City folks ordering meat-free meals have seen Norwich become one of the most vegan-friendly places in the country.

The city has long had a reputation as a go-to for vegans, with shops including the Little Shop of Vegans and spots including Tofurei and River Green, in nearby Trowse, firmly putting it on the community's map.

And a survey by retail giant Ocado, of roughly 3,500 people, found Norwich had the highest proportion of vegans, following Brighton, Stroud, Lewes and Hove.

Ocado said it had seen a 29pc increase year-on-year from 2020 to 2021 in the number of vegan alternatives bought on its site.

It backs national research which has found the pandemic has accelerated a move towards a plant-based diet.

Jenny Coupland, at Tofurei café in St Gregory's Alley in The Lanes, who also runs the brand's tofu factory in Lenwade, said more people were open to changing their diet.

"A lot of people will come in who are vegan and they will bring their vegetarian or meat-eating friends to try something new," she said.

"Some will say they can't miss out on cream or dairy but then they'll try our cakes and really like them.

"The wholesale side of things is really picking up too, more and more Norfolk businesses want vegan options," she added.

She said on Saturday they had seen a rush of shoppers queueing at their door, with people stocking up on frozen goods as they "hunker down" for the winter, with options including a roulade roast proving particularly popular.

Mrs Coupland said it was key to support local businesses which provided a range of options so diners didn't have to rely on national chains.

At Erpingham House, in Tombland, owner Loui Blake said city folk were becoming more open to trying something new.

"We have always been busy Thursday onwards but we are busier during the week now too," he said.

"We are seeing all age ranges, and we are seeing a more even ratio of male to female, where it used to be more female."

He added that while options such as burgers had previously been more popular, diners were now favouring healthier choices.

And he went on: "Interestingly, where people who came in and didn't know we were plant-based used to turn and walk out, they are now staying."

Norwich Evening News: A previous dish at Norwich's Erpingham House.A previous dish at Norwich's Erpingham House. (Image: Erpingham House)