find a margarita pizza, or a tomato pasta in the menu. Sometimes you might even find a mushroom pasta. If there is no margarita pizza then you might be able to get them to remove the meat from a bacon or ham pizza.

Something a bit more authentic

Of course if you come to Japan it is nice to try something more authentic than Indian and Italian. If you want to do this however you’ll need to speak enough Japanese to explain your dietary requirements, ask what food is suitable, discuss modifications to the items on the menu, and you’ll need to understand what your waiter is saying! Or if you have a Japanese friend bring them along.

If you handle the Japanese language then you may be able to get them to make you a vegetarian okonomiyaki (a sort of savoury pancake), or a vegetarian yakisoba (fried noodles). These dishes aren’t usually vegetarian, pretty much always containing some fish dashi and fish flakes, but some restaurants may be willing to make them vegi for you. You can ask them to leave out the fish flakes, and put soy sauce in the dish instead of fish dashi – if they have soy sauce, sometimes they don’t.

Another good option is yudame or zaru udon. These types of udon are boiled in water and will be served plain. You’ll probably get a fish dipping sauce with them, but can just leave it. You can add soy sauce, tofu, and spring onions to your udon to make them taste good.

The lunch ‘set’ menu

‘Set’ lunches are very popular in Japan. Unfortunately if you are vegetarian you won’t like them! At lunch many restaurants do these set menus which offer a very limited set of choices. If you do manage to find a restaurant that does a vegetarian option, you can bet that it won’t be there on the set lunch menu. And when it comes to set lunches the Japanese are even less willing to make modifications to the food than at dinner time.

Whereas Italian restaurants can be a good choice for dinner, they may well have nothing to offer you at lunch. The one place that might have a vegetarian option for lunch will be Indian restaurants.

Katakana and Kanji

If you want to stay vegetarian you will find it very useful to learn the Japanese katakana alphabet, and selected food kanji.

Katakana is a phonetic alphabet. Each ‘letter’ makes a sound. The good thing about katakana is that it is used for imported foreign words – usually English words. That means if you can read the katakana you may be able to understand the words without having to know any Japanese vocabulary.

If an English menu isn’t available at a foreign food restaurant such as an Italian or Indian you will probably find that much of the menu is written in katakana.

Katakana isn’t difficult to learn and you should be able to learn it in a few weeks if you put your mind to it. Below is an example menu snippet, mostly written in katakana, with a few kanji thrown in too.

katakana italian menu japan

Learning selected food kanji will also help you out, both with understanding menus, and knowing which food in the supermarket or convenience store is vegi safe.

The two main ‘danger’ kanji to avoid are the ones for meat 肉, fish 魚, and a bug/insect 虫.

You will find that many types of meat, fish, and seafood words in Japanese contain these kanji.

Here are some examples of non-vegetarian foods.

牛肉 – Beef. Did you spot the meat kanji?
豚肉 – Pork.
羊 – Lamb / sheep.
鶏 / とり – Chicken / bird. Here bird is written in the hiragana phonetic alphabet rather than kanji.
蝦 – Shrimp or prawn. Look very carefully at the left half of the kanji. You should be able to spot the kanji for bug / insect (虫) in there.
海老 – Shrimp or prawn. The first kanji means ‘the sea’.

Food ordering going wrong in Japan

Here are some examples of what could go wrong when you order your food in Japan. I include them so you see just how easy it if for Japanese waiting staff to get your vegetarian order wrong.

No meat please – You get given a meal with fish. Japanese people do not usually see fish as being a type of meat.

No meat or fish please – You get seafood in your dish. Such as prawns, prawn flavouring, fish sauce, fish flakes. In Japan seafood is often seen as being different to meat or fish. Even if you say no fish they might still think that fish sauce or fish flakes are fine.

