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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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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The Diner

Dalston, with all it’s hipster bars, vintage boutiques and nightclubs under corner-shops, is a blank place on the map for me when it comes to burger tasting. It’s not that there’s a dearth of gourmet burger joints in the area, it’s just that with Shoreditch being such a powerhouse of the London burger scene, Dalston gets left in it’s shadow. The question was: of Dalston’s numerous burger restaurants, which one to sample first? With a few independent restaurants, and kitchens in residence smattered around the place, it was actually the one chain restaurant that I decided to hit up first – the Diner (if only because it’s the first one you come across when walking up Kingsland Road from the south…).

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There’s a growing trend in the cooler retail and food establishments around these days that you’ve either got to feel like a club or look like a brothel. The Diner – from the outside at least – falls into the latter category. Once you get inside it’s a slightly more minimal vibe with big red bunkettes and exposed brick. As you sit down the first thing you’re presented with is a mind-bogglingly big beer menu, all overpriced and none on tap. Another disappointment was that my old favourite – the spicy bean burger, a burger I used to enjoy immensely when the diner first opened up a few years back – is no longer on the menu. What I did like, though, was that now there are now two different veggie burgers on the menu (out of 12), so I opted for the mushroom burger over the halloumi. For sides, Rach and I shared a portion ‘hanger fries’ (chips with fried onion, cheese and burger sauce), and some onion rings.

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The Mushroom Burger, served in a bun with aioli, swiss cheese, red peppers and basil, looked neat enough when it turned up. When I first bit into it, however, I was very pleasantly surprised. The combination of the garlicky aioli, fresh basil leaves and the jarred red pepper added a mediterranean twist to the already juicy and crispy breaded mushroom. At first glance I thought the burger might’ve been too small, but it turned out to be just the perfect amount. Just as well because the sides were indulgent, to say the least. The onion rings were delightfully crisp, big and full of big onion slices, but not at all soggy. The hanger fries were smothered in cheese and sauce and the crispy onion bits only added to the literally, and necessarily, finger-licking experience.

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The Diner may look like a bit of a dive from the outside, and maybe they have to ham up their already stylised decor for the Dalston store, but when it comes to the food they really deliver. The menu is big, the beer menu even bigger, but the burger menu stands out. If you’re going to Dalston and fancy a veggie burger but aren’t sure as to which of the small burger spots you want to sample, then a stop off at the Diner might not be such a bad shout after all.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8/10  

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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J.D. Wetherspoon

When I started this noble quest a few months ago there was never any remit which stated that I could only go to gourmet or trendy burger restaurants in the posher or hipper corners of London. No, the point of the blog is (*checks about this blog section*) to eat and review the veggie options in places that sell burgers, and compare to them in relation to what I know, namely other veggie burgers. Like it or not, Wetherspoon’s falls into that category and it is as much my duty to try out their veggie option as any of the ‘pulled-porkeries‘ or ‘meat-chiceries‘ (Matty, V., 2015) in Marylebone or Shoreditch. The chosen drinking hole in question was the Montagu Pyke on Charring Cross Road in Soho.

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The Pub, which backs onto Greek Street, is a former music venue and, due to its location, attracts a large crowd which leads to some sort of character and atmosphere not found at most Spoon’s. Also – presumably to due to its location in the heart of the West End – it has a much larger array of beers on tap than the usual spoons, and the prices, annoyingly, reflect that. The menu is much the same as you’ll come across in all other spoons – the burger menu split into classic and gourmet sections which, through various combinations, make up about nine different burgers. The only outwardly veggie options is the aptly named ‘vegetable burger’, but I decided since the difference in cost was negligible I needed to go gourmet. On closer inspection the Mexican burger – which comes with cheese, salsa, guac and fresh chili, as well as three onion rings in the bun(! – due to it’s gourmet moniker) – had the option of having the vegetable burger as its centrepiece.

