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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Travel Post: Glastonbury Festival 2015

I love London, don’t get me wrong, but come the end of June there is one place where I wouldn’t rather be: traipsing around a farm in Somerset, along with 170,000 other revellers, seeing some of the world’s greatest artists and soaking up the vibes at Glastonbury Festival. Despite all the excitement that my second impending Glasto weekend had in store for me, whilst I was on the train down to Castle Cary, I was struck by another realisation about what makes the festival so great – the food! That many people need to be fed, and at Glastonbury they are fed well. The festival’s policy of only independent food vendors means that a general high quality of grub is on offer. On top of that, with the positively alternative nature of the Glastonbury festival-goer, there is a strong lean towards vegetarian (and even vegan-)friendly cuisine. A raver two-steps on his stomach and, with five days of partying ahead, I would need a fair few veggie burgers to get me through.

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The Park

With my first ever Wednesday night surprisingly reaching dawn (after earlier thinking the music would be over by midnight!), an afternoon on the hill above The Park munching on a tin of beans and veggie sausages (don’t judge me) before catching the preview of the excellent Amy documentary was much needed. The party restarted again, as well as my appetite, in Stonebridge bar with Mike Skinner in particularly good form reloading everything he and the Murkage DJs played, and led me to my first burger of the festival. Such an occasion as this required a visit to a British summer festival stalwart and a favourite of mine: Vegan & Vegetarian. Usually the prime spot to pick up a banging felafel in pitta, my attention was focused towards the burger menu, where one has the choice of either an ‘Organic Tofu’, a ‘Spicy Mexican’, or a ‘Traditional Veggie’ – I went for the latter. The Traditional Veggie – a soya based, meat substitute burger – is fairly ordinary in it’s appearance. It comes served in a wholemeal bun, with vegan mayo and packed with the leafy green salad synonymous with this particular stand. The flavour of the synthesised patty really comes through as succulent and juicy as I imagine the beef patty it’s trying to replicate would be. What really set it off was a massive dollop of hot pepper sauce which added some much needed contrast to the otherwise fairly straight ensemble. (6/10)

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The rest of Thursday night, and in fact the whole of Friday, flew by. Plans for a burger were made, but one minute I was standing at the Pyramid stage getting rained on whilst grooving to the soulful sounds of Alabama Shakes and the indomitable tones of Mary J. Blige, and the next I was at the Stone Circle watching the sun come up, reflecting on JESUS’s closing set at Shangri-La Heaven.

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The whirlwind nature of Friday meant the main agenda of Saturday was nutrition, and lots of it. A free vegetarian lunch curtesy of the Hare Kirshnas set me on my way but the evening meal meant a rendezvous at one of my favourites from last time around: The ‘Fresh Organic Veggie Burgers stall. This is a must stop for the veggie burger enthusiast. Located equidistantly between the Pyramid, Other and John Peel stages, it has a prime location and one that me and my mates met up at especially this year for a veggie burger reunion. What’s special about this stall is that they offer a ‘create your own’ experience, where you can combine one of their three homemade ‘mushroom magic’, ‘spicy bean’, or ‘balti burger’ patties with two of six special toppings. I went for the spicy bean, with a topping of vegan coleslaw and satay sauce. Again served in a wholemeal bun (no brioche here), and with a healthy serving of lettuce. The flavours from this burger cut through the dulled sensations that the festival had rendered on my taste buds. Equally fresh and rich at the same time the burger propped me up for the night to come with the nuttiness of the satay combining with the spiced patty brilliantly (9/10). They also do a scrummy thai tofu peanut curry for the less burger inclined. Just as well my belly was full because Saturday night proved to be one of the best periods of the festival, first seeing Skepta performing at his peak to a a rowdy crowd, before witnessing the ‘greatest living rockstar on the planet’ in the shape of Kanye West at the Pyramid Stage. Love him or hate him, he was definitely worth his slot as Saturday’s headliner, and managed to somehow hold the enormity of the Pyramid stage all by himself. Later, the killer combination of DJ EZ and ShyFX at Wow!, and – even later – Four Tet at Genosys, provided the other highlights of the night.

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Kanye West at the Pyramid Stage

Sunday arrives and by day five your running on fumes, but by this time the vibes are in full flow and everyone is at optimum festival mode. Lionel Richie set up the day perfectly with a set easy like the sunday afternoon it was on. With seemingly the majority of the acts I wanted to see performing on the Sunday there was barely time to fit in one more burger but I managed to find time between the sun-soaked Future Islands set on the Other Stage and FKA Twigs slot on West Holts. I went to ‘Gourmet Burgers’ for my last stop which had a fairly a simple burger menu selling four different burgers (Beef, Lamb, Pork & Felafel). Being a burger store I was expecting a felafel patty but instead, unfortunately, got given a white bap with a few felafel balls and salad in it, with garlic and sweet chilli sauce – a poor man’s felafel wrap (without the poor man’s prices). I took a bite and couldn’t have anymore. I don’t know whether it was my distaste for the burger or just my excitement for the night to come, but my appetite just wasn’t there, so I shared it out with my mates and got on with my night (2/10). It was a bit of downer as it was to be my last burger of the festival but all was forgotten once I got back to the music which culminated at the unparalleled drag-queen disco, NYC Downlow.

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When I left Glastonbury after my first visit two years ago, I left with feeling of general satisfaction. Not incredibly overawed by anything in particular, I had a feeling that they just managed to do everything slightly better than every other festival managed to. This time though I left with a feeling that I had experienced something truly special. Knowing my way around the festival better, experiencing new aspects that I hadn’t last time, and going a bit more with the flow probably also helped. The fact is, that from the wide-eyed first-timers to the weirdos, face-down in the Stone Circle at 10am, the festival is being enjoyed by all and is absolutely unique to itself in the amount of effort it puts in to making that happen. Whether it’s in the company of the people you love, or the new friends you’ve made, or even just enjoying the beautiful munch you’ve had along the way, Glastonbury is an experience like no other.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6/10 (Ave)

OVERALL RATING: 10/10

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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