Temple of Seitan

This month my girlfriend and I have decided to try being vegan. Having just recently come back from Vietnam, it was a real eye opener for us to see just how easy (and delicious) it is to eat vegan. Vegetarian food in a lot of Asia is essentially vegan, bar the odd egg dish, and the word for vegetarian in Vietnamese, chay, is interchangeable with vegan. One of the veggie/vegan meals we had whilst we were out there was a bowl of Pho (eaten in Vietnam for breakfast) which had a few tasty chunks of vegan beef and chicken in it, in the process reminding me how Asia tends to be streets ahead with that kind of stuff. The UK is catching up though, with a number of establishments popping up offering very inventive, and believable, meat substitute foods. One of the most successful is the vegan fried chicken shop, just of Mare Street in Hackney, called Temple of Seitan.

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As someone who has never eaten fried chicken before in their life, it was an exciting first for me. In the name of fairness, however, I decided to go with my mate Cecil, a born-again vegetarian and previous fried chicken connoisseur, to provide another perspective. The restaurant is set up for take-aways with only a few seats outside. On the specific day we went it happened to be pouring down with rain, which was just as well as normally, when passing by, there is a queue reaching right along the vast, stepped Morning Lane pavement. The menu is pretty simple, offering a fairly standard chicken shop menu (if a lot more tastefully laid out…), the difference being that everything, including the Mac N Cheez, is vegan. Whilst the option of a two piece was temping, to stay true to the blog, I went for the Temple Burger and fries.

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The burger itself was very tasty for what it was, essentially some deep fried wheat gluten in a bit of bread, but the ‘chicken’ had a good chewy texture to it, the crunchy deep-fried nature of it offset by a big lettuce leaf and a mix of vegan mayo and some Siracha (NB, on a total side-note, I found out this morning that Siracha mayo is vegan!), the latter was Cec’s addition. Also hidden in there was some vegan cheese, which added noting, and a slice or two of facon. This had an instantly nostalgic effect, harking back to the veggie ham slices that my dad used to whack in my sandwiches for packed lunch when he was in a rush to make them. The fries were nice too, but maybe a bit overpriced at £3, the chicken shop aesthetic is definitely not continued in the price! As for the alternate, used-to-eat-real-chicken perspective I promised earlier, here’s what Cec had to say: “It doesn’t taste like chicken, at least not how I remember chicken tasting – it’s been a long time – but it still tastes good! The other good thing about it is that I’m not racked with guilt eating it.”

It’s that second point there that has recently changed my perspective on substitute meat. I used to think: if you’re going veggie, eat veggies! But for a lot of people, the reason they change isn’t necessarily because they don’t like the taste, or the idea, of eating meat. Many people choose vegetarianism or veganism because of other factors, but still like to eat things that they used to when they weren’t veggie, such as burgers, sausages, and fried chicken! As long as people want to contribute to a better planet, either through animal welfare or environmental reasons then who cares if they’re eating ‘fake’ meat. In this sense the Temple of Hackney is a doing great things by giving people that option of a tasty plant-based alternative to fried chicken. It’s certainly won me over.

Update: In writing this blog, I got hungry and decided to go back and grab some vegan chicken. The fries are no longer £3 (now a more reasonable £2, there is also a +£2 fries and drink meal deal), and the menu has a few more things to try than listed in the above photo.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10 

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

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Travel Post: New York

A bit earlier in the year, I had the pleasure of heading to New York for just under a week. It goes without saying that I was excited from from a foodie perspective, and quickly got to researching what was on offer veggie burger-wise. I read articles about some of the best the city had to offer – including one that is part of a $295 10-course tasting menu in a 3 Michelin star restaurant – unfortunately I wasn’t able to sample as many as I wanted, due to the large amount of other great cuisines (mainly pizza) on offer. I did get to try out one veggie burger establishment, a tiny little below street-level establishment in East Village, aptly named Superiority burger.

