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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East Twenty Bar & Kitchen

I’ve discovered recently that a good way to sample some of the capital’s finer delights for less is to sign up to Time Out offers. Occasionally amongst all the ads for discount yoga classes and west-end shows, an advert pops up for some sort of culinary experience. One that caught my eye recently was a discounted rate to go up Britain’s tallest sculpture and recent addition to East London’s skyline – the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower in the Olympic Park. Always one of for a view, the deal was sweetened much more for me with the ticket price – £20 down from £30 – including a burger and drink at the East Twenty restaurant:

You’ll get the chance to drink in one of the best views in the capital and, with an additional option of a delicious burger and a pint at the East Twenty Bar and Kitchen, you can wash it all down with a nice bit of scoff too.

I could just imagine sitting a top the tower with the whole of London beneath me tucking into a lovely burger and a pint, all for £20! This was an offer that couldn’t be missed.

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Once you actually get up the tower and realise you’re actually miles away from anything apart from the rest of the Olympic site, Victoria Park and the rest of the low-rise sprawl of East London, the second thing you think is: ‘Where is the restaurant?’ to which the answer is ‘Next to the ticket office’. After coming back down to earth in both a metaphorical and physical sense I was then confronted with the less than appealing looking restaurant which fits into the tourist attraction canteen genre at first glance. On closer inspection, though, you notice that menu is actually quite appetising and the veggie burger seems well thought out. Included as part of my ticket, the decision was made easy for me. I opted for a pint of Peroni to go with my veggie burger and fries.

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When the burger came I was pleasantly surprised. The bean burger was massive, served in a toasted sesame bun on a bed of all the usual trimmings and topped with avocado and a tangy relish (chipotle jam). The whole thing barely fit in my hand, but was impressive to look at, to say the least. When I bit into it, my initial reaction was that of a very standard bean burger – a bit on the dry side, under-seasoned – but then flavours that I’m not used to, and – quite frankly – rather enjoyed, started coming through – namely sweetcorn. Even with these new flavours, though, the size of the burger meant that I had become bored of it by the end of the meal. Whilst the Peroni helped me wash it down, my surroundings meant I didn’t really want to hang around.

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On paper (or specifically, email), this seemed like a great way to spend the afternoon. Whether I was mis-sold, didn’t understand the ad properly, or was merely blinded by my excitement at the idea of a attraction-cum-burger offer, I don’t know. What I do know is that ultimately I felt let down. Even if the restaurant was – as it happened – not up the tower, the experience could’ve been saved by a great burger in a welcoming environment. As it was, the disappointments just kept coming – from the view from the tower, right down to the burger – and I was ultimately happy to head back west(-ish).

(All that said – not bad for £20!)

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6/10

OVERALL RATING: 4/10

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Bleecker St. Burger

It’s getting cold this time of year, and the prospect of eating outside isn’t everyone’s ideal when it comes to lunchtime. One thing these wintery climes do crave are some strong flavours, especially some spice to cut through all that yuletide congestion. So naturally when I read that Bleecker St. Burgers put a spicy, east-asian twist on their veggie burger, I jumped at the prospect.

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The Bleecker St. veggie burger is the first soya burger I have tried for the sake of this blog, and the first out and out tofu burger I have had in a long while, if not ever. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike are skeptical of tofu. As an culinary entity it takes a lot of getting into. This is usually through a case of not knowing how to cook it, or having had a bad experience eating it, of which anyone who has, has. Those who have had a good tofu experience know two things; one, it has normally been fried to provide the best texture, and two, it is usually a conduit for flavour rather than having a distinct one of its own.

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Bleecker St’s burger did just this and I have to say it was a pleasant surprise. Their deep-fried tofu cuboid slice is taken straight out of the deep-fat frier, dunked into a bowl of their buffalo sauce – a sweet, tangy chilly sauce, enhancing the asian feel of their burger – and placed in a toasted sesame bun with american cheese and lettuce. It may have been the cold talking but a bit of mustard didn’t go amiss. The texture of the burger was the most notable aspect of it, the crispiness of the skin of tofu offset by the generally meaty nature of the body as a whole, absorbing all that spicy goodness as it’s bitten into. On the side, I had some ‘mixed fries’ – half sweet potato, half normal – an idea so novel, yet simple in its concept that I don’t know why more places don’t do it. To wash it all down I got a bottle of Bleeker St. Brew Iced-T Lemonade – another half-half concoction – which, although a very interesting and enjoyable drink, was a bit pricey at £3 a bottle.

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Overall I enjoyed my Bleecker St. burger. They claim to bring NYC style burgers to our London streets, but their veggie burger hails more from Kowloon than Manhattan with the flavours on show. For me, the jury’s still out when it comes to Tofu as a burger base. I’m just not sure as to whether it’s a truly innovative attempt at something new and different, or an easy meat-eaters take on what a vegetarian would eat. Ultimately though, the burger was tasty and, really, that’s all that matters.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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