Mildred’s

Half days are great. If you only work the afternoon, then you get a lie-in. If you only work the morning, you get a free afternoon. A free afternoon is made all the better when a couple of your mates who also have a free afternoon, are just around the corner, and the weather is warm and welcoming. To top it all off they fancied a burger at the new Mildred’s by Kings Cross, and it just happened to be #NationalBurgerDay.

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Weirdly enough. I am not much of a fan of vegetarian restaurants. Growing up in a world of restaurants providing one, maybe two, vegetarian options I have become accustomed to the lack of choice. Also (not naming any names) I have found that the food on offer is just not as good as the vegetarian option would be in a great restaurant. Therefore, having never been to Mildred’s, I was intrigued, I had heard good reviews from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends and, finding myself there on NBD, meant I had to try sample one of their strengths – the burgers!

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The very non-showy menu offers up a mix of salads, small and large plates, as well the burgers of which there are three. As it was my first time I felt I had to go for the ‘Classic’ – which boasted a tantalising blend of smoked tofu, lentil and piquillo peppers – over the other two options: the ‘Polish’, made of beetroot, and another filled with halloumi and aubergine [NB the first two burgers are available as vegan too!]. I again went with my trusty side choice of potato fries, that came with a choice of basil mayo or chipotle ketchup (we managed to get both for the table), as well as bottle of Black Isle Goldeneye organic pale ale.

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The burger itself was a sight for sore eyes (and empty stomachs!). A massive patty on a bed of red onions, oozing with relish and melted cheese, and topped with tomato and rocket inside focaccia bun. All of which could barely fit in my hand. The burger did break apart as I bit into it, but what it lacked in structure, in made up for in flavour. The tofu/lentil/pepper patty was both smokey and spicy and the combination of mayo, cheese, tons of relish and peppery rocket meant that not a single tastebud was left unaccounted for. Even the focaccia bun offered something different from the usual brioche or sesame bun. On top of that, the sweet potato fries were not the standard, more akin to sweet potato wedges, and therefore gave me a real taste of juicy sweet potato flesh with every bite, complimented lovelily by the two sides on offer. The pièce de résistance was the Goldeneye organic pale, which was refreshing and crisp, went great with the burger and fries, and also kicked off what turned out to be a relatively boozy afternoon in the sun.

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Overall, my lunch at Mildred’s was great. Having put it off for so long due to my sometimes unfounded dislike for veggie restaurants, I was pleased to have finally made it there to try out one of their signature burgers on none other than #NationalBurgerDay itself. I won’t have to thin twice about going again, probably to try another one of their delicious burgers!

[Mildred’s also have a rather tasty Christmas Menu available at the mo!]

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 9/10

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

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The Island Queen

So, a new year has arrived and what have we to show for it? An empty pocket, a full-stomach, and a hangover that just doesn’t want to go away, no matter how dry our Januaries are. The fact is, December always lives up to being the massive blow out that it threatens to be, and I, for one, always try and grab the bull by the horns. One thing I was looking forward to this year – having been writing this blog for just over a year now – was the onrush of Christmas burgers. It quickly became apparent though, after reading list, after list, of the capital’s meaty Christmas offerings, that there was to be no veggie Christmas. After a (I admit) slightly half-hearted campaign on Twitter to find out if any of the big burger chains were going to be offering a #VegXmas option, it turned out that only Honest offered a veg option (swapping the veg fritter in for the beef in the Christmas burger). Aside from that, it was only Yeah Burger (where I went for my Christmas burger in 2014) that offered a legitimate vegetarian Christmas option, and they actually had 2! It slowly dawned on me that Christmas wasn’t to be celebrated with burgers as a vegetarian, for this year at least. Luckily, however, I had something else to celebrate! December marked a year of living with my girlfriend Rach, so we went for a drink to celebrate at one of our favourite local pubs. And eat a burger.

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The Island Queen, located on one of the backstreets just east of Angel Islington is a nice little pub, one of a cluster of pubs in the area where you’re sure to hear the hubbub of the pub against the relative silence of the residential streets before you actually stumble across the place itself, especially in the summer months. In the winter the big bar and high ceilings paradoxically provide a cosy atmosphere to while away a few hours on dark, chilly evenings. On Wednesdays, the pub offers a burger, chips, onion rings, and a drink for £9! (I did mention it was a low key celebration, right?). I decided on a pint of Doombar, along with the menu’s only veggie option – the lentil & spinach burger.

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The burger looked tasty enough. When I picked it up, though, it proceeded to fall apart quite rapidly. One of the problems I’ve always had with lentil burgers, no matter how tasty, is that they only seem to be held together by the fact that they are deep-fried. This facade will hold together when delicately placed within a bun, but as soon as any pressure is placed on it – namely between finger and thumb – it will come apart before your very eyes. With this in mind I took a bite out of it far too quickly, for as soon as the my teeth clamped down I felt the scolding-hot, lentilly middle stick to the roof of my mouth. Unfortunately, this put a downer on the rest of my meal but I did take some positives: one, the flavour of the actual patty (what I could taste above the pain, anyway) was genuinely very flavoursome, also the meal was very, very good value for money. My last moan, though (I promise!), is that I have never understood houmous as a sauce or ‘lubricant’. Don’t get me wrong, I love houmous, but normally it just provides another drying element to the ensemble. And for some reason it is always served with lentil burgers (and felafel burgers, naturally).

