Living the Cheapskate life: plant-based nutritionist Rohini Bajekal on Madame Tussauds, dosas & vegan London life
Rohini Bajekal is a nutritionist who's passionate about making plant-based foods more accessible to people. Here, she shares her favourite affordable vegan London restaurants and tips for the perfect no-spend day in the city, as well as her ultimate London rip off.
1. I rest my head in…
North West London, Zone 2, next to my partner Sid. I lived abroad in India and Singapore in my 20s, but London is always where my heart is.
2. Where’s the cheapest place you’ve lived in London? And the most expensive?
I lived in a flatshare in West London in my early 20s which ended up being a bit of a party house. My room was absolutely tiny and there was no living room so I spent most evenings out in London with my flatmates - I had a lot of stamina back then!
The most expensive by far was a three month stint on Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, as part of a relocation deal with my husband’s work. It was opposite a building with lots of wealthy students so we could hear Lamborghinis revving their engines at 3am.
3. Have you had any disastrous London rental experiences?
We moved into a new flat a few days before our wedding - 10/10 would not recommend. The estate agent promised it would be deep cleaned and ready, but when we turned up there were used baby wipes strewn around and the bathroom was filthy. Not fun.
4. Where’s your favourite place to eat for cheap? What would you order?
It has to be a dosa at one of the Saravana Bhavan restaurants - probably Wembley. Dosas are South Indian savoury pancakes stuffed with masala potatoes and served with chutney. I always ask for no ghee so it’s completely vegan. I also love Ethiopian and Eritrean food as there are so many plant-based options. The injera platters at Mosob on Harrow Road are delicious.
5. Your perfect no-spend London day would involve…
A picnic on Hampstead Heath with a few of my close friends on a sunny day. I get emotional thinking about it as it’s November right now and we just entered Lockdown 2.0 in the UK.
6. Where’s your favourite free place to visit in the city?
The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. It’s incredibly peaceful and tucked away slightly so it’s quieter than many other parks in London. My first internship was in Holland Park and it’s such a hidden gem.
7. If you were mayor for the day, what would you change about London?
Apart from fair housing for all, I’d provide unlimited fresh fruit and vegetables for everyone and scrap the extra charge for plant-based milk in hot drinks. I’m a nutritionist so it would have to be related to food!
8. What’s the biggest London rip off?
Madame Tussauds. We would go every summer as kids with relatives visiting from India and it’s staggeringly expensive. The mannequins also got increasingly unrealistic to look at... or maybe I just realised how creepy it all is!
9. If you were going to splurge in London, what would it be on?
I would spend a night at La Suite West, a lovely vegan-friendly boutique hotel opposite Hyde Park. I’d have breakfast in bed, followed by a long walk in Hyde Park and a massage. And it wouldn’t be the perfect day unless it involved a vegan afternoon tea. I’d watch a good movie in the evening at the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road and get one of the back row sofas.
10. What are your favourite small London businesses?
I love Made in Hackney, a local community food kitchen making healthy, affordable food. I volunteer and teach for them and their online Zoom cook-a-longs have provided me with so much joy during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can learn how to make everything from kimchi to vegan cheeses - donations go towards their community classes and emergency meal service.
I stopped buying fast fashion a couple of years ago and love supporting charity shops as well as small, sustainably-produced British brands such as Riley Studio.
11. In three words, what makes someone a Londoner?
Never giving up.
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