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The veggie burger patty (after I removed it from it’s unappetising looking sesame bun – lent rules still in play) was crispy and flavoursome – it avoided the generic veggie burger taste that you might associate with your usual home-brand, out-of-the-packet variety – but certainly wasn’t smashing through any culinary boundaries. The guacamole, although perfectly smooth, along with the chilli added a zing which cut through all fried elements and the cheese, was pretty bog standard, but worked nonetheless. The smattering of lettuce and onion which the burger rested on, and the pot of salsa added some much needed freshness, and another layer of crunch.

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The thing about Wetherspoon’s is that you know what your getting. Cheap but edible food, straight out the freezer into the fryer and then onto your plate. You can walk into any Spoon’s in the country and be served the same meal. Yes, the guacamole was highlighter green and the consistency of tahini but that’s only a side effect of the amount of processes it’s been through, and yes, the cheese was perfectly square, but the bottom line – and the uncomfortable truth – is that I actually quite enjoyed my meal. What’s more is that it was so cheap. My burger including chips and pint of Brewdog lager (which I bought again after the burger for £4.25) came to £8.29! I will say this though; it’s probably the only burger you’ll eat that’s better without the bun.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6/10

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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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Chosen Bun

Friday night footy. Three words that, whilst seemingly very appealing, happen not very often, and when they do it’s usually in the Championship, the second tier of English football. I went to university in Bournemouth (not much of a veggie burger scene down there!) and one of the lasting remnants of my three years on the south coast is a passing enthusiasm for the fortunes of AFC Bournemouth. Whenever I can see them, I try to, and an away match in Fulham with it’s easily attainable ‘mixed-zone’ tickets meant a Friday night in West London watching the footy and drinking expensive pints. A burger was needed, which brought me to Chosen Bun.

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Chosen Bun advertises itself as a burger restaurant that mainly delivers but has a order for collection service too. The menu boasts a decent array of six burgers, with one veggie option. ‘The Edemamy’ (named after a Chosen Bun chef, apparently) has an originally composed patty made of a mixture of mushrooms (chestnut and shitake) and edemame beans topped with a slice of mozzarella cheese, red onion chutney, and aioli. Each burger allows you to customise your burger with over twenty added options. I went for some added Jalapeño Relish and, trying to figure a way of eating my burger with no bun (due to my breadless lent), I opted for extra lettuce. From the list of sides I went for for the triple fried ‘Belgians’ (fries), although the breaded onion rings and even more delectable sounding ‘Mark and Cheese Bites’ sounded a bit more tempting – if not frustratingly off limits.

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Having ordered before I got on the tube for collection, by the time I arrived the burgers were ready. The woman who took our payment helpfully pointed out that the fries should have been included in the price of the burger, which was nice. Due to the fact that they normally deliver, the burgers came in very inventive packaging, obviously designed for transport. The burger itself (minus the bun) was delicious! The shredded mushroom – the shitake in particular – added a texture that I have never before experienced in a burger, a kind of chewy bite. The patty was a good size, nice and fat, and didn’t leave me wanting despite the lack of bun. Another thing the mushrooms provided was a moisture to the burger which – due to the beanie base – and meant the burger didn’t fall apart, even in my flimsily assembled lettuce package. A word out to the Belgians too. Chip shop chip size but with a beautifully crunchy, rosemary-salted exterior surrounding a delightfully fluffy middle. “These chips are outrageous”, proclaimed my mate Sam, understandably. I ordered a pot of Chipotle mayo which suited the chips perfectly and tied them into the rest of my meal.

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The Chosen Bun was a very pleasant surprise. Having literally never heard anything about it, taking a plunge into the unknown, away from some of the more prominent burger chains in the area, brought great rewards. As the burger scene has grown the restaurants with the best burgers have become chains so it has become increasingly more and more difficult to stumble across a one off store that sells truly tasty burgers, but Chosen Bun is one of them. I know for sure that next time I’m in Fulham catching the football, I’ll be sure to stop off, maybe have the bun this time along with some breaded sides. Oh, and Bournemouth won as it happens – 5-1.

