My Buns

Quite often one of the bad things said about London is that it is too expensive to live in. Rental prices are so high, that even if you can get a well paying job, you’ll never be able to save up enough money to afford to buy a house. It was this, in a roundabout sense, why I found myself on Wood Street in Walthamstow on a Saturday afternoon. You see, one of the side effects – positive, or not, depending on how you look at it – of the current housing situation is that people are being forced to look further and further out to find places to live – and I was meeting up with some friends who had done just that. Another side effect, is that with all these trendy, young Londoners moving out to the sticks, so too must exist the establishments that cater for the needs. Namely, pubs that sell craft beers and burgers such as the Duke E17.

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From the outside the Duke stands out, and literally stands apart, from the other establishments lining the Wood Street thoroughfare. Its a big, all black building that stands back from the road, with a massive mural on the adjacent building proclaiming that ‘It’s all good in the Wood!’. The interior is a lot more welcoming – a quite large restored pub, still with all its original wood panelling and big L-shaped bar. My Buns, the resident burger sellers, occupy the kitchen at the back and offer up a very tasty looking burger menu, consisting of a wapping twelve burgers, of which three are veggie (ONE QUARTER). The three veggie burgers cover all bases; a felafel patty (The Felafel), a mushroom burger (The Portobello), and a veggie patty (The Lazy Butcher) – I went for the latter. Possibly overly-excited by the size of the menu and all it’s extras (and a tiny bit tipsy off a few strong but crisp pints of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale), I went for some extra blue cheese.

The burger itself certainly packed some bang for its buck. The large veggie patty was a deep-fried, breadcrumbed patty made mainly from courgette and served with lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, and a house yogurt sauce. The burger was full of flavour, with courgette providing a texture and taste that I haven’t previously experienced when eating a veggie burger. The downside to this was that the burger fell apart far too easily when I started eating it, so I ended the meal – probably a bit too gleefully – licking blue cheese off my fingers. In regards to the cheese, it was definitely not needed and a mistake on my behalf, as I should have  seen that it already came with a yogurt sauce.

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Overall, despite the massive schlep out to it, what I found in the far away spot of East London left me more than satiated. It’s good to know that, should I ever have to move out of the centre, that there are options for beer-drinking, veggie burger lovers such as myself, provided by kitchens such as My Buns in pubs like The Duke. In a bittersweet twist however, the occasion that found me in E17 was actually a leaving do. My friends, who had found a reasonably priced place to live out that far were actually leaving London, to move to a bigger and cheaper property in Brighton. I guess a veggie burger blogger’s trip to Brighton is on the cards!

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATINGS: 7.5/10 

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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Byron

In the first post I ever wrote on this blog I reviewed a mushroom burger with the caveat that I’m not usually a fan of the patty being replaced with a mushroom as I felt that it was a bit of a ‘cop-out’. Although the burger I had that night turned out to be delicious, the burger that led me to have those views was the ‘shroom burger I had had so many times at Byron. It was not the quality of the burger itself that I had issues with, but the fact that such a prominent burger chain could not – in my opinion – be bothered to come up with their own version of a veggie patty. When I found out however via twitter that Byron now did a bean burger I had to go and check it out. One thing Byron does well is great initiatives. The main reason I’ve sampled the mushroom burger at Byron is because they were giving them away to people participating in Movember, which I participated in a couple of years ago. This Summer, Byron did ‘Summer at Byron’ meaning every Thursday they offered some sort of treat, be it beer or bourbon, which culminated in August with buy-one-burger-get-one-free every week throughout the month. This was the final shove – an opportunity to review another one of the big hitters – at their Farringdon restaurant – couldn’t be missed.

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Settling in for our BOGOF deal the first thing I noticed was the difference between the Bean Burger and the Mushroom burger – namely that there wasn’t one. The list of extra ingredients is exactly the same between both burgers with the exception that the mushroom comes with goats cheese (the best addition IMO). I therefore opted to get the bean burger with extra blue cheese. For sides we went shared a portion of regular and courgette fries between the table – it was a weeknight after-all – and to drink I went for a bottle of Founders All Day IPA, resisting the urge to go for one of the tempting hard shakes.

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The burger itself looked like a very healthy looking bean burger, good size, served in a ‘big, squishy bun’ (as they like to call it) with the usual trimmings that I remember from my Byron Mushroom burger days. Biting into was a different result altogether, however. The burgers crispy looking facade gave way to a mushy and dry patty – falling into the trap of many bean-burgers before it. Aside from that the ensemble was great tasting and fresh, but not really enough to raise it above the Mushroom burger in my estimations. One of the best things about it was the added cheese which left me wondering why they omitted from the burger in the first instance, when it takes pride and place in the Mushroom burger anyway. Maybe this is to create a more vegan-friendly option? I don’t know. Sides-wise, the courgette fries were crunchy and juicy inside a light batter, and the beer was cold and crisp to cut through all the deep-fried elements of the meal.

