For the first few days of 2015 I found myself on the northern tip of the Island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, in the idyllic setting of the small, beach village of Kendwa. Kendwa, with it’s white sands and azure sea has become a popular travel destination over the years attracting a strange blend of wealthy Russian and Italian tourists, along with the usual mix of Western-European and Antipodean budget travellers. This latter group meant that veggie burgers were most definitely on the menu of the numerous restaurants that lined the sandy shore.
After the amazing party at the beach of our hotel Kendwa Rocks, which brought in the New Year, the resulting hangover meant that I couldn’t look past the veggie burger on the hotel restaurant menu. Looks-wise it seemed exactly wanted I wanted, a big bun packed with fresh salad and goodness. Unfortunately though, much to my displeasure, the burger was below the standards of even the other distinctively average fare. The patty, which was akin to badly made bubble and squeak, was served in a weirdly sweet bun (a trait synonymous with all the bread served up at Kendwa Rocks) and the chips were too floury – not great for my hangover, and not a great first meal of 2015 either. My mood was lifted substantially, later on, by this though. 2/10
The second day of the year brought another burger at the near by Essence, a slightly more high end restaurant also on Kendwa beach (the burger, subsequently, was the most expensive I had on the island coming to a whopping £4 …including fries!). The surroundings were a lot more pleasant and I certainly felt in better shape than the day before. When the burger turned up (second time lucky, after initially being brought it’s meaty counterpart) I was happy to not be disappointed like the burger I ate the day previous. The burger at Essence provided me with all the veg that I’d been craving over the previous 4 or so days on the island – aubergines, courgettes, gherkin – but that’s all it was, grilled vegetables. Melted cheese and an aioli sauce complimented the crispness of the veg, but the lack of anything to take command as the centrepiece of the burger meant it was a great sandwich rather than a good burger. The fries were delightfully light, and served with a very English-tasting ketchup – if that doesn’t sound too #britsabroad. 6.5/10
January 3rd, and a third burger in three days meant that year had already been veggie burger consolidated. This third offering was at a restaurant called La Grande Luna – one of a bunch of Italian restaurants catering for the large contingent of Italians on the island. I had been there a couple of nights previous and the penne arrabiata was delicious. The burger however, was not. Although the patty itself – a blend of vegetables, tomato and mashed potato – tasted good. It was let down by everything else though with the bun resembling – and having the consistency of – a savoury scone. The chips were of a quality similar to those at Kendwa Rocks, and the only thing that got me through it was an ice-cold bottle of the Tanzanian beer Ndovu. 1/10
Really though I didn’t mind. The situation didn’t warrant good burgers. I think the fact that I found places selling veggie burgers in the first place forced my hand into buying them when I should have really eaten anything else. The fact that they weren’t great wasn’t really a surprise. The truth is that from all of these places you could hear the sound of the waves outside and, in the case of La Grande Luna, you could even feel the sand beneath your feet. There is good food on Zanzibar and good vegetarian food at that but, when you’re up on the northern tip of Zanzibar, steer clear of the veggie burgers, and just enjoy the beach.
VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 3/10 (AV. SCORE)
OVERALL RATING: 10/10 (AWAY FROM THE RESTAURANTS!)
Follow me at @LdnVeggieBurger