No meat, fish, or seafood – You get a dish with bacon on it! Yes I have seen this happen. How could the Japanese possibly think that bacon is not a type of meat. My theory is that it is because bacon is written as バーコン which does not contain the meat kanji. Therefore some Japanese people don’t think of meat when they think of bacon.

Research your restaurants

If you don’t do research in advance you will just have to take your chance wherever you are. If you are lucky you’ll find Italian or Indian. If you are in Japan for a long time then this will get boring. Therefore you should do research into vegetarian restaurants before you go.

Find vegetarian places that sound good, and make sure you know where the restaurant is on the map. Also make sure you know the opening days and hours, as restaurants in Japan can sometime be closed at unexpected times. The one place to research your restaurants is on Happy Cow. There you’ll find vegetarian restaurants (or at least restaurants with a few vegi options) in all Japan’s big cities. Many smaller cities will have a few vegi friendly restaurants as well.

If you should happen to be going to Takamatsu on Shikoku Island, then I have a guide to Takamatsu’s vegetarian restaurants. You’ll also find a Japan survival guide on this blog.

Vegetarian friendly restaurants in Takamatsu, Japan

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Takamatsu 高松 is a city in the Kagawa prefecture 香川県 of Shikoku Island (Japan’s 4th island). It is always hard to find vegetarian food in Japan, but it gets more difficult the more off the usual tourist trail you are.

If you should find yourself in Takamatsu (高松) here are some restaurants where you will be able to find a few vegetarian dishes. A map showing where the restaurants are is at the bottom of this post.

Thali Spice – Nepali and Indian Restaurant

Thali Spice is located in the long covered shopping arcade. The entrance is on the ground floor and the restaurant is on the floor above. As the main restaurant is upstairs you’ll have to be careful not to walk straight past it.

thali spice indian restaurant takamatsu

They serve plenty of vegetarian Indian and Nepalese cuisine including set thalis, and chana masala. They do a set lunch which is really good value for money, and if you can get one of their discount cards you’ll save even more.

The staff are always friendly, and there is a good atmosphere in the restaurant. A good place to go for a cheap lunch, or a proper filling meal.

There is also a Thali Spice counter in the food court of the Youme Town shopping centre.

Dear – Italian

There are two Dear Italian restaurants in Takamatsu. There is a small one in the Tenmaya department store, but the main larger one is in the Sunport Tower. I’m reviewing the larger Sunport Tower restaurant.

Italian cuisine in Japan isn’t as good as Indian for vegetarian options, but is still much safer than the native Japanese food! In Dear you’ll be able to get some fairly plain pizzas that are safe for you to eat. Unfortunately though all the pastas are made with chicken stock so you won’t be able to eat these (and when we asked they said they were unable to make the pastas without the stock).

dear italian restaurant takamatsu

The Sunport Tower ‘Dear’ does have an English menu but if you don’t get it then you’ll find it useful to be able to read Katakana so you can see which pizzas you can eat. They have a margarita, and a few of the other pizzas can be ordered without their meat if you can speak Japanese.

Spacca Napoli – Italian restaurant

Spacca Napoli is a Naples style Italian restaurant. It is down a small street just North from Tenmaya. A Japanese guy who trained in Naples runs the restaurant. That combined with the proper wood burning oven makes this the most authentic Italian in Takamatsu. It is not as authentic as the real thing (they use tinned mushrooms), but they do use other real Italian ingredients such as mozzarella.

spacca napoli italian restaurant takamatsu

It is very small and popular so you might have to wait to get a table but if you want a tasty pizza then this is a good bet.

For vegetarians the best thing to do is to order a plain margarita and then add extra vegetable topping to make the pizza more interesting.

Sri Balaji – South Indian

Update 27th November 2011: Sri Balaji Takamatsu has now closed.

Wherever you are in the world one of your safest bets for getting vegetarian food will always be an Indian restaurant.

Sri Balaji, located in the Sunport Symbol Tower by the harbour in Takamatsu serves genuine South Indian dishes. You will be able to find masala dosa, mutter paneer and naans amongst many other dishes.

