Norwich in top five vegan hotspots as more move to plant-based diet

The Walnut Tree in Thwaite will be opening in the spring. Let's Talk feature. Pictured is owner Jan

Owner Jan Wise at the Walnut Tree in Thwaite. - Credit: Gregg Brown

An abundance of vegan choices and desire to be healthy are encouraging more people in Norfolk to switch to a plant-based lifestyle, restaurants say.

It comes as a survey ranked Norwich in the the top five vegan hotspots in the UK.

The fine city has long had a strong reputation in the vegan community, with shops including the Little Shop of Vegans and restaurants such as Trowse's River Green proving popular.

And a survey by retail giant Ocado, of roughly 3,500 people, ranked Norwich as the fifth best vegan hotspot in the UK, following Brighton, Stroud, Lewes and Hove.

Other spots in top 20 included Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham and Bournemouth.

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

Tofurei have finally been able to reopen in their new home after moving from Pottergate and it all b

Jenny Coupland, of Norwich's Tofurei. - Credit: Archant

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Jenny Coupland, at Tofurei café in St Gregory's Alley in Norwich's 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."

At Erpingham House, on Tombland in Norwich, owner Loui Blake said people were becoming more open to trying something new, with a more varied spread of customers.

Loui Blake, boss at Erpingham House in Norwich. pic: submitted

Loui Blake, boss at Erpingham House in Norwich. pic: submitted - Credit: Archant

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

While varied plant-based choices might have traditionally been easier to find in the city, there are plenty of options in the region's more rural areas.

The Walnut Tree, in Thwaite, just south of Eye, serves vegetarian and vegan food - and owner Jan Wise said business is booming.

Tofurei have finally been able to reopen in their new home after moving from Pottergate and it all b

Tofurei in Norwich is a popular spot for those looking for plant-based options. - Credit: Archant

"Since we have been allowed to be open we have been doing really well," she said, "and bookings are up.

"We have also seen an increase in the amount of people that are looking for vegan-based and plant-based food."

She said diners - including those who eat meat - travelled from as far as Norwich and Colchester, in Essex, to visit.

Non-vegan restaurants also adapting to demand

It's not just plant-based restaurants seeing the changes - those with meat on their menus are also adapting.

At the White Horse Inn, in Neatishead, general manager Rachel Parr said: "We have vegan and vegetarian dishes but on a lot we also have an option to make it vegan.

"We stock vegan cheese, cream and butter in the kitchen - people can order a pizza, for example, and swap it for vegan cheese.

"We have noticed it's not just people who are vegan. People who are not come in looking for those options. The other day we ran out of vegan items, which surprised us."

She said the menu included items such as vegan duck, as well a jackfruit pepperoni and bacon to top pizzas.

Roasted shallot and garlic hummus from Norwich vegan restaurant Erpingham House

A previous dish at Erpingham House in Norwich. - Credit: Erpingham House