Some mainstream pizza places have been catering for vegans for a few years now, with more and more joining in on the fun.
Firezza has been offering vegan cheese on pizza for ages, Pizza Express used to let you bring your own vegan cheese before finally serving their own and just the other day Pizza Hut confirmed that it would be launching a vegan cheese option across the UK after a successful trial.
This is all great and I’m very thankful, but like most vegans, I miss going to a pizza place and being able to eat everything on the menu.
Which is why vegan hearts exploded when Purezza, the UK (and Europe’s) first vegan pizzeria opened in Brighton in the early part of 2016.
The plant-based paradise offers three types of pizza base – including sourdough, hemp flour and gluten-free – as well as using different types of cruelty-free cheese, including their house rice-blend mozzarella as well as coconut, almond, and cashew-based options on their four cheese pizza.
While this was great for people who lived in Brighton (and totally fair – why should smoggy old London get everything first?) it did leave us city dwellers feeling very envious. Until now.
For Purezza have just announced that they’re expanding and opening a branch in Camden, London in 2018! Hurrah!
The Italian restaurant will seat 100 diners over two floors, and will be located just two minutes walk from Camden Town tube station, in the heart of the incense-scented London borough.
As well as pizza, they’ll offer pasta, burgers, raw dishes, and lots of gluten-free food.
Creative pizza flavour highlights include the ‘parmigiana party’ (smoked mozzarella, fried aubergines, sliced sausages, topped with basil and nutritional yeast), ‘one night in Bangkok’ (white base with stir fried vegetables, sprouted beans, sriracha sauce, topped with peanut sauce) and the ‘fumosa’ (smokey tomato base, chestnut mushrooms, smoked beet and fried tofu, topped with BBQ sauce).
They also serve vegan versions of delicious desserts like tiramisu, crème brûlée and gelato.
So, why Camden?
‘Camden is very similar to Brighton in many ways, there is a great community feel and loads of innovative places that offer vegan food,’ explains Tim Barclay, managing director of Purezza, to metro.co.uk.
‘We have had our eyes on Camden for a long time, finally the opportunity came along, just a few steps away from Camden Town station.
‘This area is fast becoming the go to place for vegans in London, a vegan version of every dish you can imagine will be available in the neighbourhood from pie and mash, Mexican to fried chicken – now Italian food too.’
He makes a good point – Camden is fast becoming the hottest place for vegans in London, already home to vendors like Young Vegans, Club Mexicana and Hash Green, with Temple of Seitan and What the Pitta soon to be opening new locations there.
So, which plant-based neighbours is Tim most looking forward to befriending and ingesting?
‘We’ve naturally been up to Camden many times over the past several months, regularly visiting Club Mexicana, V Burger and more recently Young Vegans,’ he tells us.
‘We are very much looking forward to trying What the Pitta, Temple of Seitan and Hash Green in the coming months. We are also neighbours with Whole Food Market, a great store for vegan food!’
With veganism becoming more and more ‘normal’ over the past year or so, has Purezza noticed the change in their current Brighton restaurant?
‘We remember opening a couple of years ago and people would be put off by the word “vegan”, it’s definitely becoming a recognised word that is acceptably used in everyday language,’ says Stefania Evangelisti, co-founder of Purezza.
‘We have seen a tremendous surge in customers, particularly in the last year with people who are becoming more aware about what they eat and are actively looking at reducing their meat consumption.
‘The vegan offering nationwide has widely enlarged and customers are not afraid to embrace dietary changes at few times per week.’
And that’s the thing – despite what some vegans would have you believe, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Slow and steady wins the race, and omnivores can make small changes by regularly ditching meat and trying new vegan food.
Purezza has an ‘inclusive eating’ approach which reflects this attitude – they want their food to cater for all, and not be seen as delicious in spite of being vegan, but delicious because it’s just god damn good food.
‘Many of our regular customers are actually not vegan,’ Stefania explains.
‘We have seen a change in this respect – two years ago we would have had mainly vegan customers but today we have a healthy mix of both.
‘Our aim has always been to show non vegans that it is possible to enjoy diverse, comfort food, without animal products.’
So, what’s their most popular pizza? We need some inspiration for when we darken their doors.
‘Believe it or not, one of the most popular pizzas is the Margherita!’ reveals Tim.
‘In our Brighton laboratory, we have strived to achieve a near perfect resemblance with traditional mozzarella, most people are unable to tell the difference.’
Guess we’ll be having a slice or six of that then.
Keep an eye on Purezza’s Facebook for more info on the Camden February 2018 opening.