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VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

Red Dog Saloon

Lent has arrived and, although I’m not religious, I see it as an opportunity to diet within an achievable yet challenging timeframe but without having to sheepishly explain why. This year I have given up… no, not burgers, but quite closely linked to that, bread – which you can see clearly affecting my burger eating patterns. I imagine waiting staff at burger restaurants across London thinking ‘what’s the point?’ when I order a ‘naked’ veggie burger. Anyway, I digress. On Shrove Tuesday, with a bread-less forty days on the horizon, I decided it was time to get in one more bunned burger. The honour was bestowed upon Red Dog Saloon.

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Red Dog Saloon on Hoxton Square was my first experience of the ‘brew-n-cue’ cuisine that took over the capital about 6 or 7 years back and, as someone who was raised in a veggie household, it was the first time I had ever heard about pulled-pork. With a very meaty menu you may not think it the ideal stop off for the vegetarian but nestled in the burger list of the menu, you can spot the quite-appetising sounding Spicy-Bean burger. A younger me, with my eyes opened to a new culture, used to find this burger up there with one of my favourites. It was now time to see whether the veggie burger was up to scratch. Because I’d been there before, and was getting the burger on a solo trip I decided to get the burger on collection. Calling up, I was directed to order from their sister restaurant, Red Dog Sandwiches’ website. For some reason they don’t sell the Spicy Bean burger next door so I called back up, where I got an apology as they took my order. With an evening of pancakes in mind, I went for the Wedge Salad (with blue cheese dressing…) as a side.

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I collected my order and went across to the sun-soaked Hoxton Square to enjoy my alfresco lunch. The burger was slightly different to what I remember it looking like. Quite a lot of mayo was on show and I feared that the all the ingredients that made it so appealing before had been left by the wayside. On the first bite however, all my fears evaporated. What the 5-bean and quinoa patty is deliciously moist and well spiced, and is contrasted perfectly with the bed of guac and crunchy gherkin and jalapeño. My initial fear of the mayo overpowering everything else was also banished as it added yet another layer of juiciness to a flavour-packed burger. The salad, on opening, was a bit disappointing as it was 8 quarter chunks of baby-gem lettuce with a little pot of the blue cheese dressing. I wasn’t complaining though as I munched through the crunchy wedges once they had been dressed – the right balance of fresh and cheesy.

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Red Dog Saloon didn’t disappoint. As one of the first burger restaurants that emerged in the now burger-saturated Hoxton/Shoreditch area, Red Dog has stuck to its guns and kept true to its Tex-Mex barbecue theme. Although the menu is overtly meaty, they haven’t shied away from providing a decent vegetarian option. Red Dog was initially one of my favourite burgers in London and I have to say, on this evidence, that isn’t going change anytime soon.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 8.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

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BOOM Burger

Good friends of mine will tell you that my favourite time of year to be a Londoner comes at the end of summer, on the Sunday and Monday of the August bank holiday weekend. Over two days nearly two million revellers descend of West London for the biggest street festival in Europe. I am of course talking about Notting Hill Carnival. For me a time to don the string vest, drink copious amounts of Red Stripe and skank out to some bone-trembling bass, it is also one of the few times I truly venture into the W postcode. When I discovered that there was an opportunity to indulge in everything I enjoy over the August bank holiday – minus the string vest – but in the depth of winter (with the added incentive of a burger!) I decided it was probably best I made my way over to Portobello Road.

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Nestled under the Westway on by the covered market, Boom Burger is a cosy little place seating about 20 covers on a few bunkettes, and at the bar – from where you can sit and watch the kitchen do their thing. The colourful interior is backed up by the tunes that are playing out of the soundsystem up against the back wall, a playlist ranging from reggae to garage adding an extra dimension to the dining experience. The menu has six burgers to choose from, one veggie (also one fish) all offering up a varied range of west-indian flavours. With my ‘Veggie Boom’ I shared a bowl each of french fries and plantain fries. To drink, what else could I have but a Red Stripe.

