For anyone with Coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, Keswick in the Lake district must be a paradise as all pubs, cafes, and restaurants seem to have a sign advertising a gluten free menu. If your dietary requirements are vegan, you will struggle a little more to find something to eat. And if you are allergic to dogs, Keswick might not be the town for you… (Two border collies per household seem to be the norm.)
Before going to Keswick, I did what I always do before a trip, namely a search on Happycow.net. The results were quite disappointing, with only one result for Keswick town itself, the restaurant in the Theatre By The Lake. After a lot of footwork and menu reading, I am happy to report that a vegan weekend in the Lakes is not as hard as it may seem, though it may require some planning and clockwatching.
Coffee and cake
Abrahams Café: Situated on the top floor of the George Fisher outdoors shop in Borrowdale Rd, this is heaven for trail runners with a caffeine addiction. Brands stocked include Skins, Salomon, Hoka, and Suunto, to name a few. They also have a large section with books and DVDs on outdoorsy subjects, such as trail running, climbing and cycling. When the need for coffee and cake arises you simply wander up the stairs. The Molly cake, a fruit cake, turned out to be vegan and very tasty. They also have a good selection of coffees and teas, but no non-dairy milk, so you will have to take it black. The fairtrade Americano is recommended.
Java Coffee: This coffee shop can be found in the market place across from Moot Hall (the start and finishing point of the Bob Graham Round), and was the only place I could find where you can get a soya latte. Unfortunately, the coffee tasted watery. Whether this was due to the coffee or brand of soya milk used is unknown, but it might taste better with a double shot of espresso. Smothies are also available. There are lots of comfy sofas upstairs, but all the furniture is upholstered in leather.
The Lakes and Dales Coop: Stocks vegan donuts with jam or custard filling (you have to be there early for the custard ones, they seemed to sell out quickly), vegan blackcurrant and apple tarts (in the section with baked goods and biscuits), and Free From vegan rocky road with Belgian chocolate, millionaire’s shortbread, and tiffin cakes (in the allergy section).
Lunch and dinner
Little Chamonix Café: 7 Lake Road. Their lunch menu, served from noon-3, contained three vegetarian items that was marked as “vegan option available”. This was a three bean chili, served with a burrito or nachos, a hummus and falafel sandwich, and jacket potatoes. The chili was delicious, served with hummus and guacamole instead of sour cream and cheese. After 3 o’clock only afternoon tea is available, and at the time of my visit they had gluten free, but not vegan, options. Closed Wednesdays.
LBs pizza: Situated in an alley just off the market place (27A Main St), but with big signs making it easy to find. The menu has two vegetarian pizzas, which can be made vegan by requesting it to be made without cheese, and a pasta arrabiata that looked vegan. The Veggie Deluxe pizza without cheese was OK, you might want to ask for it with extra tomato sauce as it was on the dry side. Open until late.
Star of Siam: On Main Street, about midway between the bus station and market place. Amongst the starters the spring rolls are vegan, filled with rice noodles and vegetables. There was also a vegan salad, which sounded delicious, and two or three vegetarian curries made with coconut milk. A separate section for vegetarian dishes on the menu had five or six options, all vegan, two of which were with tofu. Probably the best place for vegans in Keswick, certainly the one with most choice. Lunch is served until 3, dinner service starts at 5.30, between these times the restaurant is closed.
There are also a couple of Chinese restaurants in the town centre which might have vegan options, I forgot to check their menus. One of them was situated just across from the Thai place, and as I was tucking into my spring rolls I noticed that people were coming back outside to remove their wellies. It must be the only place in town with zero-tolerance for muddy boots.
Bar Metro: 91 Main Street. A cosy place with a diner style menu, including a veggie burger. The veggie burger changes from week to week, and alas, when I visited it had grated cheese as an ingredient in the burger. However, they let me see the rotating menu, and it seemed that some weeks the burger was lacto-ovo vegetarian, and some weeks vegan. If you crave American-style junk food you might just get lucky…
I did not go for a meal in Theare by the Lake, as the Tripadvisor reviews said it was posh, but the only vegan option was «the usual hummus sandwich».
Coop: Mentioned above. If you are self-catering they do stock various non-dairy milks, and the usual supermarket staples. In the freezer section they had a lot of Quorn products, soon to be vegan if my facebook newsfeed is correct, and some vegan Linda McCartney products.
Booths: Big supermarket by the bus station. Has a very good salad bar next to the fruit and veg, with several pasta, rice, and potato salads, and salads with veggie proteins from edamame beans and other legumes. Good selection of non-dairy milk, Alpro soya yogurt, quinoa, tofu, and various meat replacements products, including ready-made nut roasts. In the sweets section they stocked Moo Free chocolate, Goody Goodies vegan jelly sweets, a wide selection of Kendal Mint Cakes (an accidentally vegan product, it seems), and Beech’s chocolates (Mint Creams, Dark Chocolate Marzipan, and Luxury Stem Ginger were all marked as vegan).
Needle Sports: 56 Main St. good selection of Clif Bar energy bars, Clif shot bloks, some Clif gels (citrus, chocolate and double espresso), and Clif Bar Builders’ Bars (peanut and chocolate flavour). SiS energy drink sachets (citrus and blackcurrant), Nuun electrolyte tablets, 9bar energy bar, and High5 gels.
George Fisher: small selection of Clif bars and Nuun, big selection of mint cakes.
Holland & Barrats: Big selection of Clif Bar energy bars and Trek Bars. Situated in the marketplace.
Whinlatter Bikes: On Main St. Sells SiS sample packs with gels. Energy drinks sachets, recovery drink satchets and energy bars. The gels and energy drink was marked as vegan, the other two as vegetarian, though I was unable to spot the non-vegan ingredient(s). Not sold separately, and not recommended (review of SiS energy drink will be posted soon).
Cyclewise: a bike shop situated in Whinlatter Forest Park. Has good selection of Torq products. You need a car or bike to get there, as the buses only runs once every 2 hours and Keswick seem to be curiously taxi-free. I was adviced against walking/running as a mode of transport.
There might be more great places for vegans in Keswick, this is just the places I found in during one single weekend. Any other places that needs to be added to the list?