How vegans have more choice than ever in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 11:30 15 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:56 17 December 2018
This year the start of advent was marred for Norwich vegans by the news that popular market stall Bia Vegan Diner was moving on, forced out by the growing appetite for vegan food in Norwich.
Founders Cheryl Mullenger and Michelle McCabe are hoping to meet strong new demand by upgrading to an indoor premises.
Miss Mullenger said: “The market is not a big enough place to have two businesses doing the same thing so we want to have a more self-contained place where the customers will have a greater menu.”
With its strong farming culture, many would not expect a strong vegan movement in Norfolk, yet the county has seen a surge of activity in the last few years, mostly centred around Norwich.
The city is home to an ever-expanding variety of vegan eateries, from restaurants such as Vegan Wok, Erpingham House, and The Tipsy Vegan, to Little Shop of Vegans on Magdalene Street.
David Harriman, a vegan nurse living in Costessey, said: “It’s impossible to starve in Norwich if you’re vegan. There’s so much choice now.
“Someone said to me that Norwich is the vegan capital of the country. You’d think it would be a trendy place like London, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it was here. They should put up a sign coming into Norwich saying ‘Vegan Capital of the UK’ in my opinion.”
The Vegan Society member was converted to vegetarianism in the early 1980s while working as a driver at an abattoir, before moving on to veganism in 1992.
He said: “It’s so much easier now to be vegan. In the 1990s there was only really Holland and Barrett, and some whole food shops that seem a bit primitive compared to what we have now.
“Now being vegan is such a massive thing, it’s a social explosion, just brilliant.”
Despite not having the variety of eateries as the city, life is improving for vegans in Norfolk’s towns as well.
West Norfolk Vegans member Diane Westwood, from Snettisham, said: “I actually find it really easy. The local supermarkets are great. We can buy vegan ice cream on the prom at Hunstanton and we have a vegan menu at the Old Boathouse cafe at Old Hunstanton which is where we hold the West Norfolk Vegans get-togethers.
“Most of the cafes have plant milks and we don’t bother using the ones that don’t. I’m really impressed.”
Megan Borrman, a 23-year-old from Sheringham, said: “I thought moving from Brighton would be a difficult transition regarding my vegan diet and politics, however I’ve found that even the small town I live in has a whole multitude of either specifically plant-based establishments, or, if not, plant-based options available on menus.
“However, there is still a long way to go - for a lot of us falafels just don’t cut it anymore.”
One cafe, located in Diss near the Suffolk border, has been serving up exclusively meat-free food since 1987 to customers of all dietary persuasions, and is expanding more into vegan food.
Amelia Klieser, owner of Amandines for six years, said the secret to its mainstream success is simply focusing on the quality of the dishes.
She said: “It’s gradually got busier and busier, I think because there’s a growing trend for vegan, vegetarian, and generally healthier eating.
“For us it’s all about good food. People love fresh but hearty food - often men are dragged in by their partners and clearly don’t really want to be here but afterwards they just go mad and think it’s fantastic.
“We are a daytime restaurant and in Diss, so we have a lot of elderly people who enjoy traditional things, like crumbles and steamed puddings, which I love cooking.”
“Gradually people who only had a jacket potato now try all sorts of things, because they trust it’s good quality. Just let people enjoy the food for what it is, not its label.”