NEAT BURGER – LEWIS HAMILTON GOES FOR A VEGAN JUNK FOOD PODIUM FINISH

Hi, Pathetically

When I heard Lewis Hamilton was partnering and brand-ambassadoring a new London vegan burger joint called Neat Burger, I didn’t take much notice at first. I assumed he was just some billionaire celebrity jumping on the Beyond Meat, plant-based burger bandwagon. Then I checked out his Instagram profile.

I’m sure there are contradictions. I can’t imagine being the highest-paid Formula 1 driver in the world. Posting tributes to PETA-fighting, fur-loving fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. And jetting and driving all over the world. Non-stop. In all kinds of gas-guzzling luxury vehicles is in line with Neat Burger’s “one step at a time,” “clean green” mission to save the world. Can you?

I mean, are all his cars vegan? Is his racing gear vegan? Was his private jet vegan? Is this leather-looking armchair vegan? Is the champagne he sprays in people’s faces vegan? I doubt it, but I’d love to know.

I was shocked, however, to discover that Hamilton does eat vegan. That he “loves animals.” And that in-between selfies, model shots and luxury cars, his Instagram feed’s peppered with graphic, “sensitive content” animal cruelty.

So at least that’s a positively provocative message to send to his 13.1 million followers. Also, in partnership with California-based charity Eden Reforestation Projects, Neat Burger aims to plant a tree for every burger sold. And if they keep selling out of burgers, that’s a lot of trees.

Vegan politics aside, the burgers are ridiculously tasty. Neat Burger doesn’t seem to make anything themselves, however. Just curate, decorate and inundate. The “beef” burgers are Beyond Meat. The “chicken” burgers are THIS. And the hot dogs are Beyond Sausage.

neat burger beyond sausage london
Hi, Pathetically

I ordered the Chick’n Burger, which features a THIS Isn’t Chicken Southern style patty, lettuce and vegan mayo. And you bet I made it cheesy for a Pound extra. Also, I had to try the Neat Sausage; Beyond Sausage, grilled onions, fried shallots, mustard, ketchup, pickles and mayo.

The vegan chicken burger’s amazing. Almost too convincing. The Southern fried patty is just so good. So perfect. That it makes the real thing unnecessarily cruel and obsolete. And the cheese is just so gooey and lavish. I have had THIS’ tikka pieces and nuggets before, but this THIS is next level THIS. Try one. It’ll blow your mind.

The Beyond Sausage hot dog is just stupefying. Breathtaking, even. The sausage itself tastes so beefy. So meaty. It reminds me of South African boerewors. Or the gourmet beef sausages my dad used to serve with mustard and ketchup. It’s definitely the best vegan sausage I’ve ever tasted. And hence the best vegan hot dog.

The great thing about Neat Burger, besides the food, is Lewis Hamilton’s reach. He’s one cool dude. And he speaks directly to millions of people, worldwide, who otherwise might not be as open to going plant-based. Even just once. Because if you try Neat Burger you’re hooked. It’s that good. And it’s bound to open your eyes to even more of the innovative meat-free options out there.

So far there’s only one store. So maybe it’s a bit premature to call Neat Burger a chain. But something tells me it’s just a matter of time. Also, theoretically, there’s going to be a lot more trees in the world as well. And that’s awesome.

Address: 4 Princes St, Mayfair, London W1B 2LE

BEN & JERRY’S CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIE NON-DAIRY ICE CREAM – MAKING VEGANISM RADICAL AGAIN

Hi, Pathetically

“Make veganism radical again.” That’s what a friend of mine posted on Instagram. Followed by a photo of him sitting, smugly, in a hip vegan restaurant, eating a gourmet, plant-based hotdog with some hip vegan buddies. All good. What is making veganism radical again, however, is Ben & Jerry’s new range of non-dairy ice creams.

Netflix and chill – with a frozen tub of Ben & Jerry’s, of course – had become a thing of the past. An old indulgence I’d all but forgotten. A dream I’d just about relinquished. That was, until I spotted a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Ice Cream in my local ASDA. Radical.

I know I say this a lot but I really could not believe my luck. To me, the non-dairy version of the classic Ben & Jerry’s flavour tastes even better than the real thing. There’s just something about it. The flavours are richer. The chocolate’s more decadent. And the ice cream’s even more luxurious. Somehow, it tastes more small batch. More-carefully put together. Like Ben and Jerry actually have something to prove again. It’s irresistible.

I’ve tried the vegan Peanut Butter & Cookies vanilla ice cream option as well. And it’s just as good as its non-dairy counterparts. But if you’re anything like me, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is way more enjoyable with a tub of chocolate, fudge and brownie-based ice cream and a big spoon. Now I’m on the lookout for the latest addition to the vegan range, the gorgeous-sounding caramel number, Cookies On Cookie Dough. Remember vegan kids; don’t give up on your plant-based dreams.

