By Emma Clarkson
I knew from the moment I arrived that vegan food in Valencia was going to be something special. I hopped off the bus and did the first thing I always do after a journey, which is to empty my tiny feeble bladder. On the inside of the toilet door some graffiti implored its readers: “Ser vegan – es maravilloso!” (Be vegan – it’s wonderful), and “Veganismo es justicia” (you can probably figure that one out yourself). I later saw that this message had been written inside every single toilet cubicle — this person was serious about spreading the message, and I was to find out that Valencia is serious about veganism too.
Valencia is the 3rd biggest city in Spain. A wonderful cocktail of tradition, modernist architecture, beautiful green parkland, long beaches and rich gastronomic culture; it’s a place which propelled itself out of a rather dimly regarded past and into an innovative future, which is possibly why it is the perfect petri dish in which to grow a thriving vegan scene. Happy Cow lists 51 vegan and vegetarian restaurants which is not bad for a city of less than 800,000. There are plenty of Airbnb options and several decent hostels for those on a budget. Valencia is easy to navigate and there is a metro which makes getting around simple and affordable.
Without hesitation the first stop had to be Loving Hut. As someone who used to live in South Korea and was a faithful LH customer for 3 and a half years, I absolutely had to check out this place again after so many years and was overjoyed to find one here in Valencia (they also have a location in Madrid which I hadn’t realised in my last post). So… if you didn’t know, this is an all you can eat buffet style joint. That’s right, all-you-can-eat vegan deliciousness, with absolutely everything you can think to fill your face with… vegan pizza, salad, all kinds of tofu and seitan dishes, lasagne, burgers, spring rolls and dumplings and tons of other oriental delights, plus cakes and pastries if you still have room. Suffice to say my friend and I ate ourselves literally into a food coma and couldn’t walk or even think afterwards so it was straight to bed. Come here if you are very hungry to get the full benefit, and make sure to check opening times before you go.
Next was Aloha which is an amazing lunch spot close to the cool area of Carmen which you should check out both during the day and in the evening. Aloha is perfect for a sunny day if you are out sightseeing or shopping, and fancy a fix of healthy junk food. They have a variety of burgers, kebabs, vegan chicken nuggets and chips as well as acai bowls and smoothies. I enjoyed a tasty kebab, my friend had seitan burger in panko breadcrumbs and we shared some yummy nuggets in the nearby plaza (the shop is tiny with only room for a couple of people to sit down so I wouldn’t recommend this for a rainy day) and each item comes to roughly 5 euros or less. Nom noms.
In terms of vegan shops and supermarkets you have plenty to choose from. The most popular and well loved seems to be Navarro close to La Roqueta, which sells all of your vegan groceries plus a ton of herbs and supplements and also has a small vegan café with free wifi. There’s also a new place called Begin Vegan which is a supermarket close to Russafa which I didn’t manage to find on this trip. I also didn’t have time for Nomit or The Vurger but will check them out on my next visit and report back for duty!
The absolute highlight of this trip beyond a single doubt was Nehuen (pronounced ne-wen). I honestly cannot recommend this place highly enough. Located in a cool backstreet (with a couple of other groovy looking bars next door) close to the port, this is a super friendly vegan reggae bar/restaurant with a creative and informal vibe, where you can come for lunch or dinner or for late night events with live music. While laid back in atmosphere, this chef is clearly not laid back about the menu and they put some serious passion into the food here.
Every single thing on the menu sounded so mouth-watering that it was difficult for me to choose, but eventually I opted for red lentil croquettes with apple sauce, a beetroot carpaccio, then a Moroccan seitan dish. The croquettes were sizzling hot, fresh and fluffy. But, let me tell you about the beetroot carpaccio! First of all, it looked so beautiful that it was almost a shame to destroy it. Delicate slices of juicy beets on a bed of a sumptuous ginger and cumin sauce and coated with a glorious variety of seeds (if you’re a fan of seeds like me you have to come here, the main course was also beautifully seedy) — it was like a flavour party in my mouth. Then the delicate but spicy tang of the Moroccan sauce along with the awesomeness and texture of seitan… I was in heaven. The portion sizes are good and the prices are reasonable so come here with an appetite and enjoy a few hours here soaking up the positive vibes and chatting to the lovely locals.
Nehuen is a word from Mapugundun language which is spoken by the native Mapuche people of Chile. It translates roughly as “force” — my Spanish is far from decent and this translation is probably very ropy at best, but here’s how I understood the notion of nehuen: “A power and energy, attitude and action… the force is like the brothers of life, present in all of nature and included in all artefacts used for food”. This idea of sharing positive energy and a special force through food gave me goosebumps and to me is part of the very essence of veganism. Everyone, get to Valencia, and feel some nehuen. It feels amazing.