Vegetarian pubs: All the rage in the U.K., but would Canadians embrace them?

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On
May 18, 2012

If you are a believer that true British pubs should offer Bangers and Mash and Fish and Chips, you may be disturbed by an emerging trend in the United Kingdom.

The Guardian reports that two new London pubs are flying in the face of tradition by offering vegetarian-only cuisine. And they're not the only ones.

"There are in fact around 16 vegetarian pubs across the U.K., several of which are apparently in Glasgow, which has always been a haven for bien-pensant lettuce-eaters," says the story.

Since Britons have long been fashion and trend trailblazers for North Americans, does this mean Canadians could soon be swapping their beloved pub burgers for tofu burritos?

"No," says Larry Isaacs, marketing director of the Firkin Group of Pubs, based in Ontario. "I think the expectation of people coming to pubs is synonymous with wings and beer and nachos and fries. That would be financial suicide."

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Apparently Giles Coren, restaurant critic with The Times of London, agrees.

"Vegetarians aren't going to travel far for a veggie sausage or baked beans, and punters wandering in are going to be quite surprised by that, then wander out again,'" he says.

But he does go on to say that in theory, the idea of a vegetarian pub is great since most people do tend to eat too much meat. Plus, he suggests, a stylish pub can only help vegetarianism's crunchy granola image.

But as far as vegetarianism taking over Canadian pubs goes, Isaacs just doesn't see it happening.

"I would say there's a small percentage of people who come into pubs looking for vegetarian items and we do accommodate those customers," he continues. "We have a vegetarian burger on the menu, we have salads, we have a goat cheese and vegetable salad. We do address the vegetarian issue. But the percentage of people requesting it compared to not, is significant."

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Isaacs does see the pub market as having come a long way from the days of smoke-filled rooms with a few menu items.

"I think the pubs have evolved," he says. "The perception of pubs being a down, greasy place to eat only cause you're drunk is a thing of the past. Food in pubs now are much higher quality, in that people have an expectation of a dining experience and a pub experience together, rather than just a drinking experience, so the menus are varied."

What kind of fare would one find at a vegetarian pub? Mono in Glasgow offers casual comfort dishes like portobello mushroom burgers, beer battered onion rings, falafel sandwiches and winter squash risotto.

That's not such a stretch, right?

Watch the video below where Fabio shows you how to make one of the most perfect pub foods -- mac and cheese.

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