ZING ZING GREEN SWEET SESAME TOFU & VEGAN CHOW MEIN – VEGAN CHINESE FOOD. DELIVERED

zing zing sweet sesame tofu
Hi, Pathetically

I miss East Asian food. Chinese. Japanese. Korean. It’s all good. I’m sure vegan options are out there. In fact, I know they are. I just haven’t dug deep enough. I used to enjoy Wagamama’s Japanese dishes. Especially the Kare Burosu ramen. But the elaborate plastic packaging their deliveries come in is completely out of hand. Then I remember Zing Zing has a “Green” wing in Elephant and Castle. And I reach for my phone.

Firecracker Cauliflower. Miso and Szechuan Aubergines. Mongolian Mushrooms. Black Bean Tofu… My mouth’s watering scrolling through the menu. The only downside is none of the mains come with noodles or rice. So I go for the Sweet Sesame Tofu for fancy. And the Vegan Chow Mein for filler.

When the food arrives, straight away I wish I’d ordered more fancy. The tofu looks and smells incredible. Wok-cooked with chilis, then glazed in a rich, sweet soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Visually arresting. Fragrant. Definitely the real deal.

zing zing green vegan chow mein
Hi, Pathetically

I tip out half the chow mein and half the tofu. Using the sauce of the tofu to lubricate the dish. The sweet sesame sauce tastes amazing. Sweet. Rich. Bursting with flavour. And the tofu provides the perfect chew. Like the sweet chilli squid I used to order. Because in the end, all you’re really looking for is the right texture and that magical taste explosion. Nobody really craves dead animals.

The food disappears quick and I go in for round two. The chow mein is the perfect filler to stretch out the meal. Wok-tossed, stir-fried vermicelli rice noodles loaded with fresh vegetables and battered cauliflower. Straightforward. Simple. Delicious. Like fancy rice. A perfect accompaniment to the rich, sweet chili soy sauce and more decadent sesame tofu. I definitely zinged.

WHAT THE PITTA! VEGAN DONER – DONER KEBAB, OH HOW I’VE MISSED YOU

what the pitta vegan doner kebab
Hi, Pathetically

Man, I used to LOVE döner kebabs and lamb shawarmas on a big night out. Not the ones that look like a compressed elephant’s leg. Proper ones. Like Woody Grill, Camden or Beirut Canteen, New Cross. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t crave them. AT all! But imagine if you could recreate the experience, without killing any baby sheep or torturing cows. Cue magical, plant-based döner kebab (and tzatziki and baklava) pioneers What the Pitta!. Who show us, yet again, that anything’s possible.

The first time I tried one I couldn’t believe it. Before I ordered, I kept asking the cashier, “Is the tzatziki vegan?” “Yes.” “Garlic sauce?” “Yes.” “Chilli sauce?” “Yes.” “Baklava?” “Mate, it’s all vegan. What do you want?”

The spiced soya “meat” is incredible. The texture’s mind-bendingly convincing. Somehow, it even has that same tasty, chargrilled lamb edge you’d expect from a great döner kebab. The salad options are perfect too. Diverse, colourful and delicious. The wraps are all fresh and made in-store. The hummus and chilli sauce get the flavour party started. And the soya-yoghurt tzatziki completes the dream. I’m in doner kebab heaven – without any dead animals.

What the Pitta started out at The Pump in Shoreditch in 2016. Now they’re in Shoreditch, Croydon, Camden and Brighton. The Boxpark, Shoreditch store’s like a shining vegan oasis, or meat-free sanctuary, surrounded by some of the fleshiest restaurants in London – its neighbour, Salt Shed, smells more like a butchery than a fast food restaurant. Encouragingly, though, What the Pitta!’s always packed. But that’s not surprising. I can’t recommend the place enough. If you still think vegans eat salad, hummus and chickpeas, wrap your lips around a What the Pitta! vegan döner. You won’t believe until you try.

WAITROSE VEGAN PLOUGHMAN’S – CLASSIC CHEESY FARMERS’ LUNCH GOES DAIRY (AND BEER) FREE

Hi, Pathetically

As an on-the-go vegan I’m always on the lookout for interesting new sandwich options. Creativity is key. Some companies, however, clearly don’t have a single decision-making vegan employee. Sainsbury’s plant-based sandwiches, for example, are an absolute joke. M&S’ Plant Kitchen range is all flash, plastic and no substance. Even Pret thinks a dry Falafel, Avo and Chipotle Flatbread will pacify the vegans.