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I have found when asking people what they think of Byron that their opinions are quite polarised, but in reality it’s harmless. Although the burgers are not necessarily the best out there, they are always trying new things, and supporting good initiatives (take, for example, their current One Feeds Two scheme that has been so popular, I mean, 25p burgers…). The problem with all the chopping and changing though is that they’re failing to hone in and finesse on their main burgers. I got notified later on twitter that you can actually switch up patties within the different burger arrangements – adding to my point. If a bit more focus was put into making the burgers that they already do, great, then they could really become the best burger chain in town. I might have had gripes with only the Mushroom burger available, but I’d definitely take one really good veggie burger over two average ones.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING 7/10

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Red Dog Saloon

Lent has arrived and, although I’m not religious, I see it as an opportunity to diet within an achievable yet challenging timeframe but without having to sheepishly explain why. This year I have given up… no, not burgers, but quite closely linked to that, bread – which you can see clearly affecting my burger eating patterns. I imagine waiting staff at burger restaurants across London thinking ‘what’s the point?’ when I order a ‘naked’ veggie burger. Anyway, I digress. On Shrove Tuesday, with a bread-less forty days on the horizon, I decided it was time to get in one more bunned burger. The honour was bestowed upon Red Dog Saloon.

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Red Dog Saloon on Hoxton Square was my first experience of the ‘brew-n-cue’ cuisine that took over the capital about 6 or 7 years back and, as someone who was raised in a veggie household, it was the first time I had ever heard about pulled-pork. With a very meaty menu you may not think it the ideal stop off for the vegetarian but nestled in the burger list of the menu, you can spot the quite-appetising sounding Spicy-Bean burger. A younger me, with my eyes opened to a new culture, used to find this burger up there with one of my favourites. It was now time to see whether the veggie burger was up to scratch. Because I’d been there before, and was getting the burger on a solo trip I decided to get the burger on collection. Calling up, I was directed to order from their sister restaurant, Red Dog Sandwiches’ website. For some reason they don’t sell the Spicy Bean burger next door so I called back up, where I got an apology as they took my order. With an evening of pancakes in mind, I went for the Wedge Salad (with blue cheese dressing…) as a side.

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I collected my order and went across to the sun-soaked Hoxton Square to enjoy my alfresco lunch. The burger was slightly different to what I remember it looking like. Quite a lot of mayo was on show and I feared that the all the ingredients that made it so appealing before had been left by the wayside. On the first bite however, all my fears evaporated. What the 5-bean and quinoa patty is deliciously moist and well spiced, and is contrasted perfectly with the bed of guac and crunchy gherkin and jalapeño. My initial fear of the mayo overpowering everything else was also banished as it added yet another layer of juiciness to a flavour-packed burger. The salad, on opening, was a bit disappointing as it was 8 quarter chunks of baby-gem lettuce with a little pot of the blue cheese dressing. I wasn’t complaining though as I munched through the crunchy wedges once they had been dressed – the right balance of fresh and cheesy.

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Red Dog Saloon didn’t disappoint. As one of the first burger restaurants that emerged in the now burger-saturated Hoxton/Shoreditch area, Red Dog has stuck to its guns and kept true to its Tex-Mex barbecue theme. Although the menu is overtly meaty, they haven’t shied away from providing a decent vegetarian option. Red Dog was initially one of my favourite burgers in London and I have to say, on this evidence, that isn’t going change anytime soon.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Back in the LDN and in search once more of a proper burger so I decided to head to one of the stalwarts of the burger game – Gourmet Burger Kitchen. GBK has been around for as long as I remember and their name is synonymous with the success of UK burger restaurants. Boasting over 60 restaurants across the UK (with a fair few of those in London) I found myself at the branch in the O2. There is a sense amongst the burger going folk that although GBK has been around since the beginning, it has been left behind by the new wave of tastier, trendier burgers on the scene. I had to see whether that was the case with the veggie burger.

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The menu strikes you as different from the norm just due to the sheer number of options on the menu. The vegetarian section boasts four different burgers with three different base fillings, but when you take into account that you can switch out any meat patty from any of the other options with a pan fried bean patty then the amount of veggie options increases four-fold. I went for the Californian, the slightly more alternative option of the two bean-patty choices in the veggie section, along with the fries, the blue-cheese ‘slaw and a coke.

The burger at first glimpse looked pretty impressive. A neat-looking, bean patty topped with cheese and smashed avocado – as well as all the usual trimmings – in a toasted sesame bun. The first bite gives the biggest impression of the burger and, unfortunately for this one, my first impression was one of dryness. Even the avocado and the smoked chili mayo failed to add any real moisture, with the cheese not even melted. On the flip-side, the real killer ingredient was the house relish that packed the most punch of the whole meal, and really was the most enjoyable thing in the burger itself. The fries were delightfully thin, and vindicated my decision not to get my usual favourite sweet potato fries, but the ‘slaw just wasn’t cheesy enough.

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The trouble with GBK seems to me that they are going off their outdated reputation alone. It is down to the fact that they have been around the longest, and are the most visible burger chain on the high street, that they can keep going. What this means, however, is that there is an inkling of a reluctance to remain fresh and keep up with the times. The way you have to order and pay up-front at the counter in such a big restaurant with so many staff seems like an old gimmick – and means that ultimately the friendly and helpful staff will often miss out on tips. Also, to use the example of the bean patty (the veggie patty that they offer to swap in in every other combination), to serving something so dry for your main veggie burger when you’ve been around for the best part of 15 years shows that there’s very little being thought about and updated in the kitchen. I can’t speak for the beef or chicken burgers but in these times when burger restaurants are a dime-a-dozen you need to evolve or become extinct.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 4.5/10

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 5/10