A green velvet booth and white table laid with various dishes
Ladybird (New York City). Photography, Cole Saladino

Where to find the world’s most beautiful vegan food

Ruth Tal shares her favourite worldwide eateries for delicious plant-based food and memorable ambience.

Ruth Tal is always looking for inspiration. Fresh Kitchen + Juice Bar, her Toronto-born line of vegan restaurants, keeps her pretty busy – but even when she’s abroad, plant-based restaurants are frequently on her mind. “I’m always keeping my eye out for new, cute, yummy vegan spots to frequent and support when I’m travelling,” she says. Her standards might sound modest, but she’s actually highly selective with her stamp of approval.

Tal, and her business partner Jennifer Houston, are known throughout Southern Ontario for their nutritious and colourful vegan dishes (like the ultra-healthy ‘Noodlerama’ salad). Beautiful plating and presentation are guaranteed at Fresh locations, as is a beautiful dining environment – the newest outpost, located in Oakville’s town square, is a restored heritage building that Tal and her team of designers have decorated with scores of greenery and eye-catching leaf-patterned wallpaper. “As a vegan and as a steward of the brand, I always just wanted to redefine this idea that a vegetarian restaurant is healthy for you, but a sacrifice in terms of ambience,” Tal explains, gesturing to the lush space. “I wanted people to come, and think, ‘Wow. The food is beautiful, the decor is beautiful, the service is great.’ Hitting all those notes.” 

How does she accomplish that? With no shortage of passion – and research. We asked Ruth Tal to share some of her favourite places around the world for delicious vegan eats, ambient environments and foodie inspiration.

Mallow (London)

 A plate of chocolate pancakes on a pink table
Black Forest Chocolate Pancakes. Photography, Courtesy of Mallow

For the best vegan brunch in London, Tal says, head to Canary Wharf. Mallow, the upscale eatery owned by the team behind local plant-based restaurant chain Mildred’s, is her favourite restaurant in the UK’s capital. “It ticks all the boxes for me: ambience, presentation, value and creativity,” she says. All the menus are reportedly stellar, but it’s the brunch that keeps drawing her back. “I’m a sucker for their Black Forest Chocolate Pancakes and the Full English Brunch Plate,” she says.

1 Cathedral St., London

Crossroads (Los Angeles)

Peaches and Whipped Feta with Marcona Almonds. Photography, Jakob Layman

“This is my go-to Los Angeles vegan spot for foodie inspiration and hot date nights with my husband,” says Tal, who has lived in LA part-time for the past 10 years. Crossroads Kitchen, Chef Tal Ronnen’s plant-based Italian eatery (which also has locations in Calabasas and Las Vegas) boasts an extensive cocktail program and inspired vegan takes on Italian classics. “We absolutely adore the Peaches and Whipped Feta with Marcona Almonds, Lasagna Bolognese and the Truffle Mushroom Bianca Pizza,” says Tal.

8284 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

AbcV (New York City)

A salad on a white plate
Avocado Lettuce Cups. Photography, Courtesy of AbcV

Tal’s son went to college in NYC, and she says her family always went to Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Flatiron District eatery AbcV to celebrate special occasions. “This is one of the places I have consistently drawn inspiration from for chic, colourful decor and light-filled design,” she says. Tal’s favourite items on Chef Neal Harden’s menu are the Avocado Lettuce Cups and Mezcal Maracuya. “Their dishes and drinks are incredibly unique and creative, always sending me back to Toronto with new ideas for our menus at Fresh.”

38 E 19th St., New York

Surdham’s Kitchen (Nosara, Costa Rica)

A white plate with chopsticks and various Japanese foods
Miso Eggplant, Pickled Watermelon and Avocado Sesame Riceballs. Photography, Courtesy of Surdham Göb

Acclaimed German chef and cookbook writer Surdham Göb owns this cozy restaurant in Costa Rica – a country Tal has been visiting when she needs to relax and unwind for over 25 years now. “Surdham’s is a sweet garden patio dining spot tucked away in the middle of the lush jungles,” she says. “I’m in love with the Miso Eggplant, the Pickled Watermelon and the Avocado Ice Cream.”

X82M+M8F Guanacaste Province, Nosara

Ladybird (New York City)

Clockwise from left: Blistered Shisito Peppers, Kale Caesar Salad and Buffalo Maitake Bun. Photography, Cole Saladino

Tal stumbled upon this East Village tapas and wine bar on a trip to NYC, and immediately fell in love with the atmosphere. “Ladybird was one of the best finds I’d come across in a long time,” she says. “The eclectic decor, the cool music, the warm vibe – and of course the delicious food, too.” Standouts include the Truffle Mac and Cheese, Buffalo Maitake Bun, Blistered Shishito Peppers and the Kale Caesar (which Tal says is almost as good as Fresh’s).

111 E 7th St, New York

Aujourd’Hui Demain (Paris)

A person holding a chocolate milkshake with elaborate toppings
Chocolate Ultimate Freakshake. Photography, Courtesy of Aujourd’hui Demain

“This cute super-casual Parisian vegan spot calls itself a “concept” store,” says Tal. Aujourd’Hui Demain, nestled in the heart of the happening 11th Arrondissement, is a combination boutique-cafe. “I love it for its’ cool shakes, vegan ratatouille and ethical clothing,” she says. “The Ultimate Freakshake is so over-the-top decadent – brownie chunks, chantilly, peanut butter, chocolate sauce, frozen banana and peanut chips.”

42 Rue du Chemin Vert, Paris
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