Up until recently, vegans and vegetarians at fine dining restaurants often had to ask for special exceptions. But so much has changed, and the past year has seen the first Michelin-starred vegan restaurant in Paris, a three-Michelin-starred vegan restaurant in New York, and the first UK Michelin-starred restaurant to serve “fake meat”.
Analysis of the Elite Traveler Top Restaurants database found that the Netherlands, Italy and the UK are the best destinations for diners looking for a curated vegan menu. In France, the most-cited country in our database with over 360 restaurants listed, 54% of restaurants have an option for vegetarians, and 20% for vegans.
Our top picks from Asia, which includes China, Singapore and Hong Kong, tend to be the least accessible for vegetarians, with around 29% of the top restaurants in the seven Asian regions offering a vegetarian option and less than a quarter with vegan options.
[See also: The Chefs Fighting to Make Fine Dining Sustainable]
Scandinavia is hardly known for its lack of meat and dairy, but Sammy Shafi, owner of Kokkeriet in Copenhagen, says that since it started offering a vegan version of its tasting menu in 2010, it has seen more and more vegan guests, both tourists and Danes.
“Many of our guests see fine dining as the art of creating a meal only using local greens,” he says. “Many have the idea that fish or meat makes it easier to make a meal, so they look to our chefs and their creative skillset to make an amazing vegan menu.”
Looking in more depth at Europe, while Paris and London lead in the number of top restaurants, they aren’t as strong when it comes to vegan options. Gothenburg, Rotterdam, Berlin and Dublin have the highest percentage of restaurants with vegan options, while Rome, Milan, and Amsterdam also have strong offerings.
Pied à Terre in London started offering a vegan version of their 10-course tasting menu in 2017. Since then, says owner David Moore, it’s only grown in popularity, and these days as much as half the restaurant is ordering vegan every night, even if they are not actually vegan themselves
“They’re not always vegans, quite often they’re just trying it, to see what it’s like in a Michelin-starred restaurant,” he says. “I’m really pleased that Pied à Terre is now regarded as being at the forefront of vegan fine dining. We’re not johnny-come-lately, jumping on a vegan bandwagon.”
In particular, Moore says, offering vegan food has allowed them to expand their customer base.
[See also: The Most Iconic Restaurants of the Elite Traveler Era]
“I opened the restaurant in 1991 at age 26, so if you were a customer of mine back then you’re probably in your 60s or 70s now,” he says. “Vegan brings in a really fun, younger crowd, and a very welcomed LGBT crowd. It’s making us known, and it’s just extending the name of Pied à Terre.”
Analysis of the Elite Traveler Top Restaurants shows that the highest-ranking restaurants tend to have the strongest offering for vegans. Of the 80 three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the database, 58% have a vegan option, compared to just over a third of the other restaurants.
Like Shafi of Kokkieriet, Moore says that he thinks fine dining establishments have an opportunity to use their skills to show how exciting vegan cooking can be.
The food’s just getting sexier, it’s getting tastier,” he says. “And there’s all these different techniques that once the Michelin starred chefs start thinking about it, they’re able to turn the humble vegetable into something more majestic.”
[See also: How the Prestigious Michelin Star System Really Works]