BRGR.CO

This summer, Pret a Manger did something novel and exciting. After slowly bringing in more and more veggie options, they have now gone the whole hog (for want of another phrase!) and changed one of their flagship stores, on Broadwick st in Soho, into a vegetarian and vegan only store! The opening happened to land on the same fortnight that I was due to be working in the area – funny how these things work out – and so it would’ve been rude not to at least pop-in.  Three days later, though, with bellies full of tofu salad, paneer and chana wraps, and even cacao nib chocolate pudding, my mind – and stomach – was longing for something that bit more familiar. Of all of Soho’s numerous and diverse lunchtime options there is one place on Wardour street that I myself am amazed I haven’t been to. Until now. Forget a salad, I’d be getting burger and chips from Brgr.co!

The burger joint, originally from Lebanon, looks cool enough, exposed brick walls with a black ceiling purveying a sense of minimal chic to go with their philosophy aka ‘brgrology’, basically some nice words about themselves that they can put on their takeaway boxes. Their USP is something to do with the quality of beef that they use (isn’t that everyone’s), but of course I wasn’t there for that. Of the ten burgers on the menu the one veggie option – unsurprisingly for a restaurant with Lebanese origins – is the Felafel Brgr. I went for this with some sweet potato fries.

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The burger itself was minimal –  a simple patty-shaped felafel made out of broad beans, on bed of lettuce and tomato in a brioche bun. A luminous bed of avocado mayo provided the moisture to the patty, and a bit of zing to compliment the crunchy felafel, which was had a moist and flavoursome middle. Also, due to it’s broad bean base it gave the impression of being a lot greener and fresher than the usual chickpea felafel (I’m still undecided as to which is my favourite, but it was a nice switch up from the norm). The sweet potato fries were crisp and plentiful, and made me think that I probably shouldn’t have had so much fried food on a Tuesday lunchtime. With other side options including parmesan truffle fries, and mac n cheese, maybe I went for the healthiest choice, excluding no side at all of course (I mean…).

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Overall, Brgr.co did provide something different from my escapades to Veggie Pret earlier in the week. The experience, however, was not so novel and exciting as it’s bright green hyped up neighbour. Whilst the felafel burger certainly tickled my tastebuds, and fit in with the Lebanese theme they are so proud of, the rest of the experience was pretty… normal. If the definition of BRGROLOGY refers to a select few who work there, or the entire establishment as industry leaders, I’m afraid neither is true.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 5/10

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Patty & Bun

Meeting up with some North West London-based mates gave me a reason to shift my Easton London-centric burger hunt to the West-end. If Shoreditch is the heart of East London’s burger scene, then Marylebone is the same for the West. Of all the joints in this densely burger-populated area, Patty & Bun seems to be the name on everybody’s lips. From what I’ve heard, they seem to focus on what is most important of all, making sure their burgers are something to behold, so I had to see if their veggie burger was up to scratch.

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Even early on a Tuesday evening, Patty & Bun has a small queue out the front which could only be a good sign. Their restaurant on James St – one of two in London – seats about 30 covers, so when we were seated as a three we were squeezed round a two seater table, the distance to the next table somewhere between cosy and intimate. The menu boasts an impressive looking and sounding list of six burgers (one vegetarian) as well as some specials on the board. The Portobello ‘Dig It’ Mushroom burger looked interesting enough, (not that I had a choice to make!) but what I found unusual was the lack of hot veggie sides. Only the rosemary chips were available, and even they come in a non-vegetarian option – with chicken salt. There is coleslaw and salad available but both effectively come in the burger, so it was a Dig It burger with chips for me (and every other veggie in the house).

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My gripes were swiftly forgotten when the burger arrived, though. Oh my, what a burger! The Dig It burger puts a unique spin on the tried but tested ‘shroom burger by making it a ‘mushroom fritter’ – essentially making it a giant breaded mushroom. Breaded mushrooms are delicious in any form but when one’s freshly made and consists of the juiciest and most flavoursome mushroom of them all, then you have something special on (in) your hands. The first bite into this thing is one experience I will cherish for a long time, the first sensation is the flavour burst from the mushroom itself, then comes the waves of the cheese, the tarragon mayo, the herby garlic butter all being cut through by the fresh coleslaw on the base of the perfectly-sized, glazed brioche bun (which held together until the very last bite). The colours that dripped out of the burger, mixed with the ketchup, mayo and bloody tasty house hot-sauce that I had with my chips onto the paper wrapping – or should I say canvas – that the burger came in, resembled that of an impressionist painting, but at Patty & Bun, the chefs are the artists.

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I did have a few qualms about P&B though and it’s not just concerning the lack of veggie food to choose from. First of all, there is no beer on tap, only small cans or bottles, which just isn’t the same as a freshly poured pint. Secondly, I’m still not overly enamoured with the whole everything-in-paper vibe, sometimes it’s nice to have a plate. Lastly though, and most importantly was the fact that I felt like we were being rushed through our meal. There is a fine line between good service and feeling hurried, and I felt they were just the wrong side of it. Coupled with the fact that we weren’t allowed to be seated until our whole party of three had arrived, we ended up being seated, served, fed and paid up in just over half an hour. However, it’s clear that the reason for this is because demand for what Patty & Bun serve up is so high. In this burger game, one thing is always going to guarantee the return custom, and that’s damn good burgers.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 9.5/10

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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Honest Burgers

If you ask people who like burgers to name their favourite burger restaurants, Honest is always one of the names mentioned.I have tried to go to Honest a few times before, but due to ridiculous waiting times – and one time even a power cut – I have never actually eaten there, until now. Date at the cinema with the girlfriend to see Nightcrawler preceded by some delicious burgers – I was excited to say the least.

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Even on a Thursday night at one of their more out-of-the-way restaurants on Pentonville Road in Kings Cross, there was a wait (this time ‘only’ 20 minutes). We used the opportunity to get some drinks and I decided to try the house lager – Honest British Steam Lager – one of only two beers on tap. It’s a good, dark, hoppy lager, the kind you’d expect to get served in such a burger restaurant.

On to the burger, and deviating away from the norm, the Honest vegetarian option is advertised as a fritter rather than the usual patty or bean-burger. The fritter consists of spiced cauliflower, sweetcorn and shallots, and resembles a large vegetable pakora. Presumable made in the same way as a pakora (deep-fried), this delectable delight was neither too dry nor too oily, and was served with a raita-esque sauce – which I felt there could’ve been a bit more of – continuing the asian theme.

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The burger is served in a brioche bun which was a bit on the thick side. Quite often a bun is too small for a normally oversized, and easily broken up patty. But, with the light nature of this fritter, this bun went the other way. The burger comes with rosemary fries included, which were delicious (if not initially a little salty), and cost only £7. On top of that Rach and I shared some smoky-flavoured onion rings and some dilly coleslaw – both slightly different to the standard, but both definite improvements.

One last thing to try was the Honest Cocktail. I’d drank half of my beer in the wait for the table so needed something to cut through the burger and fries towards the end of the meal. This gin, apple juice, cucumber and lemon puree concoction seemed to perfectly fit the bill. Personally, though, it wasn’t to my taste. The cucumber was too overpowering and the drink overall was far too sharp – like taking the subtle parts of a G&T and amplifying them ridiculously. It grew on me as it went down but I’d attribute that to the dilution from the ice.

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What is clear about Honest is that although they experiment with new flavours and ideas, they keep everything simple. Keeping things simple means that they can focus on what they do well and they certainly achieve that. From the stylish decor, to the delightfully light veggie fritter, to the delicious beer, it’s clear why they are always packed out.

VEGGIE BURGER RATING: 7/10

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10