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One of the most amazing things about New York is that you can have completely contrasting neighbourhoods within the same boroughs (admittedly the boroughs are a bit bigger than their London equivalents), sometimes right next to each other. Nestled between the massive skyscrapers of the Financial district and Midtown, are the trendy ‘village’ areas of Greenwich and the East Village. The East Village has a particularly neighbourhood feel about it, with it’s rows of red brick townhouses, and each street dotted with a few tiny bars or restaurants on the ground or basement floors. Superiority burger on E9th street was one of these establishments. As restaurants this go this is certainly one of the smallest I have ever been to. The white shop front is the only thing that stops you from walking straight past it. When you enter it has the feel of a takeaway burger bar, but on closer inspection you notice it probably seats about 5 or 6 people in little banquettes hidden in the window bay and under the stairs with fold up tables like you get on the front row of seats on an airplane. The menu is pretty varied and unique, with a number of different burgers and wraps on offer, and a couple of sides – notably no fries (of any variety!) – which they describe as being all ‘vegetarian, a lot accidentally vegan’. I went for the namesake Superiority burger with a side of burnt broccoli salad.

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The burger was small, slightly larger than slider size, but packed full of veggies and served with melted Munster cheese and lettuce, inside a sweet brioche bun. I ate the thing in about three bites. The burnt broccoli salad was spicy and filled with a pleasantly surprising east-asian kick. Amazingly it was one of the cheapest meals of the whole trip, the burger – albeit tiny – was only $6! It was a real whistle-stop lunch though, in part because we had a lot more to see and do that day, but also because I was absolutely desperate for the loo, and they didn’t have a customer toilet!

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As mentioned above, unfortunately that was my only veggie burger experience in NYC. It was a great trip for the tastebuds though. Aside from all the slices I picked up from Joe’s Pizza, I had my first ever experience of veggie fried chicken, in the form of buffalo chicken and waffles at Sweet Chick on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. Another great bite was the Eggplant baguette from Jack’s Wife Freda in Greenwich – probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten! Needless to say I left New York with a full stomach and an empty wallet. Although the burger experience in was brief it was good to get one in there amongst all the other delights on offer. I’ll be sure to try some more when I’m back, probably not in the too distant future!

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6/10 

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

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The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker

I might be a bit late to the party, but in 2017 vegan has gone big. Food bloggers and Instagram accounts may have been hash-tagging vegan for a while as far as I know, but my real gauge is the veggie burger scene. Whilst, in the past, a vegan option was just a veggie burger without the cheese, more recently a number of different restaurants and options have popped up, targeting the vegan market but also offering increasingly enticing, and exciting options that may appeal to the non-vegan consumer, such as myself, without going down the route of straight up meat-substitute products. One of these options is the pulled-jackfruit burger.

It was a particularly alarming moment when I saw Tim Lovejoy & Simon Rimmer sampling the burger on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. I knew right there and then that I was behind the mainstream, and had to get myself down to the closest pulled jackfruit proprietor. It just so happened that I was working in Clerkenwell that week, and just around the corner from The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker.

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The pub, nearer the Angel end of St John street has a tasty looking menu consisting of sandwiches and classic bar snacks. The main event for sure, though, is their burgers. Of the five burgers on offer, two are veggie, one, as I have already divulged I was there to sample was the pulled jackfruit, and the other veggie – the halloumi and kimchi burger – was equally as tempting as well. The burger comes with fries and slaw for a very reasonable £8. To accompany my burger lunch on that cold January lunchtime was half of Hobgoblin. I know, hipster burger, dad beer. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Sunday Brunch.

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I didn’t know what to expect from the burger itself but it was a lot fuller than I had imagined it to be. The chunks of jackfruit were virtually spilling out of the brioche bun. Biting into it I was confronted by a texture that I had never experienced before. Having never eaten pulled pork before I cannot make a direct comparison, but it was definitely similar to what I imagine it to be like. At the same time chewy and stringy, lathered in the sweet, sticky BBQ sauce synonymous with it’s meaty cousin. Personally, I’m not too big a fan of barbecue sauce, perhaps because I’ve always associated it with the smell of spare ribs and brisket. The unfamiliar flavour starting to feel more to my taste, safe in the knowledge I was consuming plant-based goods. Saying that though, I’ll hold my hand up – the meal was not completely vegan as the slaw had mayo in it, but could have also been easily missed.

