Veganism is alive and kicking in Bilbao. I remember the days when it seemed chips and salad were the only options for vegans in Spain, but my last visit to Barcelona proved those days are long-gone and Bilbao is keeping up! Just walking around the streets, I stumbled on a number of health foods shops (I even found Tofurky which can be tricky to find in Bristol). A fair number of cafés have signs up advertising the fact that they offer soya milk. The times really are a changin’!
Language can be tricky if you don’t speak much Spanish, the Basque (Euskara) language is unrelated to the other languages of Europe or any other known language. If you have a bit of Spanish, you should be able to get by! ‘Yo soy vegano’ (I am vegan) is a good start along with ‘sin carne, sin huevos and sin queso’ (without meat, eggs and cheese).
La Camelia is a 100% vegan café on Calle Villarías 3 in Bilbao. There are a number of tables inside or you can sit at the table outside or takeaway. They specialise in vegan sushi, homemade miso soup, tofu, tempeh and seitan sandwiches as well as hummus. They make fresh juice too or you can have a beer. I tried the tempeh sandwich which comes with vegan cheese, rocket and tomato and a sweet relish (€5.50) and the sushi (€13 for six pieces, a salad or dip and a drink) – it was all lovely. The sushi rolls are large and stuffed with cucumber, tofu, ginger, sprouted lentils and other tasty things and they come with soya sauce and wasabi. The seaweed salads are amazing. It makes for a very filling lunch!
Bohemian Lane is a vegan bakery on Calle Carniceria Vieja 3 in the old town. They specialise in cupcakes, tarts, coffees, teas, infusions, juices, pintxos (small snacks a bit like tapas), sandwiches and salads. The people who run the café are lovely, very friendly and happy to see how delighted we were to find a totally vegan cake shop! The woman working there the first day I went had made all the cupcakes herself and on her recommendation I tried the carrot cake cupcake (€2.50). It was lovely and moist with a great flavour. On another day we shared a slice of almond and cherry cake and apple tart – again – spot on flavour!
Then there’s Bizu Bi in the Plazuela Santiago, again in the old town. This place looks like a burger joint but has a separate vegan menu! I tried the seitan fillet with sweet onion, lettuce, tomato and French fries (€9). It was all good and the waiter was a really nice fella! Maybe not the place for a romantic dinner but a good place for a quick stop.
If you are looking for a lively, music bar with vegan food, head down to Muga on the Calle de Maria Munoz 8, in the Old Town. It’s one of the few places that stays open late – Mon-Fri 12:00pm-12:00am, Sat 12:00am-1:00am! It was a bit of a surprise that many of the bars seem to shut around 10.30pm but these guys were still serving food at 10.30pm. They serve a few vegan pintxos, sandwiches, burgers and salads. We had the pintxos one night and a seitan burger another night. The burger comes stuffed in a large, crusty bread roll with pickles, salad and vegan mayo (I think there was some ras el hanout in there maybe). It was very tasty and good value for around €5.
Green Bistrot on Juan de Ajuriaguerra 13 is a few minutes’ walk from the Guggenheim. They serve various vegan pintxos and have a small vegan menu which you can order from after 9pm. There are some tables inside and few out on the pavement. The food was OK, the usual seitan burger etc. I had a Seitan a la jardinera con trufa negra (€8.50) – seitan steaks with a tomato sauce, some chips and salad.
One of the foody highlights has to be the ice-cream shop Amorino – Guggenheim on Iparraguirre 1 (literally a stone’s throw from the Guggenheim). This international chain of ice cream shops offers a range of vegan sorbet flavours, such as chocolate, raspberry, mango, passionfruit, lemon, hazelnut and lime and basil. I had hazelnut, raspberry and chocolate in a small tub, it was €4.60 but was so worth it!
Whatever bar, café or restaurant you are in, it’s always worth checking the menu as veganism is on the up and there seem to be options in the most unlikely of places. The bar Marzana right nextdoor to our Airbnb apartment for instance had a roast veg wrap with cous cous and soya yogurt dressing on the menu. It was very nice too and Duane the dog waited very patiently to get the last bite!