Sri Balaji south indian restaurant takamatsu

They cook the dishes with authentic Indian spices such as curry leaves and mustard seeds – these aren’t easy to get in Japan if you are into your Indian cooking!

The food is delicious and Sri Balaji became one of my regular restaurants whilst I was in Takamatsu. If you are a regular they have a stamp card which will get you money off a meal if you get enough stamps.

Vegetable buffet restaurant

I don’t know what this place is called (it has a Japanese name that I can’t fully read), but you can easily find it above the Franc Franc to the South of the large dome which is by the Mitsukoshi department store.

vegetable restaurant above franc franc takamatsu

They do a really good (mainly vegetable) buffet for lunch, although there is also meat, fish, udon and rice as well. As well as the pre-prepared food you can also choose some raw vegetables, and they will turn them into tempura for you.

vegetable restaurant above franc franc food takamatsu

They do put fish dashi and other animal extracts in some of the vegetable dishes, so if you can speak Japanese ask one of the staff to tell you which plates are safe.


Kagawa is famous for its Sanuki udon (a bit like thick spaghetti – usually served as a soup) so it would be a shame to miss out. In the covered shopping arcade are a few udon places that do yudame. Yudame is udon served in water soup rather than fish soup as many other udon dishes are.

The udon restaurant I recommend is located in the long covered shopping street on the East side. I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the restaurant as I can’t read the Japanese but there is a photo of the front below.

udon restaurant takamatsu kagawa

This is a canteen style restaurant so you’ll need to get a tray and ask for yudame udon. You can then get other items to put on top or on the side. The marinated tofu and inari sushi (tofu pouch filled with rice) are vegetarian.

After you have paid you can add a few extra toppings such as soy sauce and spring onions for flavour.

You will get a small container of fish sauce with your Udon – just don’t use it!


Sibayo is an old fashioned looking restaurant just outside the shotengai area. It is opposite the NHK building. See the map for its precise location. You’ll need to take your shoes off before coming in, and once inside there are two vegetarian dishes that you can order for lunch. The menu is on a black board written in Katakana / Kanji, but the ones to look out for are the Mame Mame bean curry (in the photo below), and the vegetable plate. If you want the Mame Mame bean curry get there early as it can sell out quickly.

sibayo restaurant takamatsu


If you want a more authentic Japanese eating experience than Indian and Italian, then try Za-Watami. You’ll find it in the covered shopping arcade. It is one of those places where you’ll have to take your shoes off to go in – they have lockers for your shoes.

za watami restaurant takamatsu

Be warned though you may need to speak some Japanese to customise your order. Most of the food is not vegetarian! They have a pizza with bacon – if you are able to ask for it to be made without bacon (bacon nashi), and verify that the staff have properly understood you, then you’ll have a basic margarita pizza. You can also order onion rings, chips, and some vegetables, plenty for a meal.

Za-Watami is more expensive then the other options I’ve given but if you want to feel more like you are in Japan when you are eating, then give it a go.

Ramjham – Indian and Nepalese

Ramjham is located a short distance from Thali Spice just out of the West side of the covered shopping arcade. Plenty of tasty vegetarian options.

Freshness Burger

It isn’t easy to find a vegetarian burger in Japan, but at Freshness Burger in the Sunport building you can find two! It is on the floor below Dear and Sri Balaji.

freshness burger takamatsu

You can get a tofu burger, and a bean/vegetable burger. Both are good but I’d recommend the bean/vegetable burger. Order from the counter, and five minutes later they’ll bring the burger to your table. You can also order chips for the complete burger experience. This is a good place to come if you want a quick vegetarian lunch.

Takamatsu vegetarian restaurant map

Here is a map showing where in Takamatsu the restaurants are. I’ve tried to position the pins as accurately as I can but I apologise if there are slight inaccuracies.