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My own indifference to BBQ sauce aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into this new world of pulled jackfruit and other trendy vegan delights. As someone who has always been inclined to drag my feet when it comes to veganism, it is encouraging to know that tasty, alternative options like this are becoming the norm. And why not? There’s literally no harm in it.

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATINGS: 7/10 

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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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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Tommi’s Burger Joint

Around Christmas time one’s appetite gets a little bit out of hand. The endless Christmas dinners, the ridiculous amount of boozing, and the general increase in the consumption of all things sweet, all add up to one big festive period of gluttony. With a friend coming to Town for our annual Christmas get together I thought I’d add my own touch to this yuletide gorging by having two burgers in the same day. The first burger I had was my Obama-dedicated burger at Kua Aina, the second – and originally the only one I had planned for the day – was at Tommi’s Burger Joint on Thayer street in Marylebone.

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I had been to the Burger Joint a few year’s back in my pre-blogging days and was enamoured by it’s no nonsense approach to serving up burgers. The location had changed since the last visit, but the feel was still the same. As you walk in there is a small queue of patrons ready to order at the till off the black board above. The menu is simple, with four burgers on offer, one veggie, which I duly went for as part of the ‘Offer of the Weekend’ (a special version of their ‘Offer of the Century’). A deal which includes burger, fries, and a bottle of Camden beer – all for £12.90. The trend is continued as you go to sit down, most of the seating is on industrial looking bar and stool set ups. It being a Friday night it was pretty full, with people sitting outside even in December, but my group of mates managed to find a 4 seater all to ourselves. One thing that Tommi’s does put a bit of fuss into though was the condiment bar. Right next to the collection point is a set of what must be well over thirty sauces and and extra burger fillings, which I rightly got stuck into in preparation of my burger.

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When the burger arrived (preceded by a ‘This is a veggie one yeah… just checking’ – people often assume me as non-vegetarian), it was as I remembered both proportion and flavour wise. The patty is veggie based, crispy and a bit spicy, inside a brioche bun with the standard fillings, and holds together pretty well. The additional cheese I got with it when I ordered was needed for my taste, as well as some gherkins which I got from the condiments counter. I couldn’t complain with the chips and the Camden Hells was as inoffensive as the rest of the meal.

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But that’s just the thing, whilst the no frills approach may appeal to eaters of beef, a veggie burger sometimes needs a bit innovation to separate itself from the norm. The burger was good, yes. But as I write this there is no overwhelming memory or emotion that I can recall from eating my burger. The place is cool, don’t get me wrong. Everything from the tunes playing, to the boardgames on offer, to the bearded, tattooed Icelandic burger chefs, makes it fun place to eat a burger on Friday night. All it needs is a slightly better veggie burger. Maybe I’ll leave it to one burger in a day the next time I consider doubling up.

VEGGIE BURGER RATINGS: 6/10 

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

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Travel Post: McDonald’s

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, this blog has taken a nosedive. Reviewing McDonald’s what’s he doing?? Yes, McDonald’s is not part of the burger revolution that our great capital is currently in the wave of, and yes, unless you’re feeling drunk, hungover, sorry for yourself, or skint you probably wouldn’t end up in Maccy’s for dinner, but this is a travel post! I was not in London, and not having dinner, but merely partaking in a cultural exercise where different cultures and cuisines clashed to make something potentially beautiful – I went to McDonald’s in India!

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Before I went to India I was excited more that usual, mainly due to my expectations of the vegetarian cuisine. In terms of vegetarianism, India really is the Holy Grail. With nearly half of the population – 500 million people –  vegetarian, and the majority of the rest not eating beef or pork, the likelihood was that more than anywhere I had ever been before in my life, India was going to be the place with the biggest and tastiest selection of vegetarian dishes for me to sample. But would this be the case across the board? Just after landing in Mumbai, I spotted a Burger King across the road from the main terminal building advertising it’s chicken-whopper, which posed the question: how do international fast-food beef burger brands adapt to such a veggie heavy market?