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The burger consists of a spice-roasted sweet potato on a bed of zingy avocado, accompanied by a big bunch of rocket, topped off with some sweet-chilli jam – all in a toasted brioche bun. Even before eating it the burger is impressive, with the colours of it matching those on the shop front, almost as if to be intentionally on-brand. The first flavour you get as you bite into it is the citrus of the avocado, a real kick in the chops before the spicy sweetness of the main content of the burger – the sweet potato – takes over. The freshness of the rocket cuts through what would be an otherwise rich burger, and the subtle heat flavour of the chilli jam rounds everything off. Initially my burger was forgotten from the order so I had time to enjoy the plantain fries before it arrived on the table. On their own the plantain was quite dry and floury, but mixed with the house jerk mayo, and a bit of hot pepper sauce, they were transformed into something magical.

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I was happy that Boom Burger did not disappoint. This little spot is definitely worth the trek if you’re coming from anywhere outside of West London. The burger hubs of Shoreditch and Marylebone, whilst having some of the best burgers in the city, are all attempting to outdo each other at the same game. Boom burger, by offering up something different, provides a fusion cuisine that works, and deserves to be experienced. For me, being starved of Caribbean culture for 363 days a year isn’t the ideal and this certainly offers an outlet. The music, the food, and the Red Stripe mean that I might be making my way to this part of London much more than once a year.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Back in the LDN and in search once more of a proper burger so I decided to head to one of the stalwarts of the burger game – Gourmet Burger Kitchen. GBK has been around for as long as I remember and their name is synonymous with the success of UK burger restaurants. Boasting over 60 restaurants across the UK (with a fair few of those in London) I found myself at the branch in the O2. There is a sense amongst the burger going folk that although GBK has been around since the beginning, it has been left behind by the new wave of tastier, trendier burgers on the scene. I had to see whether that was the case with the veggie burger.

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The menu strikes you as different from the norm just due to the sheer number of options on the menu. The vegetarian section boasts four different burgers with three different base fillings, but when you take into account that you can switch out any meat patty from any of the other options with a pan fried bean patty then the amount of veggie options increases four-fold. I went for the Californian, the slightly more alternative option of the two bean-patty choices in the veggie section, along with the fries, the blue-cheese ‘slaw and a coke.

The burger at first glimpse looked pretty impressive. A neat-looking, bean patty topped with cheese and smashed avocado – as well as all the usual trimmings – in a toasted sesame bun. The first bite gives the biggest impression of the burger and, unfortunately for this one, my first impression was one of dryness. Even the avocado and the smoked chili mayo failed to add any real moisture, with the cheese not even melted. On the flip-side, the real killer ingredient was the house relish that packed the most punch of the whole meal, and really was the most enjoyable thing in the burger itself. The fries were delightfully thin, and vindicated my decision not to get my usual favourite sweet potato fries, but the ‘slaw just wasn’t cheesy enough.

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The trouble with GBK seems to me that they are going off their outdated reputation alone. It is down to the fact that they have been around the longest, and are the most visible burger chain on the high street, that they can keep going. What this means, however, is that there is an inkling of a reluctance to remain fresh and keep up with the times. The way you have to order and pay up-front at the counter in such a big restaurant with so many staff seems like an old gimmick – and means that ultimately the friendly and helpful staff will often miss out on tips. Also, to use the example of the bean patty (the veggie patty that they offer to swap in in every other combination), to serving something so dry for your main veggie burger when you’ve been around for the best part of 15 years shows that there’s very little being thought about and updated in the kitchen. I can’t speak for the beef or chicken burgers but in these times when burger restaurants are a dime-a-dozen you need to evolve or become extinct.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 4.5/10

OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 5/10

Travel Post: Zanzibar!

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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