These days everyone’s getting in on the act. Shit, even the Colonel and Ronald McDonald have dipped their blood-stained toes in the new vegan money stream. As a result, mushroom and falafel burgers are out and vegan fast food standards are higher than Woody Harrelson at Christmas. Refreshingly, “proper hamburger” joint Byron didn’t pull any flavour punches with their new Truffler special.
The coolest thing is there’s a poster for the burger in the front window of Byron, Shoreditch. The Truffler is front and center, not some obscure sub-note buried on the menu. It’s Byron’s star of the month. And it definitely sounds like a headliner; Beyond Meat patty, truffle ‘cheese’ fondue, mushrooms, truffle mayonnaise, pickled red onions, mustard and crispy onions.
I’m a sucker for anything truffle-related. And truffle fondue is an amazing idea for a cheese alternative vegan burger topping. Throw in mushrooms and truffle mayonnaise and forget about it. Every bite’s too much. Rich, decadent and wickedly moreish. Before you even touch the Beyond Meat patty – which carries the gooey puddle of flavour like a plant-based burger champ. The mustard and pickled onions add the zing and I’m in vegan burger heaven.
My only criticism is it wasn’t cheesey and saucy enough. I could have done with more fondue. More truffle mayonnaise. But I’ll chalk it up to a stiff-wristed sauce squirter and definitely order it again next time.
Back when I ate meat, Patty & Bun’s Ari Gold cheeseburger, with bacon, was one of my all-time knockout favourites. So I’d been following witty new vegan “meat” company THIS’s launch partnership with the high-end burger chain like an excited kid tracking Santa at Christmas.
Before the launch, THIS had been teasing vegans on Instagram for months. Posting unreal, almost artificial-looking plant-based renders of fried chicken and bacon. They looked insane. Impossible. And finally, they crossed over into the real world. Or in this case, Deliveroo.
Because on June 3 Patty & Bun rolled out its first ever plant-based monthly special, the Pamela. And the pricey (£12. No fries) burger features a “plant protein” patty, THIS Isn’t Bacon, spicy mayo, vegan cheddar, pickles, lettuce and ketchup on a soya milk brioche bun. And the good news is THIS Isn’t Chicken goujons passed the P&B taste test and made the menu as well. So naturally, I added eight to my basket and checked out.
When the food arrives, firstly, I’m impressed by the packaging. No plastic. And when I finally unwrap her, I’m mesmerised by Pamela’s voodoo-like radiance. It’s like a plant-based work of art. Almost alien. Surreal. A perfect visual recreation of meat-based junk food decadence in all its over-the-top, mouthwatering glory. With none of the murder and misery.
I recognise the smell of the goujons as I open the box. They remind me of Beyond Meat patties cooking as you walk into Brixton vegan joint Halo Burger. So of course, I start with them. And honestly, they taste even better than the real thing.
They’re light. Fresh. The texture’s right. The consistency’s perfect. The batter’s crunchy and delicious. And like a lot of tasty vegan junk food, they don’t drag me down as much. I never feel gross. I always want more.
The burger itself is way less firm than expected. The patty gives way more like a bean-based burger than Beyond Meat. It’s tasty, though. Increasingly so. The bacon strips are legit too. Perfect texture. Smoky taste. And the melted cheddar, pickles, spicy mayo and ketchup complete a dreamy burger swirl in my mouth. This is how far vegan junk food has come. I wonder if the burger’s named after animal rights activist Pamela Anderson? Who knows…
The relatively new Bermondsey branch of deep-fried risotto ball pioneers Arancini Brothers is a bright orange all-vegan joint on the starting line of Maltby Street Market. Only it’s open all day. Seven days a week. Serving vegan cake, croissants and sausage rolls. And burgers. And loaded risotto ball pots. And paprika fries. And eggplant tomato sauce. I could go on.
All-vegan fast food employees must get tired of answering the same dumb questions about the menu. “Yes, the smoky chorizo is vegan.” “No, there’s no egg in the special mayo.” “Yes, the cheese is all plant-based.” But it’s just like it is in the memes. You stand there dumbstruck for a second. Spellbound. “You mean, I can order anything? ”
I’ve been a few times since that first visit, so I play it a lot cooler these days. And everything I’ve tried is delicious. I always throw in a side of citrus and mushroom zucchini risotto balls and load up on special mayo and eggplant sauce. But the tastiest thing I’ve tried so far is the CHorizo burger. Smoky cHorizo, deep-fried risotto burger patty, cheese, crispy onions, chilli sauce, mayo. And yes, it’s all vegan.
The burger itself is a straight-up knockout. Pure vegan fried decadence. Crispy and gooey in all the right places. The special mayo. The spicy kick of sriracha. The crunch. Oh man, the crunch. And the blissful, sticky juiciness of it all. I was literally licking my fingers and scooping up every last crumb. Wishing I had more risotto balls to dunk in my last drop of special mayo.
Deptford, New Cross and surrounding-area vegans flock to The Full Nelson like bugs drawn to light. And once zapped, you always come back. I’ve actually held off reviewing the place, scared I’d come across more raving fanboy than vegan food blogger. Because if I had to choose a last meal, right now, it would probably be a Colonel burger with buffalo Seitanic Wings and Penthouse Fries.
