Sutton began serving “vegan fish and chips” at one of his east London chip shops as an experiment earlier this year, but did not expect such high demand.
“We thought we’d produce something vegan and see how it goes. It went really well, so we introduced a full menu,” Sutton said.
With orders for the new menu flooding in, Sutton opens the doors this week to London’s first dedicated vegan chippie.
The new branch will help cope with capacity, Sutton says, and allows the entire kitchen including the deep fat fryers to be meat and dairy free.
It is also a chance to profit from increasing demand for vegan and alternative restaurants, especially in trendy east London, he said.
“It’s tough out there on the high street, and if people want vegan fish and chips, I’ll supply it.”
The “vegan fish” is made from banana blossom marinated in seaweed and the sea plant samphire to give it a fishy taste, then deep fried. Vegan “prawns” made of Japanese potato starch are battered and served as scampi.
Curious customers sampled the food during a test run for the new branch on Monday.
“It’s delicious,” said Cat Thomas, a 32-year-old fundraising manager.
“I don’t think it tastes like fish, but I’d definitely eat it more. It tastes healthier than fish and chips, and is still good fried food that you could eat on a hangover,” she said.
Sutton is not yet sure how much of a profit he could turn.
“It’s not cheap” buying vegan-friendly ingredients, he said, without elaborating on the costs of making battered banana blossom.
Vegan products “are good, and they’re not full of E numbers, and for that you pay a premium.”
The vegan fish costs 5.50 pounds per serving. Vegan burgers and sausages are also on the menu to cover the full spectrum of vegan fast food.
Customers, who included vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters, enjoyed their meals on Monday, but some on the high street were skeptical about the concept.
“I’d definitely visit, but it feels like a lot of vegan food is becoming less healthy, with fast food places opening up and serving burgers and fish and chips,” said 30-year-old Jen Shelo, a vegetarian social care worker.
Sutton said: “Some like the vegan menu better than fish, but other people say you just can’t beat a bit of cod.”
Reporting by John Davison and Helena Williams; Editing by Toby Chopra