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Whilst the Island Queen will still stay as one of my favourite pubs, I can think of a few better places to get a burger and a beer, although maybe not at a better price! It was a nice evening regardless, and the pub lets you bring dogs so little Amber came along with us too. Alas, with the Christmas burgers disappointing in general – I did get round to trying out a few – December was to be a bit of a let-down month for me and burgers.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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Homeburger

Recently, a group of friends and I decided that we should enter a 6-a-side league in North London on Thursday night. Despite initial grumblings that Thursday might be a difficult night to fulfil (Thursday is the new Friday, after-all) we went ahead with it. Unfortunately, twelve weeks – and eight defeats – later, the team is no more, as we were barely able to make a team on any given week. One positive, though, is that I found a new burger joint. Browsing twitter one evening on my way to footy I stumbled across a few hashtags going around talking about one thing: #NationalHamburgerDay. To be honest, this sent me into a bit of a panic, I had been caught off-guard. Supposedly flying the flag for the veggie burger on the burger review circuit and I can’t even make plans to go for a burger on #NationalHamburgerDay – even though it might only have been said day in the states. As I was playing footy, how could I get my hands on a burger on burger day? Luckily for me, teammates of mine had sampled a burger joint near where we play. I was to have my Burger Day burger after all, from Homeburger.

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As we settled down in The Lamb on Holloway Road, with seemingly everybody around us tucking into their own form of takeaway dinner, it wasn’t long before we had ordered online on our phones and our food was on it’s way. Homeburger is a home delivery or collection service (the clue’s in the name) so we got ours ordered to the pub about 100m down the road! The menu has eight burgers, one veggie (although as I write this it doesn’t currently appear on the menu page on the website) – called the Greenhouse, listed on the website as containing BBQ mushrooms, cheddar & American cheese, and fried onions. I shared a portion of the aptly, if not unnecessarily, named Homefries and Homeslaw for sides. The burger itself was a really, really pleasant surprise. Having resigned my self to another mushroom burger, I was in fact presented with a patty containing mushrooms, but also filled with lentils and fried onions, on a bed of lettuce and tomato. The smokiness of the barbecue mushrooms and the sweetness of the fried onions offset eachother perfectly, while the lentils added the bulk of the patty and gave it some bite. The combo of the two cheeses topping the patty added to the menagerie of favours that littered this surprise package. The triple cooked Homefries were also a delight, whilst the Homeslaw might have been better replaced by Mac Shack and Cheese or some buttermilk battered Onion Shards.

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I was very happy to stumble across Homeburger as it exceeded my expectations in every way. Not only is it rare to find a decent independent burger place out of the conventional burger hubs of London, the fact that it resides on a fairly innocuous part of Holloway road is even more impressive. What pleased me more is that I wasn’t disappointed on #NationalHamburgerDay despite my late awareness to it. The fact that Homeburger delivers – and something must be said for the quality of their packaging – allowed me to partake in three of my favourite activities: playing football, going to the pub, and eating veggie burgers! Whilst the fate of our team on a Thursday night was ultimately doomed, Homeburger left me with something to savour, literally.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

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Honest Burgers

If you ask people who like burgers to name their favourite burger restaurants, Honest is always one of the names mentioned.I have tried to go to Honest a few times before, but due to ridiculous waiting times – and one time even a power cut – I have never actually eaten there, until now. Date at the cinema with the girlfriend to see Nightcrawler preceded by some delicious burgers – I was excited to say the least.

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Even on a Thursday night at one of their more out-of-the-way restaurants on Pentonville Road in Kings Cross, there was a wait (this time ‘only’ 20 minutes). We used the opportunity to get some drinks and I decided to try the house lager – Honest British Steam Lager – one of only two beers on tap. It’s a good, dark, hoppy lager, the kind you’d expect to get served in such a burger restaurant.

On to the burger, and deviating away from the norm, the Honest vegetarian option is advertised as a fritter rather than the usual patty or bean-burger. The fritter consists of spiced cauliflower, sweetcorn and shallots, and resembles a large vegetable pakora. Presumable made in the same way as a pakora (deep-fried), this delectable delight was neither too dry nor too oily, and was served with a raita-esque sauce – which I felt there could’ve been a bit more of – continuing the asian theme.

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The burger is served in a brioche bun which was a bit on the thick side. Quite often a bun is too small for a normally oversized, and easily broken up patty. But, with the light nature of this fritter, this bun went the other way. The burger comes with rosemary fries included, which were delicious (if not initially a little salty), and cost only £7. On top of that Rach and I shared some smoky-flavoured onion rings and some dilly coleslaw – both slightly different to the standard, but both definite improvements.