View Takamatsu 高松: Vegetarian friendly restaurants in a larger map

You can read more about Takamatsu in my Takamatsu ‘what to do there’ guide.

Finnair vegetarian VLML in flight meals

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Recently I took two Finnair flight. One was 10 hours and one 3 hours. I wanted the vegetarian (VLML Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal) meals. It was not possible to request them when booking the flight tickets on the Finnair website so I had to phone their call centre.

I told the lady that I wanted the VLML meal. It is best to be specific and say VLML rather than ‘vegetarian’ if you want this specific meal as there are several other types of vegetarian meal available (such as VGML Vegan and AVML Asian vegetarian). She confirmed that she had requested the meals and I should shortly receive an email confirming this.

A minute later I got the email. I printed this out so I could take it on the flights as proof of my request just in case there were any problems.

Meal 1 – Flight 1

This first meal (maybe lunch but it is hard to tell when you are travelling through timezones!) was pasta, mushrooms, carrots and some kind of tomato sauce. There was also a salad, some fruit, and some lemony mushrooms. As always on these flights is a roll of white bread. It tasted pretty good for an airline meal.

finnair vegetarian vlml in-flight meal

Meal 2 – Flight 1

Dinner was gnocchi in tomato sauce (with a whole tomato as well) and broccoli which all tasted good. A slightly odd jelly and the usual bread roll finished it off.

finnair vegetarian vlml in-flight meal

Snack – Flight 2

The snack on my second flight was falafel in rice, with some kind of tomato sauce. A bread roll and a boiled sweet was given as well. I noticed that this meal was both VLML and VGML – meaning it was vegan.

finnair vegetarian vlml in-flight meal

General experience

Over the past year I’ve had 6 vegetarian VLML meals on Finnair flights (all economy BTW). On 5 of those meals the VLML meals was brought to me without them having to remind them. They obviously have a record of which seats have ordered the special meals (if you stick in your allocated seat you are more likely to get your requested meal). On just one of the flights did I need to remind them that I had ordered the VLML meal.

The quality of the meals is pretty good for an economy airline meal. It was easy to order the meals over the phone – but it would have been even easier if the option was integrated into their ticket booking system.

Best Vegetarian restaurants in London

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Here is a list of my favourite places in London to get Vegetarian food. The first group are actual vegetarian restaurants. The second group are restaurants that just happen to have good vegetarian options. They are presented in no particular order.

Vegetarian restaurants


Tibits is a vegetarian buffet restaurant that started in Switzerland and has now come over to London. They have both hot and cold food. The food is of very high quality. They have pastas, lasagnes, vegetables and salads.

When you go in you get a plate and fill it up with whatever you want. At the till they weigh the plate and you simply pay for the mass of food that you have bought. You get a bread roll with your food as well.

Price: About £10 for a plate depending on the weight of the food
Address: 12-14 Heddon Street, off Regent Street, London, W1B 4DA


Sagar Restaurant

Sagar is a restaurant serving vegetarian Indian food. There is one in Hammersmith and this one in central London. You can get food such as dosa and thalis. There is a range of deserts and drinks such as lassi.

The interior is clean and the food is tasty.

Price: Less than £10
Address: 17a Percy Street, London W1T 1DU

Red Veg – Sadly closed now :(

A lot of vegetarian restaurants can have a bit of a ‘hippy’ atmosphere with pan pipe music and many plants inside. It is nice to have something different in the form of Red Veg. It is a fast food outlet which serves burgers, hot dogs, wraps and chips. It is very tiny – there are a few seats but not enough to guarantee you a seat. This is more a place to buy fast food to take out.

Update: Since I originally wrote this Red Veg has closed. But check out their website for the location of their Brighton location.
Price: Less than £10
Address: 95 Dean Street, London, W1D 3TB

red veg


Maoz is a falafel restaurant. They’ll make your falafel to order and they have a wide range of salad to eat. They have side orders such as chips. You can either eat in or take out.

