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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Travel Post: New York

A bit earlier in the year, I had the pleasure of heading to New York for just under a week. It goes without saying that I was excited from from a foodie perspective, and quickly got to researching what was on offer veggie burger-wise. I read articles about some of the best the city had to offer – including one that is part of a $295 10-course tasting menu in a 3 Michelin star restaurant – unfortunately I wasn’t able to sample as many as I wanted, due to the large amount of other great cuisines (mainly pizza) on offer. I did get to try out one veggie burger establishment, a tiny little below street-level establishment in East Village, aptly named Superiority burger.

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One of the most amazing things about New York is that you can have completely contrasting neighbourhoods within the same boroughs (admittedly the boroughs are a bit bigger than their London equivalents), sometimes right next to each other. Nestled between the massive skyscrapers of the Financial district and Midtown, are the trendy ‘village’ areas of Greenwich and the East Village. The East Village has a particularly neighbourhood feel about it, with it’s rows of red brick townhouses, and each street dotted with a few tiny bars or restaurants on the ground or basement floors. Superiority burger on E9th street was one of these establishments. As restaurants this go this is certainly one of the smallest I have ever been to. The white shop front is the only thing that stops you from walking straight past it. When you enter it has the feel of a takeaway burger bar, but on closer inspection you notice it probably seats about 5 or 6 people in little banquettes hidden in the window bay and under the stairs with fold up tables like you get on the front row of seats on an airplane. The menu is pretty varied and unique, with a number of different burgers and wraps on offer, and a couple of sides – notably no fries (of any variety!) – which they describe as being all ‘vegetarian, a lot accidentally vegan’. I went for the namesake Superiority burger with a side of burnt broccoli salad.

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The burger was small, slightly larger than slider size, but packed full of veggies and served with melted Munster cheese and lettuce, inside a sweet brioche bun. I ate the thing in about three bites. The burnt broccoli salad was spicy and filled with a pleasantly surprising east-asian kick. Amazingly it was one of the cheapest meals of the whole trip, the burger – albeit tiny – was only $6! It was a real whistle-stop lunch though, in part because we had a lot more to see and do that day, but also because I was absolutely desperate for the loo, and they didn’t have a customer toilet!

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As mentioned above, unfortunately that was my only veggie burger experience in NYC. It was a great trip for the tastebuds though. Aside from all the slices I picked up from Joe’s Pizza, I had my first ever experience of veggie fried chicken, in the form of buffalo chicken and waffles at Sweet Chick on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. Another great bite was the Eggplant baguette from Jack’s Wife Freda in Greenwich – probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten! Needless to say I left New York with a full stomach and an empty wallet. Although the burger experience in was brief it was good to get one in there amongst all the other delights on offer. I’ll be sure to try some more when I’m back, probably not in the too distant future!

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 6/10 

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

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Mooshies London

As people from London, and further afield, become more and more aware of the growing strains on the earth that meat and dairy consumption is having, the taste for plant based cuisine is higher than ever. An Independent article from last May even put the amount of vegans in the UK at 500k! Going even further than the trend of seeing more vegan burgers around, which I mentioned in my last post,  some places have gone the whole hog (for want of a better phrase!) and opened up completely vegan burger bars. At the start of the year, none had been more prevalent – on social media at least – than Mooshies.  The story promoted on their website is one which my prejudiced mind would happily project onto a lot of vegans: left the rat-race behind, travelled the world, and returned with a much more positive outlook on life and a will to change the world. The difference with this story is that, instead of the (again, my prejudices, sorry) holier-than-thou attitude that these round the world vegans have, the Mooshies owners have decided to use their newly found world view and instil some positive change, ergo, have set up a vegan burger restaurant so that vegans and veggies alike can still enjoy some good old – as they like to call it – cheat-day food.

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It was a Friday lunchtime when I found myself on Brick Lane, less of a cheat day, more of a treat day. Nestled right in amongst the main row of Bangladeshi curry houses, Mooshies has a fairly low key exterior, and it’s only on closer inspection that you realise it’s a burger bar. Inside, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was fairly busy, even on a weekday lunchtime. The menu had four burgers to choose from (all vegan, obviously), the three house burgers and one guest – a bhaji burger – in homage to the burger bar’s surroundings. I went for the Fillet-Om-Phish, a vegan take on a fish burger, mainly because I couldn’t look past the main ingredient – aubergine. The sides were interesting too, if a little pricey. With no straight up potato fries on offer, sweet potato fries are the main staple, and come either plain or ‘cheesy’.  I wanted to try something a bit different though, so went for the ‘chick P bites’. I chose to wash it all down with a bottle of Karma Cola to keep that good karma flowing.IMG_9639 2.jpg

The burger itself was pretty strange. As I hinted at before, the patty consisted of a breaded slice –  nay slab – of aubergine, topped with nori and vegan tartare sauce, on top of a bed of lettuce and vegan cheese. The aubergine had absorbed all the oil from the deep fat frier and was very greasy. Coupled with the nori and the tartare sauce it had an overriding sense of an oily fish burger – in part as intended, I realise – but a bit too real for me. The chick p bites – about halfway between a fried ball of houmous and a felafel – were tasty if not a little dry, and very filling.

