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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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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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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Kua ‘Aina

On the 8th November 2016, a shockwave was sent around the globe. The Republican, and outsider candidate, Donald Trump beat the Democrat nominee, and bookies’ favourite, Hillary Clinton in the race to become President of the United States of America. Trump was sworn in last week to end the eight year term of one of the world’s favourite Presidents, Barack Obama, a president elected (and re-elected) on a politics of hope and inclusivity – the polar opposite of the current incumbent. So, whilst the internet was celebrating his premiership with a number of quite frankly, excellent ‘best-moments’ montages, and Joe Biden memes, I tried to join in the only way I could, by eating a veggie burger. Where else then, than in a burger restaurant inspired by the archipelago of his birth, the state of Hawaii, called Kua ‘Aina just off Carnaby Street.

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Tenuous (if not topical) links aside, I was drawn to Kua ‘Aina in an attempt to sample a burger that had something different about it. A lot of the burger places in London are trying to outdo each other at the same game – the moody, minimal, meat-obsessed, hipster, don’t-care-but-actually-really-do vibe – but Kua ‘Aina takes a more unashamed approach. Walking into the kitsch, Hawaiian themed interior already adds an element of fun that you often don’t find in many burger joints. The menu of ‘lava-grilled’ burgers and sandwiches is brought over to you by waiters in Hawaiian shirts and has a whopping 21 different choices to choose from (three veggie, five fish). One of the veggie options was essentially salad in a bun though, so I had a straight choice between halloumi and red pepper, or a garlic butter infused portobello mushroom – I went for the latter, with a side of sweet potato fries. The real reason for the meal was because it was the last Friday of work in 2016, so to drink we sampled a few pitchers worth of the Hawaiian beers on draught from Kona Brewing Co.

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The burger itself was soft and juicy as advertised on the menu, the portobello mushroom(s) had been grilled just enough over the lava to keep their bite but also to burst with flavour as they were bitten into. It came in a ‘golden seeded bun’ – about halfway between a sesame and a brioche bun- which provided the best of both worlds. The whole thing was smaller than I was hoping, but satisfying nonetheless with the garlic butter adding an almost french, garlic mushroom feel to the ensemble.  The sweet potato fries were crunchy and the Big Wave golden pale ale was particularly delicious.

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Overall, my burger homage to Obama/end of year lunch at Kua ‘Aina was tasty and uplifting as it needed to be. One criticism would be that they had two clear veggie ‘burger’ options on the menu but neither were actually a genuine patty. Perhaps, a lot like Obama’s presidency, the main aims were achieved (in this case flavour and atmosphere), but if given some more time, and less resistance from the House of Congress (meat-eaters?) then maybe a truly unique Hawaiian veggie burger would have been achieved… with pineapple or something, I dunno.

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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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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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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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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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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Big Easy

Despite the fact that quite a few of my friends are vegetarians, the reality is that most – as is the way of the world – are not. What this leads to is on certain social events, for example a friend’s birthday, plans for dinner may be made at not the most enticing places for a vegetarian to go. Some might say that they even are the antithesis of what one would want, but being the good vegetarian friend you are, you grit your teeth and bare it. Never have I not gone to a friend’s birthday because the menu was too meaty – I did once not get invited to one of my best mate’s birthdays because he was going to an Argentinian steak restaurant, but that’s another story for another day – but an invite to Big Easy brought me close. A visit to a lobster and steak restaurant stinking to high-heaven of barbecue sauce is not my ideal, but luckily, after an extensive search of the online menu, I spotted it – the little (v) – alongside the veggie burger.

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The Spicy Black Bean Burger, which comes with chips and slaw included in the price, fits in to the theme of the restaurant in terms of size, if not on the flavours supposedly on show alone. The burger, as a construction, was huge – a thick, crispy bean burger with whole black beans punctuating the patty. The massive burger is dwarfed in comparison by it’s bun, big and bready, both combining to make more than a handful. To round off the ensemble and complete the tenuous link to the southern-US themed, rest of the menu, there is a relatively tiny bit of avocado, pickles and chipotle mayo. Unfortunately the burger wasn’t very moist. The sheer size of it meant that the regular fate of the bean burger (good texture but ultimately too dry) was amplified. The disproportionate amount of other fillings compared to the gigantic bun only accentuated this effect. Whilst the chips and the slaw were tasty in their own right it was, ironically, the aforementioned barbecue sauce that saved the burger, both in flavour and moistness.

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Whilst I would normally avoid places like this like the plague – they sometimes feel like a (obviously inadvertedly) massive F-you to my vegetarianism – I will keep going to them if invited. The atmosphere of the restaurant was cool, and it was packed out for a Sunday evening, all the diners there to enjoy the experience as well as the food. The unfortunate truth is that the world has not quite fully opened it’s arms to vegetarianism. And whilst I feel that Big Easy has done well enough to include one veggie option on their menu, it barely scratches the surface in terms of the amount of effort they have put into the rest of their menu. It doesn’t matter though, because as long as I have friends who eat meat, I will come, and as long as they serve veggie burgers, I will come.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 4.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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