A good option if you want some quick vegetarian food.

Price: Less than £10
Address: 43 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 6HG

maoz vegetarian


Mildreds is a great vegetarian restaurant in Soho. You can get pasta, tofu, burgers and a tofu stir fry. On the day I went I had a mushroom and ale pie! They have a selection of deserts including a tofu cheese cake.

Mildreds also run a cake shop on the same road at number 53 called Mrs Marengo’s.

Price: £10-£15
Address: 45 Lexington Street, London, W1F 9AN

mildreds inside

Woodlands Restaurant

Woodlands is a smart looking vegetarian restaurant near to Leicester Square. They have the usual vegetarian options of dosa, thali, and rice dishes.

Price: £10
Address: 37 Panton Street, London, SW1Y 4EA

woodlands restaurant

Sakonis Vegetarian Restaurant

The restaurants above are all in the West end of London. Sakonis is a lot further out in Harrow, but if you want very cheap authentic vegetarian Indian food then it is worth a visit. At lunch times they do a great buffet with dosas, chill paneer, bhel poori, and a variety of curries. You can eat as much as you like. Plain and strawberry ice cream is included in the price.

Price: Less than £10
Address: 5-8 Dominion Parade, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2TR

Standard restaurants with good Vegetarian options

Pizza Express

Pizza Express is a big chain and is a safe bet if you want a tasy pizza or pasta. There is a good selection of meat free dishes here. The funghi, margarita and giardiniera pizzas are of course vegi, but if you want something different you can ask them to put whatever vegetable toppings you like onto your pizza. Just don’t let them put parmesan cheese on your pizza as this is made with animal rennet.

Price: £10-£15
Address: 7-9 Charlotte Street Marylebone, London, W1T 1RG

Thai Cottage

Thai Cottage is a small Thai restaurant in Soho with a family feel. They have many tasty and sometimes quite spicy Thai dishes. I particuarly like their stir fried tofu. A vegetarian green curry is also available.

Price: £10
Address: 34 D’arblay St, London, W1F 8EX

thai cottage


Nandos is a chain and their restaurants are all over London. They are known as being a chicken restaurant but don’t let this put you off. They have a number of very tasty vegetarian options (which can be as spicy or not depending on which marinade you order).

When you arrive you are allocated a table number, you then order from the till and sit down. Your food will be brought to you. Good vegi options include the veggie, bean or portobello bugers and the pittas which are especially tasty with the spicy marinade. On the side you can order peri peri chips, salad, rice and corn on the cob.

Price: £10 each
Address: 57-59 Goodge Street, London, W1T 1TH

Thai Square

There are many Thai Square restaurants around London but the best one is in Trafalgar Square.

If you are looking for a ‘posh’ looking restaurant with good vegetarian options you may find it difficult. There are countless expensive restaurants in London but most of the pricier ones have really bad vegetarian options. Often they have a token option such as spaghetti pomodoro – hardly very imaginative. The Thai Square in Trafalgar Square fills a niche here. The decor inside is nice enough to take a vegetarian on a special occasion, and there are many good vegetarian options.

Price: £20 each
Address: 21-24 Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, London, SW1Y 5BL


This is a map of all the central London restaurants (only Sakonis which is in Harrow is excluded!). Fully vegetarian restaurants are shown in green and other restaurants with good vegetarian options are shown in yellow.

View Best Vegetarian restaurants in London in a larger map

Other tips

If you are going to a Thai or Chineese restaurant watch out for restaurants putting fish or oyster sauce on your food. Ask for no oyster sauce but you can tell them that soy sauce is fine.

Realistically if you go to a restaurant that also serves meat there is a good chance that there may be a small amount of contamination from shared food utensils or shared grills. The situation here in London is much better than in other European cities. If the idea of any potential mixing of utensils is too much for you then you are better off sticking with pure vegetarian restaurants.