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Unfortunately the main event let down what should’ve been an exciting first foray into the world of vegan burger bars for me. Perhaps what was incongruous with my taste was the need for the burger to taste like something else, in this case a fish burger. As a lifelong vegetarian I rarely, if ever, crave for something to taste like meat or fish but that is just my opinion. The redeeming factor, however, is that this was not the only burger on offer. The best thing about these veggie and vegan burger bars popping up all over town is that should we – those who are used to only having the one burger to try – not enjoy what is on offer the first time, we do not have to write that place off. We can return again, and again, and again.

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 4/10 

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

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My Buns

Quite often one of the bad things said about London is that it is too expensive to live in. Rental prices are so high, that even if you can get a well paying job, you’ll never be able to save up enough money to afford to buy a house. It was this, in a roundabout sense, why I found myself on Wood Street in Walthamstow on a Saturday afternoon. You see, one of the side effects – positive, or not, depending on how you look at it – of the current housing situation is that people are being forced to look further and further out to find places to live – and I was meeting up with some friends who had done just that. Another side effect, is that with all these trendy, young Londoners moving out to the sticks, so too must exist the establishments that cater for the needs. Namely, pubs that sell craft beers and burgers such as the Duke E17.

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From the outside the Duke stands out, and literally stands apart, from the other establishments lining the Wood Street thoroughfare. Its a big, all black building that stands back from the road, with a massive mural on the adjacent building proclaiming that ‘It’s all good in the Wood!’. The interior is a lot more welcoming – a quite large restored pub, still with all its original wood panelling and big L-shaped bar. My Buns, the resident burger sellers, occupy the kitchen at the back and offer up a very tasty looking burger menu, consisting of a wapping twelve burgers, of which three are veggie (ONE QUARTER). The three veggie burgers cover all bases; a felafel patty (The Felafel), a mushroom burger (The Portobello), and a veggie patty (The Lazy Butcher) – I went for the latter. Possibly overly-excited by the size of the menu and all it’s extras (and a tiny bit tipsy off a few strong but crisp pints of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale), I went for some extra blue cheese.

The burger itself certainly packed some bang for its buck. The large veggie patty was a deep-fried, breadcrumbed patty made mainly from courgette and served with lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, and a house yogurt sauce. The burger was full of flavour, with courgette providing a texture and taste that I haven’t previously experienced when eating a veggie burger. The downside to this was that the burger fell apart far too easily when I started eating it, so I ended the meal – probably a bit too gleefully – licking blue cheese off my fingers. In regards to the cheese, it was definitely not needed and a mistake on my behalf, as I should have  seen that it already came with a yogurt sauce.

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Overall, despite the massive schlep out to it, what I found in the far away spot of East London left me more than satiated. It’s good to know that, should I ever have to move out of the centre, that there are options for beer-drinking, veggie burger lovers such as myself, provided by kitchens such as My Buns in pubs like The Duke. In a bittersweet twist however, the occasion that found me in E17 was actually a leaving do. My friends, who had found a reasonably priced place to live out that far were actually leaving London, to move to a bigger and cheaper property in Brighton. I guess a veggie burger blogger’s trip to Brighton is on the cards!

 

VEGGIE BURGER RATINGS: 7.5/10 

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

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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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Number 90 Bar & Kitchen

There’s nothing like the cold depths of winter to prompt the need for a hearty burger to warm the cockles. Another great – but far less wholesome – reason is a hangover. So in the mindset of killing two birds with one stone I headed over to Hackney Wick to sample the menu at Number 90. Unfortunately when I arrived it became clear that they do not allow dogs in the restaurant, and I just so happened to be accompanied by, amongst others, my french bulldog, Amber. At this point you may wonder why we didn’t turn around, but a great effort had been made to get there, and Hackney Wick is a pretty desolate place, so we decided to persevere. Despite the protestations of the staff claiming how much they love dogs (one even showed us a life size tattoo of his boxer on his chest!), we were banished to the cold outside terrace, still a bit grimy from the night before with nothing but a couple of patio heaters and the Lea River for company. It seems like I’d missed that warming first bird, hopefully the second one would be successfully slain.

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To get the ball rolling I immediately ordered a Bloody Mary as I perused the burger menu. The burger section of the menu at Number 90 consists of five burgers, one veggie – the name of it caught my eye – the ‘Epic & Chunky Veggie Burger’, a patty consisting of a whole array of (presumably chunky) veggies such as sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, spuds and, on a bed of rocket, tomato and avocado mayo. To tie my meal together (not really) I went for some sweet potato fries. Also, with the Bloody Mary doing it’s job, I moved on to a probably-too-cold pint of Goose Island.

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When the burger came it was obvious that it’s creators had set it up for a fall, because ‘Epic’ it was certainly not (looks-wise anyway), in fact quite the opposite. The patty itself looked like it had been in the fryer for a bit too long, and the rocket had been replaced with some non-specific lettuce leaf. It did live up to the chunky part of it’s name however, with the sheer number of vegetables providing some good texture but was unfortunately lacking in taste, and also fell apart as I ate it.

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Unfortunately from the moment I saw the ‘no dogs allowed’ sign on the door, my hangover lunch at Number 90 was set up for a fall. Sitting in the cold was not what I wanted, and the burger I craved, despite great promise (from the name at least!), did not materialise. Impressive from the outside, and quite an impressive space within, Number 90 – like the rest of Hackney Wick – is probably better for a night out. I came with the mindset of killing two birds with one stone, but ended up missing them both. Maybe that’s why I’m a vegetarian.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 4/10

OVERALL RATING: 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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