Interestingly, Boots has emerged as an unexpected lead innovator in the world of on-the-go veganing, offering imaginative, chickpea-free sandwich options like the Pea & Mint Fritter, the Vegan All Day Breakfast and the Louisiana Style Cajun Fritter.

Waitrose, of course, has also come to the vegan party. There just aren’t any on my regular beat. But whenever I’m in one, especially one of the larger stores, my eyes light up like a carnist at a barbecue. Or like me when I spot a Good-to-Go Vegan Ploughman’s in Waitrose, Westfield Stratford.

I always used to enjoy a ploughman’s. Weird name, I know. Apparently it dates back to 14th century cheese, bread and beer-based farmers’ lunches. But in 2019, a good ploughman’s also includes pickle and tomatoes. Anti-dryness, sandwich-flavour-boosters. Because let’s face it, we’re not all washing them down with cheeky lunch pints at the local watering hole. Or in a field with a bottle of homebrew.

The thing that annoys me most about dull, dreary vegan sandwiches is – in this case – all it took to create an interesting, delicious, plant-based alternative was to swap cheddar for a slice of dairy free cheese. The rest’s exactly the same. It’s that simple. It’s that inclusive, familiar and normal. Flavours I know and love. And instead of battling my way through a dull, dry, tomatoey falafel sandwich I bought just because it was all I could find, I actually enjoyed my lunch on the go.

NOMO VEGAN CHOCOLATE – DAIRY-FREE SUPERMARKET CHOCOLATE FINALLY GETS CREAMY (AND DREAMY)

Hi, Pathetically

The shelves of my local ASDA seem to be going through a lowkey vegan renaissance at the moment. And it’s pretty exciting. First there was Kings Veggie Jerky. Then Jealous Sweets. And now I’ve spotted NOMO vegan chocolate. Truth is, it’s getting easier and easier to be vegan every day.

Generally, vegan supermarket chocolate options include Cadbury’s Bournville and whatever’s in the Free From aisle. And if you’re looking for something creamy, forget about it. It’s dark. It’s soy-based. And it’s average. If you want something dreamy you need to go to Holland & Barrett and pick up a bar (or two) of Vego Whole Hazelnut. Well, vegan friends. No more.

NOMO, or No Missing Out, vegan chocolate is made by U.K. confectioner Kinnerton. And it’s the real thing. Creamy. High-quality. And soy-free. Except the dark chocolate option. But that’s not what we’re after, right? We want soft, velvety and luxurious. And that’s exactly what NOMO brings to the table. Or bus. Or park bench. Or pavement.

So far I’ve tried the Creamy Choc bar, which reminds me of a Beacon Inside Story Delectable Truffle – it’s that creamy. And I’ve had the Caramel and Sea Salt option, which is my favourite, and reminds me of a more artisanal-tasting, less-saccharine Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Caramel.

You hear (and see) the words “game changer” thrown around so often they’ve lost all meaning. But if you’re vegan, and you’ve got a sweet tooth, and you’re tired of the boring, bland, dark chocolate options in your local Free From aisle, look out for NOMO vegan chocolate. It’s a game changer.

VBURGER SEITAN SCHNITZEL – NOTHING VIRTUAL ABOUT THIS CHEEKY VEGAN “CHICKEN” NUMBER

vburger seitan schnitzel
Hi, Pathetically

Next up on the vegan junk food highly recommended agenda: VBurger, Camden. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I left The Monarch in Chalk Farm one Sunday evening and it was the only vegan place still open in Camden Market.

The all-vegan menu features the Up-Beet beetroot burger, the Green Falafel, the Seitan Schnitzel and an uninspired-sounding “Moving Mountains” option. I’ve had Moving Mountains patties twice. Not a fan. Second time, from a local pub, I couldn’t even finish the burger.

On paper, nothing about VBurger’s menu sounded particularly magical. No fancy burger names or dad joke vegan meat puns in sight. I ordered the Seitan Schnitzel. Deep-fried bread-coated seitan, “cheeky” chipotle mayo and salad. Relatively straightforward. And hard to get wrong. I did add vegan bacon strips for a Pound. So that piqued my interest.

The first thing I noticed was the bright yellow turmeric bun. And the smell. Everything seemed so fresh – which is impressive near closing time on a Sunday. The seitan was crisp and juicy. Up there with the best. The burger was saucy. The chipotle mayo was definitely cheeky. The bacon hit the spot. And the bun was bewitching.

VBurger takes something simple and packages it with style. Again, the magical formula is reimagining tried and tested fast food formulas with enough flavour and panache to create a memorable burger. And the Seitan Schnitzel is definitely a memorable burger.