Meat given the chop as the Old Crown flourishes

A meal at the New Oxford Street pub is an invigorating blend of the old and the new

Thursday, 28th April — By Tom Moggach

Vetomeato food

Vetomeato offers top-notch vegan street food

THE creaking stairs at The Old Crown pub tell a story of London – scuffed and well-worn from centuries of use.

This ancient pub in New Oxford Street was built back in 1851; Hogarth etched this street corner a century earlier.

Now it’s a showcase for trends in post-Covid hospitality – including top-notch vegan street food from the caterer Vetomeato.

A meal in this pub is quite an experience – an invigorating blend of the old and the new.

The décor is rich with Victorian flourishes; the menu includes kimchi fries, rainbow salads and a Veto Kebab, where seitan strips take the place of the meat.

Don’t expect to linger, however, over a leisurely three-course meal. This is a proper pub, where pints and cocktails are the stars of the show and the food is served fast in cardboard boxes.

The place was bustling on the evening I visited – a positive sign that trade in central London is bouncing back.

The larb curry is a plant-based twist on a dish from Laos and Thailand.

Vegan mince is cooked with secret spices. On the side, a wholegrain rice spiked with fresh ginger, shredded cabbage, crushed peanuts and sprigs of coriander.

The kimchi fries are sensational – an addictive, sloppy mix of hot chips and cold crunchy pickle, made by fermenting cabbage with chillies, garlic and other spices.

The macaroni cheese balls are a snacky bestseller. These are technically clever – the molten vegan cheese and pasta encased in a thin and crisp batter, served with a zig zag of sauces and a garnish of spring onion.

Vegan burgers are a favourite at lunchtimes. They also serve salads such as the Asian street bowl with spiced tofu, rice and a medley of vegetables dressed in a Gochujang dressing and sesame.

The food prices are extremely reasonable, with no dish costing more than £8.

The two owners of The Old Crown won an award for innovation during the Covid lockdowns.

They launched a pop-up deli to showcase sustainable London food producers and filmed their own TV show to stream to office teams working from home.

This collaboration with Vetomeato makes perfect sense, as they share a reputation for forward thinking.

It was founded by Justin Bones, a former athlete once left homeless by chronic alcoholism, and his partner Natalie Pace.

“We are trying to challenge more traditional forms of hospitality,” Natalie explains, as she describes how they reduce their carbon footprint.

Rather than fitting out new buildings, Vetomeato partners with bars and cafés that have unused kitchen space.

The menu is designed to tempt in flexitarians and carnivores new to a plant-based diet. Marketing is by word of mouth rather than fancy campaigns.

You might find Justin walking around the streets of St Giles with his homemade sandwich board, striking up conversations with strangers.

Hogarth would surely approve.

The Old Crown,
33 New Oxford Street, WC1A

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