The Middle East’s offering for vegetarian travellers is growing at a breakneck pace. Check out its most highly rated destinations for veggie cuisine, according to global travellers.*
Tuck into smorgasbords of fuss-free, delectable veggie food in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv’s culinary scene is incomparable; the freshest of ingredients, a diverse culinary tradition and a new generation of experimental chefs mean you’ll taste flavours here that can’t be found elsewhere. Port Said is one of the city’s most popular restaurants, both incredibly good value and the one of the best meals you’ll have in Tel Aviv. Dishes like haricot verts lathered in melted butter, lemon juice and garlic, chargrilled sweet potato with sour cream and rock salt, and creamy fava beans come served on brown paper with a fuss-free and friendly approach that’s all about the food (though you may have to wait half an hour or so for a table, the outside area is a relaxed place to have a drink before you’re seated). Other must-visits include Miznon for more delectable veggie street food and Abu Hassan for unforgettable houmous. Stay in a light-filled, minimalist room with washed linen fabric, concrete walls and modern artwork at the central Vera hotel.
The making of mankouche, a typical Lebanese flatbread
Having emerged from a lengthy civil war, Beirut has emerged as a cosmopolitan city whose culinary culture is going from strength to strength, in no small part thanks to its wide variety of ethnic influences. While street food isn’t ubiquitous, the restaurant scene is flourishing, with endless different recipes for hummus, tabbouleh and flatbreads – mankouche is a widespread, vast circular flatbread covered in tomato, salty cheese and za’atar, before being thrown into a wood oven. Other must-tries for vegetarians include foul (the inappropriately-named but delicious broad-bean dip served as part of mezze), labneh (creamy cheese made from yoghurt), and knefeh (a semolina-esque dessert covered with filo pastry and pistachios. In terms of eating out, tables at Tawlet restaurant are some of the city’s most sought-after, whether you pop in for a lunchtime feast or turn up for an indulgent dinner, the fusion dishes here will blow you away. The Key Beirut is a deluxe ApartHotel and the highest-rated accommodation in the city.
The meze planted on most Istanbul restaurant tables before the main meal is a veggie dream
Istanbul’s cuisine is so much more than meat kebabs. Simit (a ring-shaped bread roll covered with sesame seeds that’s similar to a bagel) and grilled corn-on-the-cob are sold by street vendors all over the city. And the meze planted on most restaurant tables before the main meal arrives is always a vegetarian’s dream, with olives, aubergine salad, borek (pastry with cheese) delicious bread and more. There’s also abundant fresh fish and if you’re ever stumped for a meat-free option, Turkish breakfast is available in most eateries throughout the day, consisting of bread, jam, cheese, olives, cucumber and tomato. If you’re after a particularly special Turkish breakfast spread of regional fare, head to Dogaciyiz Gourmet. Check into the central Sirkeci Mansion, a hotel in an Ottoman-style building, where you can also try a Turkish cooking class.
Visit vegetarian eateries like Wild & The Moon in Dubai
Vegetarians visiting Dubai are spoiled for choice when it comes to great restaurants, with a burgeoning offering of raw and plant-based delicacies. There’s Be Super Natural Kitchen in Dubai Mall, free of meat, dairy, gluten, sugar and synthetic chemicals and the city’s first raw, vegan café (try the juices, smoothies, the and – for a hit of indulgence – the mushroom truffle pizza or the peanut caramel banoffee pie). Other popular eateries include Wild & The Moon, 77 Veggie Boutique and Arrows & Sparrows. Dubai is also home to a large selection of Indian restaurants; try Govinda’s for the quinoa biryani, vegan thali or tofu curries, or Mint Leaf, an outpost of the swanky London restaurant, for an extravagant meal out. Check into the Manzil Downtown, located right by Dubai Mall.
Customise your own veggie burger with organic ingredients at Bare Burger
With an increasing number of raw and meat-free restaurants in Abu Dhabi, there’s a multitude of great options for vegans and vegetarian visitors. The Raw Place serves up smoothies, juices, pad thai, risottos, salads, soups and deliciously-fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, alongside sweeter treats like banana bread and the matcha rose bowl, a creamy pudding with pistachios, pumpkin seeds and dried coconut. Head to Bare Burger to customise your own veggie burger with organic ingredients like sweet potato and quinoa patties, or Bloomsburys to try the light-as-a-feather vegan chocolate cupcake (order in advance to make sure it’s available as it sells out fast). Check into the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel, the highest-rated accommodation in Abu Dhabi.
**The data scientists at Booking.com used internal data to uncover the top destinations for vegetarian food in the Middle East, according to global travellers.