My decision to become a vegetarian did not really come as a shock to my family. I was never a meat-lover. Yes, as almost every teenager I used to enjoy a burger from time to time, but I grew out of it. I ate my last meaty meal around five years ago. Do I miss it? Not at all. Despite of what people might think, I did not have to change my eating habits so dramatically and no I do not live only on leafs and fruit. I can still enjoy things like hot dogs. The bun and veggies do not change. And as for the meaty sausage – soya and tofu are perfect replacement.

Despite the fact that eating at home with my family or with my friends at the university is as easy now as it was before my “vegetarian era” started, eating out turned out to be a bit more of a challenge. Someone could argue that I can still go to McDonald’s and order a veggie burger. The truth is – no I cannot. Whenever I travel to Poland to visit my family, the only veggie-friendly thing on McDonald’s menu is this warm apple-pie that, in my opinion, is far from being nice and cannot really be qualified as a lunch food. When I went to USA, the only thing that I could eat at the famous Hooters, was mozzarella dippers. I have to say that it was a bit awkward and difficult to enjoy my small starter (after the whole day of starving myself) when all my friends around me were eating their big, hunger-satisfying mains. Do not get me wrong. I am not trying to say that eating out can never be a pleasurable experience when you are a vegetarian. But from time to time I would like to have the freedom and ability to order something different rather than typical gastro-pub goat’s cheese salad or veggie-burger.

In a quest for something new, I have recently decided to search for vegetarian restaurants in London and couple of seconds after, I was reading reviews of some restaurants specializing in vegetarian menus that Google so kindly found for me. Being passionate about food as I am, I have decided to check them out. Imagine how big my smile was when I was finally able to visit these places and enjoy something different rather than a simple Greek-style salad. Tempeh-filled cabbage rolls with Thai-inspired dipping sauce in Manna Restaurant was a completely new dining experience. Blue Stilton dumplings from Vanilla Black Restaurant proved to me with a bit of imagination, creativity and talented palette for flavours, it is possible to create amazing vegetarian dishes. I am sure that after tasting this incredible fried mushroom mousse, even the biggest meat lovers would have to admit that vegetarian dishes, made from the simplest ingredients do not have to be dull, bland and uninspiring.

Unfortunately, as a simple, part-time working student, I cannot afford eating out in some of London’s finest vegetarian restaurants on a regular basis and neither can my friends or, for that matter, a lot of people with similar living standards. Does this means that during my next visit to a restaurant I will be brought back down to earth by the smell of goat’s cheese on top of my salad? The answer is probably yes, at least for now.

Very recently I have read an interesting article in one of F&B-dedicated magazines about the chefs who, seeing the potential in vegetarian market, have started to create menus where the roles of veggies and meat in dishes have been reversed. This might finally be a chance for vegetables to become a main “star” of the dish, pushing the beef, duck and other meat “delicatessen” to take the role of the side dish or eliminating it altogether. Let’s stay realistic – we cannot really expect a vast number of new vegetarian restaurants to pop out around us all of a sudden. But maybe we will soon witness restaurants widening their menus and adding more veggie options. At the end of the day, if there is nothing for vegetarians, they will not come. And they will surely not bring their meat-loving friends with them. So is it better to use the creativity of the chef and add some interesting vegetarian options that can appeal to everyone, or lose the clientèle  I do not think that I have to answer this question and I hope that restaurateurs will soon realize the power of vegetables.