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It certainly wasn’t as easy to find an Indian McDonald’s in India as it is in London, surprisingly even in the downtown of a megalopolis like Mumbai. The branch in the the tourist area of Colaba (an area famous to most for being the setting for much of Gregory David Roberts’ epic Shantaram) was closed for refurbishment. Aside from that there was only one other branch in the south tip of the Mumbai peninsula, and that was opposite the majestic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus building, which meant that we didn’t have to go too far out of the way on our day of sightseeing (one would argue that this was a sight in itself…). One thing you realise as you walk into a branch of McDonald’s in India is that the clientele is very different to what you would find over here. There were a lot of families, true, but also quite a big crowd of young professionals, and older middle class customers too. The biggest difference, as expected, was the menu! Of the eleven burgers on offer, a massive five were vegetarian (with the other six comprising of five chicken burgers and one fish burger), with even more veggie options available in the form of wraps. The best thing, though, were the names. Conspicuous in it’s absence was the Big Mac. The main burger that took it’s place was the brilliantly titled Maharaja Mac, available in both veg and chicken. Also available was the McSpicy Paneer, the McVeggie, and lastly – from the saver menu – the Aloo Tikki (40p). To try and sample as much as I could, I split a Maharaja Mac and a McSpicy Paneer with my mate, and got a McAloo on the side.

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Unfortunately, this is where the romance with the Indian McDonald’s started to fade. After getting past the momentous moment of having my first ever doubled tier burger, the two patties in the Maharaja Mac were very run-of-the-mill. The McAloo Tikki – a potato and pea burger designed to get in new customers with its cost, and by supposedly replicating the flavours you would get in typical Indian street food – was pretty flavourless reflecting it’s cost. Even the McSpicy Paneer (essentially a deep fried battered slab of cheese) wasn’t even spicy!

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Whilst the burgers disappointed, for the entire fortnight preceding my trip to McDonald’s my tastebuds were tantalised by an array of curries, dosas, and thalis of such variety and flavour that I could’ve happily eaten for the rest of my life. It was a shame that this wonderful Indian ability to spice and flavour their food had been lost – or at least dialled back a considerable deal – when it came to this collision of worlds. The lunch at McDonald’s was hands down the worst meal I had in the whole of India, but I don’t regret trying it one bit. For one, it gave an almost immediate comparison to the food I was eating whilst in India, allowing me to appreciate it even more, and secondly, it gave a glimpse (perhaps only in Beta mode) into some sort of utopian future where international fast-food conglomerates have to bow to the pressure of a majority vegetarian population. Hey, we can all dream, right?

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATINGS: 4/10 (average)

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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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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BRGR.CO

This summer, Pret a Manger did something novel and exciting. After slowly bringing in more and more veggie options, they have now gone the whole hog (for want of another phrase!) and changed one of their flagship stores, on Broadwick st in Soho, into a vegetarian and vegan only store! The opening happened to land on the same fortnight that I was due to be working in the area – funny how these things work out – and so it would’ve been rude not to at least pop-in.  Three days later, though, with bellies full of tofu salad, paneer and chana wraps, and even cacao nib chocolate pudding, my mind – and stomach – was longing for something that bit more familiar. Of all of Soho’s numerous and diverse lunchtime options there is one place on Wardour street that I myself am amazed I haven’t been to. Until now. Forget a salad, I’d be getting burger and chips from Brgr.co!

The burger joint, originally from Lebanon, looks cool enough, exposed brick walls with a black ceiling purveying a sense of minimal chic to go with their philosophy aka ‘brgrology’, basically some nice words about themselves that they can put on their takeaway boxes. Their USP is something to do with the quality of beef that they use (isn’t that everyone’s), but of course I wasn’t there for that. Of the ten burgers on the menu the one veggie option – unsurprisingly for a restaurant with Lebanese origins – is the Felafel Brgr. I went for this with some sweet potato fries.

