Chain cafes…which is the best for veggies?
Here at Veg Rev we like to weigh up the best places to shop, eat and grab a coffee for fellow veggies out there. The big chain phenomenon has taken over the UK high-street – on pretty much every corner you will see a Starbucks, Nero, Costa or Pret a Manger. They’re not just a glamorous watering hole or designer coffee heaven, but they also offer a range of paninis, wraps and soups for hungry consumers! But which of these big shots caters for veggies the best? Read on for more…
Serves good coffee which is always nice and strong (but sometimes too luke warm – does anyone else experience this?). The food offered for veggies is pretty standard – the mandatory mozzarella, basil and tomato panini, a tomato & basil soup, mature cheddar & pickle sandwich, three cheese and tomato tostati, as well as a falafel wrap (yay!), and sometimes a calzone thing, but that’s about it. Of course, there are a range of pastries and muffins to choose from (but we’re lacto-veggies, so no eggs I’m afraid). I mean, it’s not bad but it’s not great – it lacks creativity when vegetarianism really is in vogue. There is a whole world of sandwiches out there for vegetarians just waiting to be discovered. In my humble opinion, the mozzarella, tomato and basil thing is overdone by now. Overall, most of the selections provided by Nero are bread and cheese based – not the best place for calorie counters!
Value for money: 3/5
Veggy selection: 2/5 (you have to love cheese and carbs)
I’ve always found Costa slightly too mainstream and a bit clinical inside. But that aside, the coffee is ok (rather milky at times) but the food is pretty much like Nero’s: limited. I find it too bread and cheese based – as if that’s all veggies eat. They offer a caramelised onion and goat’s cheese panini, a mozzarella, tomato and basil panini, some toast with marmite for breakfast (whey!), including a range of other toast and spreads, and a cheddar ploughman’s roll. As far as salads goes, there’s a feta & sunblush tomato salad and not much else in the way of vegetarian choices. I’m not here to whine and moan about stuff because let’s face it; veggies have come a long way in a short space of time. However, Costa just doesn’t really offer enough variety for the green eaters when compared to its competition. It Costa lots and isn’t really that delicious.
Value for money: 2.5/5
Veggy selection: 2/5 (just not enough!)
Possibly the origin of chain coffee houses and a huge success I might add! But how does it stack up to the Veg Revvers? Well, not bad, not bad at all. Starbucks is trying to go the extra mile, or push a new frontier – they offer ‘bistro boxes’, an attempt at healthy, wholesome and luxury lunches. They offer a veggy ‘Falafel Mezze’ bistro box which gives you Chickpea Falafel with bulgur wheat, chickpea parsley and mint tabbouleh, Kalamata olives, suntouched tomatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, pitta bread and tzatziki. Next up is a Cheese & Oatcake bistro box, which includes all the ingredients of an English cheeseboard… French Brie, Croxton Manor™ Mature Cheddar and Cropwell Bishop Stilton cheeses with oat cakes, grapes, apples slices and caramelised red onion chutney. Pretty good for a glorified lunch box? We thought so too. Next onto the wraps…for veggies there’s a bean burrito wrap, Italian mozzarella, tomato and olives and finally a caramelised onion and brie combo. The sandwiches are a bit of a let-down – only free range egg mayo (which us lacto-veggies don’t eat!).
Value for money: 3.5/5
Veggy selection: 3.8/5 (much better than the above!)
The Veg Revvers like Prett – they cater for vegans and veggies, while providing a large variety of healthy lunches. They always offer a decent veggy soup, with a selection of: cauliflower cheese soup, sweet potato, sour cream & chilli soup and a smoky root veg and bean soup and more (yes, more). There will always be 3 soups on offer (and always a veggy option, so a big thumbs up to Pret!). Onto their hot stuff – Pret provide a falafel & halloumi wrap and an Italian mozzarella and pesto toastie (but once again, not an option for lacto-veggies). For sandwiches they have on selection a new brie, tomato and basil baguette, a mature cheddar and apple bloomer (yummy) and the Chef’s special Mediterranean bloomer (packed with rocket, sunblush tomatoes, olives, rocket, mozzarella and a yoghurt dressing- which I adore!), as well as Mature Cheddar & Pret Pickle, Mature Cheddar & Tomato Chutney Bloomer, Moroccan falafel & humous, as well as a Thai avocado & spinach sandwich. Phew! What a list for veggies, eh? Pret’s food is always fresh and never fails to be rather tasty.
Value for money: 4/5
Veggy selection: 4/5 (it’s still not as much as the omnivores get I’m afraid, but it is much better than the other chain cafes have to offer).
How do they all stack up?
In this case, I really did save the best till last. Pret is simply a dream for veggies (of course, if you get there before everyone takes the freshly prepared meals!). You cannot compare the variety they offer, to that of say, Costa. It’s a real no brainer. If you are a veggy looking for a decent selection, Pret a Manger definitely wins hands down out of all of the major coffee shop chains. Also, Pret does not expect vegetarian customers to have their food grilled with other meat preparations. Of course we aren’t able to go behind the scenes into Pret’s kitchens (yet), but all of their vegetarian options are wrapped well and kept separate from the meat options. However, Costa in comparison often (not always) do not provide a separate grill for vegetarians to get their paninis heated up, and suggest that you can eat it cold if you want. Nero is pretty much the same, as is Starbucks. I often see the green grill handles and say, is that your veggy grill? Only to be met with a vacant and bemused expression. Clearly not then. This has been the case in all of the major chains, although on the rare occasion there is sometimes a veggy grill that is actually veggy only. But still, you’re taking their word for it. So, Pret avoids all this fuss, confusion and moral soul searching when you’re trying to grab a quick bite, or have a lengthy lunch over coffee with the girls for a catch up.
As this has been an issue plaguing the Veg Revvers for way too long, we’ve decided to write off to the big chains and ask them if they can roll out an initiative to have a veggy grill in every café across the UK. Basically, we’re gonna grill them on their grills! What do you guys think out there? Also, what are your thoughts on the best watering hole for veggies?
Check back for updates
- Pret A Manger to create 550 jobs (independent.co.uk)
- How to Order Vegan, Gluten Free Or Healthier Options at National Fast Food Chains. (elephantjournal.com)
- How to build the perfect vegetarian sandwich (mnn.com)