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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The Veggie Table

The big news in my life recently is that Rach and I have bought a puppy. She’s a 4-month-old French Bulldog named Amber, and she’s gorgeous. Before this little, furry bundle of joy came into our lives though, we had to get our doggy fix by heading down to Broadway Market on a Saturday morning and marvel at the array of Frenchies, Pugs and Pomeranians on leashes weaving through the crowds of trendy East Londoners sampling the wide variety of market food fare. Now, don’t get me wrong, Broadway Market has a lot going for it aside from the dogs. Stalls selling a menagerie of different cuisines of street food – anything from Malaysian curries to veggie scotch eggs – leave me with my mouth watering every time I head there on a Saturday afternoon. Up until recently though, there was a stall that stood out but that I hadn’t sampled. The Veggie Table, serving up a simple menu of two kinds of veggie burgers, always appealed to me, but most of the time I visit broadway market, it is in search of a midmorning snack. This time I was in search of lunch so there would be no bypassing it on this occasion.

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The two burgers The Veggie Table has on offer are the ‘Heavenly Halloumi Burger’ and the vegan ‘Sweet Potato Chickpea Burger’, both of which you can either have in a wholemeal bun or ‘On a leaf’ (for the carb-conscious). The only side on offer is a mixed salad. Even though the simple menu seemingly made my decision easier, it was still one more option than I’m used too so I read what the queue in front of me was going with and went for the Heavenly Halloumi, and – based on the advice given to me by the helpful staff – I went for extra toppings of onion jam and salsa. Because it was only £3 extra, and I was feeling inspired by this healthy burger experience – I decided to go with the side salad too.

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The burger itself was joyfully fresh, full of crunchy veggies in both the patty – carrot and beetroot – and the salad inside the bun. The patty was flavoursome, the saltiness of the halloumi balancing the earthy flavours surrounding it. The sweetness of the red onion jam and the spiciness of the salsa complemented each-other and meant that not one tastebud on my tongue was left out. The seeded, wholemeal bun was a interesting switch-up to the usual brioche or sesame bun and worked perfectly with the healthy, crisp nature of the burger. The salad on the other hand was ok – two of the three salads in one form or another were incorporated in the burger – and could could probably have been missed.

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The Veggie Table is a great place to grab a veggie burger on a Saturday lunchtime. Now with one more reason to grab a bite to eat and sit on the wall by the mouth of London Fields, this time with my own dog, there’s plenty of reasons to stop by. In amongst the stalls selling a wide variety of artisanal foodstuffs they rightly take their place in the market and I will be sure to stop off there again some weekend in the future.

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8/10

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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The Breakfast Club

The first thing that comes to your head when you think of The Breakfast Club (aside from the excellent 1980s coming-of-age movie) will most likely be breakfast. Many might be surprised that there is another opportunity to eat at the restaurant that doesn’t include eating eggs and/or standing outside, queuing in the cold nursing a hangover on a Sunday morning. The Breakfast Club does actually serve lunch and dinner and for those who can resist ordering from the ‘Late Late Breakfast’ section the main cuisine on offer is *drum roll*….. burgers!

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Another thing that the people might not know about TBC is that their Soho restaurant is BYOB. This makes it a great place to start relatively boozy birthday celebrations – the reason that I was there. With drinks sorted, my attention switched to the menu where there are five burgers on offer, one vegetarian (don’t let the Mushroom & Swiss burger fool you) – the Don’t Have a Cow, which consists of butternut squash and halloumi stack, topped with avocado, sour cream and Sriracha hot chilli sauce. With lent still in full-flow, my bread-less torment continued so I ordered it and waited for my beautifully disassembled burger – skin-on chips and ‘slaw included – to arrive.

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The burger itself was presented as nicely as it could have been, almost fully disassembled on the plate. The only thing that remained as it would have been in the bunned-burger was the stack, two donut ringed slices of roasted butternut squash on either side of a few thick chunks of halloumi. The other contents of the burger were placed neatly around the stacked centrepiece creating a colourful array of delights ready for me to tuck into. When I did, I was actually reasonably disappointed. Whilst the butternut squash and halloumi worked well together, the butternut squash felt too thin and the halloumi too thick. What this meant was that the thin, soft butternut squash didnt really register, whilst the halloumi dominated – which I didn’t mind at all – but was a bit squeaky on the old gnashers. The avocado was a bit timid and ended up being washed out by the huge dollop of sour cream next to it, the lettuce, as well, missed any serious crunch. The Sriracha, I ended up using as a dip for the skin-onchips – which were pretty tasty – and the coleslaw was nice and flavoursome too. The sides ended up becoming the most enjoyable part of the dish (which isn’t a good sign!)

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The Breakfast club, with its vast array of unique and filling brunches, comes up short when on the veggie burger. The argument could be made that because it was missing the bun it didn’t work but I don’t think that putting it all together in a bun would have made it any better. A burger’s patty or centrepiece should be able to hold it’s own, bun or no bun, and when the booze is flowing – as it is in the TBC’s BYOB soho restaurant – the flavours need to stand out more than ever.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 5.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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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