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The burger itself was minimal –  a simple patty-shaped felafel made out of broad beans, on bed of lettuce and tomato in a brioche bun. A luminous bed of avocado mayo provided the moisture to the patty, and a bit of zing to compliment the crunchy felafel, which was had a moist and flavoursome middle. Also, due to it’s broad bean base it gave the impression of being a lot greener and fresher than the usual chickpea felafel (I’m still undecided as to which is my favourite, but it was a nice switch up from the norm). The sweet potato fries were crisp and plentiful, and made me think that I probably shouldn’t have had so much fried food on a Tuesday lunchtime. With other side options including parmesan truffle fries, and mac n cheese, maybe I went for the healthiest choice, excluding no side at all of course (I mean…).

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Overall, Brgr.co did provide something different from my escapades to Veggie Pret earlier in the week. The experience, however, was not so novel and exciting as it’s bright green hyped up neighbour. Whilst the felafel burger certainly tickled my tastebuds, and fit in with the Lebanese theme they are so proud of, the rest of the experience was pretty… normal. If the definition of BRGROLOGY refers to a select few who work there, or the entire establishment as industry leaders, I’m afraid neither is true.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 5/10

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Stories

One of the benefits of living so close to Broadway Market is that I regularly get to sample the delights (veggie burgers included!) on offer whenever my fancy takes it, each Saturday. What many won’t realise is that the market street also boasts a number of cafés and restaurants offering up tasty grub throughout the week. One such place is Stories. Nestled about halfway up the street, on the righthand side if coming up from the Regents Canal, it offers a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere during the day, and then becomes a bit more lively in the evenings, with DJs playing and an extensive cocktail list. I was there on a lazy Friday lunchtime though, freelance/unemployed, and ready to ease myself into the weekend.

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Stories is taken over by a theme from time to time and the theme on this particular occasion was a south pacific vibe. Palms and hula skirts hung from the ceiling somehow matching the large graphic prints, from the month’s monthly collection adorning the walls. All the chairs are wide and inviting you to recline. Even the few dogs dotted throughout the bar (mine included) seemed to be completely stretched out and relaxed. Stories kitchen runs two menus concurrently, one brunch – serving up anything from a full english to heuvos rancheros – and the other burgers. Of the six burgers, one is veggie (also one fish), the marinated halloumi burger. All the burgers come with a side of triple cooked chips and, as it was Friday, I went for a pint of Crate Pale Ale to accompany my meal.

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The burger itself contained probably the biggest chunks of halloumi that I’d ever seen served as part of a plate of food – we’re probably talking a whole block’s worth – and this was probably with the intention of making the halloumi patty-esque. These massive slaps of halloumi were served on a slice of roasted aubergine, my guess marinaded in the same marinade as the halloumi on top a big slice tomato and fresh lettuce in a brioche bun. As I picked the burger up the juices of the cheese and the aubergine literally oozed out as I gripped the bun in my hand. The juicy experience continued as I bit in, as the aforementioned ooze was cut into by the fresh tomato and tangy relish. If anything though, the halloumi was cut a little too thick and suffered a bit from that squeakiness you can sometimes get from a fat cut of the stuff, but the bulk of it did make for a good patty substitute. The chips too were a little on the large side and could have been cooked a bit longer. They were also a bit few on the plate.

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Chips being a bit hard or not, the chilled out atmosphere meant a lunchtime spent in Stories was always going to be an enjoyable one. With the tunes playing and the pint of Crate going down a treat it felt more like a Sunday than a Friday. Regardless, I look forward to spending a few more lazy afternoons here, made all the more enjoyable by the possibility of burgers.