One last thing to try was the Honest Cocktail. I’d drank half of my beer in the wait for the table so needed something to cut through the burger and fries towards the end of the meal. This gin, apple juice, cucumber and lemon puree concoction seemed to perfectly fit the bill. Personally, though, it wasn’t to my taste. The cucumber was too overpowering and the drink overall was far too sharp – like taking the subtle parts of a G&T and amplifying them ridiculously. It grew on me as it went down but I’d attribute that to the dilution from the ice.

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What is clear about Honest is that although they experiment with new flavours and ideas, they keep everything simple. Keeping things simple means that they can focus on what they do well and they certainly achieve that. From the stylish decor, to the delightfully light veggie fritter, to the delicious beer, it’s clear why they are always packed out.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

Giraffe Stop

As selections for a quick dinner on the move go, the recently renovated Kings Cross station has a few of my absolute favourites. Ignoring the likes of Wasabi and Leon for an quick pre-alcohol stomach-lining dinner – mainly for the sake of this blog – I opted for Giraffe’s fast food restaurant option, Giraffe Stop.

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I used to go to Giraffe quite a lot with my family when it first opened up about 15 or so years ago, and the felafel burger has been etched in my memory as an old favourite, and one of those choices one makes before even setting eyes on the menu.

Much to my joy, the felafel burger was still on the menu, called the ‘Felafel Deluxe’, so I duly ordered it. The Giraffe Stop has a sign outside it promoting ‘Fabulous Burgers!’ and have a whopping 9 variations on the menu. However, the Felafel Deluxe was the only veggie one (there’s a fish finger burger on the menu, as well, for those that way inclined) so not much deliberation was needed, which is never normally the case anyway.

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I’ll hold my hand up here, I fucking love felafel – I’ve probably had more felafel than veggie burgers in my time – so I’d like to say that I know a thing or two about them. The flavour and taste of these were unfortunately rather bland and fell into the all-to-regular trap of being quite dry. What was odd as well – and different to the heavenly Giraffe felafel burger of those halcyon days – is that instead of a felafel-formed patty inside the Felafel Deluxe they use individual felafel, which in my eyes defeats the point in having it as a burger in the first place. Needless to say, a fair few soldiers were lost in the journey from bun to mouth.

The rest of the burger itself was a pleasant surprise, aside from the bun, and the red pepper hummus particularly worked well with the felafel. A welcome and unexpected treat (I didn’t full read the menu) was the halloumi which added some much needed saltiness to the burger. The dill-infused pickle also burst with flavour.

To wash it down I got a bottle of the Peruvian beer Cusqueña – a pilsner-type lager similar to mexican beers like Pacifico and Modelo – which went down a treat under the eerie, blue Kings Cross lighting.

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Food and drink aside, with Giraffe Stop being a majority take away restaurant I didn’t expect the best of service, but I felt the guy who served me was strangely robotic to the extent of being rude, and my burger was served in a take away wrapper, rather than a burger basket, even though I told them I was sitting outside.

All in all though, it was a fairly pleasant burger, but I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to eat here again, especially when a Wasabi tofu curry is waiting for me next door.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6/10

OVERALL RATING 4/10

Bun & Bar

What better place to start than in my own back yard?

Bun & Bar has been open since the end of August and is one of the latest additions to the Harringay wave of gentrification along Green Lanes. With Live music there on weekend evenings and a generally cool vibe otherwise, it’s quite an enjoyable place to wile away a couple of hours enjoying a few cocktails to go with your burger. It’s a quite a laid back establishment and you have to order at the bar but this adds to the relaxed mood.

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Amazingly, and almost unheard of in the burger restaurant world, Bun & Bar’s burger menu is 1/3 (ONE THIRD) vegetarian. Having sampled the B&B Vegetarian Burger before (which is delicious – especially with a bit of added stilton) I decided to go try the Portobello Veggie Burger.

I’m usually not a fan of a ‘shroom burger as I feel it’s a bit of a cop out for a burger chef who doesn’t want to try their hand at creating a truly tasty veggie patty. As the aforementioned B&B Vegetarian Burger proves, this is not a problem at Bun & Bar so I put my gripe behind me and got stuck in.

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Inside a brioche bun (why change a classic?) the portobello mushroom is served with a large roasted pepper, big slab of goats cheese and B&B yogurt sauce. The mushroom itself was big, juicy and full of flavour, whilst the richness of the goats cheese was counteracted by the pepper and yogurt for a very pleasant overall veggie burger experience.

At Bun & Bar the price of the burger ( < £10 ) includes rosemary fries but you can upgrade to sweet potato fries for only a quid more (although I had to ask for my gherkin!). They have a small but appetising selection of sides – one of which is a so far untried by me, yet delicious looking, slab of mac n cheese. I didn’t go for a cocktail this time but instead opted for a pint of the Crate Pale Ale – an American style, hoppy pale ale, brewed in London – which accompanied the burger perfectly.

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For a new business, out in the relative sticks, Bun & Bar is fairly busy most nights and I can see why: affordable, great burgers and a friendly atmosphere. This wasn’t my first time here, and it certainly won’t be the last!

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10