Stories shut down about a week after my visit. It is survived by its sister establishments The Book Club and Queen of Hoxton, both in Shoreditch.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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Ed’s Easy Diner

January was bleak, wasn’t it? If the weather isn’t bad enough, you probably don’t have any money to do anything fun anyway. If you do happen to find some beer money down the back of the sofa, then there’s no one around to spend it with because all the pubs are empty. And then – even on top of all that – you pile more misery on yourself, either through some lackadaisical attempt at a new year’s resolution, or – in my case – performing some emotional self-flagellation for crimes of gluttony, committed over the Christmas break. I could have easily have just given up booze, but instead I had to go all Billy-Big-Bollocks about it and give up two of my other favourite things as well, bread and cheese. Now, I know I have some previous for this self-inflicted pain, giving up bread for lent last year (which coincidentally we find ourselves in the beginning of now). This time round, however, I thought I’d spare you all the tales of bread-less anguish, and instead just not eat burgers for a month, give you a grumpy paragraph about it, and follow it up with a review of my first burger of the year. So here it is:

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Ed’s Easy Diner is another one of the stalwarts of the UK burger scene, opening it’s first restaurant way back in the 90s in Soho. Nowadays, their restaurants number 50+ and stretch the length and breadth of the country. The location I happened to find myself in was the Ed’s in Wandsworth, nestled in the food court of the Southside Shopping Centre. Ok, I know what you’re thinking, not the most enamouring setting for the first burger of 2016, but I was desperate. February 1st fell on a Monday this year. After the five weekends of January, I wasn’t willing to wait for another one to indulge my habit, and break my fasts. That Monday I just so happened to be working in Wandsworth so, coupled with the dearth of other quick lunch spots, lunch at Ed’s just seemed to make sense.

My first impressions of the restaurant was certainly that Ed’s looked the part. Despite it being in a shopping centre in South West London, you definitely get the feel of being in Diner somewhere in the states – the decor is on point. The menu design also fits into the theme, but my focus of the massive one sided menu was towards the Veggie Burger selection. Of the nine burgers on offer at Ed’s, two are veggie – the Cajun Vegetable, and the Chickpea & Quinoa – I went for the Cajun, served with an Ed’s Plate (fries, onion rings, and coleslaw) but upgraded to sweet potato fries, and for the burger to come with american cheese. All of this washed down with a root beer (breaking Dry January on a Monday lunch would’ve probably been a step too far).

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The burger itself looked pretty run-of-the-mill, a spicy vegetable patty with the usual ensemble of onion, tomato and lettuce inside a sesame bun. I found, though, that it ended up tasting a lot better than it looks. Quite often the main veggie selection of a long standing burger chain can be a bit safe, but this one wasn’t at all boring in it’s flavour. The bits of veggies peppering the patty were crunchy and fresh, and the spice, whilst not exactly hot, was at least present and subtly announced itself to the tongue. The one thing I rejected was my choice of american cheese. When deciding against the other options of Cheddar or Blue, I was picturing Jack cheese, instead it was of the fake looking, bright yellow variety. Going for the Ed’s plate was maybe down to my eyes carless regard for my stomach but I made my way through it nonetheless, the sweet potato fries and the onions rings faultless, whilst the coleslaw had nothing overtly wrong with it either. The root beer (one of my guilty pleasures) brought home the american diner experience.

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Ed’s Diner ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to an enjoyable burger experience. The sign above my table read: ‘Eat here once and you’ll always return’. Whilst always is maybe an overstatement, the offer that they give to new customers – free burger on your next visit with the purchase of any drink – means that you’ll return at least once – probably within 30 days. Other things, for example the slightly inflated prices, means I most likely won’t return that often. Whilst the time, day, and location may not have been completely matched up to when and where I’d normally find myself for a burger review, spending Monday lunch in Ed’s Easy Diner Wandsworth definitely scratched a couple of itches. Firstly, although barely goats cheese spread on toasted sourdough, the sesame bun and yellow gave me my first taste of bread and cheese in over a month. Secondly, and really the main reason, was that it provided a symbolic new beginning to the hope and wonders that 2016 might bring, now that those cold, dark, lonely days of January are behind us.

I’m ok, I promise.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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