It’s the sauces. The magical combination of flavours. And the painstaking attention to detail that separates The Full Nelson from similar seitan-peddling vegan junk food joints. It’s a standout. I’ve ordered takeaway before and sat on the bus a drooling mess, high on the heady wafts of truffle oil, buffalo sauce, parmesan and blue cheese.
I’ve tried most things on the the menu but my favourite’s the Colonel burger. The vegan version of KFC’s Zinger. Only fresher. Tastier. And with more zing. The battered seitan fillet’s always perfect. Juicy, moist and crispy on the outside. A delicious, disbelief-suspending recreation of fried chicken. And the combination of garlic buffalo sauce and lemon and black pepper mayo is pure witchcraft.
Likewise, the Penthouse Fries are just as decadent. The most glamorously dressed, indulgent chips conjured into vegan junk food creation. Think rosemary and smoked paprika-seasoned fries topped with buffalo blue cheese dressing, truffle oil and vegan parmesan. To be honest, I battle to think, talk or do anything else other than eat them, until there’s nothing left.
If that’s not enough, the Seitanic Wings have seriously addressed many of my meat-eating friends’ seitan-is-just-gluten phobias. Unlike some joints, The Full Nelson always gets the texture right. Never dry. Like crispy, succulent chicken tenders, with none of the guilt. Well, some of the guilt. You can order them buffalo, BBQ or teriyaki, but I always go buffalo, with celery and vegan blue cheese sauce on the side. Just like the old days…
It’s a hip hole in the wall, really, that opens late, serves good beer and does brunch on Sundays – seriously, ask for the off-menu Colonel Benedict. And because of the relative smallness of the operation, and the longer-than-usual wait times, you really feel like every efforts being put into making your food look exactly like it does on Instagram.
The seitan is created by South London vegan “meat” and Sunday roast innovators City of Seitan. One thing to keep in mind, though, is everything on the menu’s available either vegetarian or vegan. So it’s up to you to specify when ordering.
Oh, and beware. It’s always packed. You can’t phone ahead. And they’re not on Deliveroo. There is a small (tiny) off-peak window, if you really plan ahead. Otherwise, it’s fun to share and always worth the wait.
Address: 47 Deptford Broadway, Deptford, London SE8 4PH
* The menu is also available Tuesday-Sunday at The Four Quarters, Peckham.
You know you’re witnessing the early stages of a full-blown vegan revolution when Brewdog’s hosting sold out beer and cheese pairing nights, with vegan cheese. The “fiercely independent” – albeit with its own private plane – craft beer chain even does 2-4-1 half-price veggie and vegan mains every Monday. And their jazzed up Born to Live burger might just be the best dressed Beyond Meat patty in town.
Recently, I tried Honest Burgers’ Beyond Meat Plant burger. But to be honest, I found it dry and uninspired. Emphasising just how important it is to put a Beyond Meat burger together with the same kind of love and consideration you would any other. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.
Even if you keep things simple, it’s all about the right complementary flavours. The right sauce. The best cheese. The right attention to detail. And a few signature moves to really make that burger sing. It can’t just be a forced-seeming afterthought, because enough people asked for a vegan option.
Enter the Born to Live burger. A crazy work of technicolour art featuring a juicy Beyond Meat patty, roasted red peppers, a creamy vegan chipotle slaw, vegan gouda and pickles, on a scarlet-red beetroot brioche bun that looks like it was baked by Willy Wonka.
The burger was originally launched in January, as an exciting new option for those dabbling in Veganuary. And it’s still on the menu now, almost five months later – at least, it is at Brewdog Tower Hill. It’s just been rebranded, and is now simply known as the Beyond Meat Burger. But trust me. It’s the real deal.
A Beyond Meat patty on a vegan junk food rainbow. The smoky, soft texture of roasted red pepper. The rich, gooey, perfectly melted vegan gouda. And the creamy, Mexican-style spicy chipotle slaw. I was skeptical of the gimmicky, OTT-seeming bun at first. Mainly because I’m not a big fan of beetroot. But, I’m happy to report, it’s sweet and fluffy and the beetroot taste is subtle to non-existent.
According to Brewdog the burger goes well with Punk IPAs. But honestly, who the hell drinks Punk IPAs at Brewdog. So I paired mine with Hazy Janes. Lots of Hazy Janes…
I used to think all Beyond Meat burgers were created equal. But they’re not. It’s all about how you cook them. And dress them. And serve them. And Brixton-based Halo Burger know exactly what they’re doing. In fact, this 100% plant-based “bleeding burger joint” will fill that red and golden-arched, fast food-sized hole missing in your new, meat-free vegan lives.
To replicate that squish-in-your-hand, wish-you-had-another-one-now feel, Halo Burger reshape their Beyond Meat patties. Cutting and double-layering them in a moreish, Big Mac, Five Guys Double Bacon Cheeseburger kind of way. Most importantly, the non-dairy cheese is “hand steamed” on each half patty as well. Making sure the burgers are soft, gooey and delectable – and disappear fast.
Everything’s right. The look. The flavour. The texture. The way the orange cheese melts and rehardens to the shape of the wrapper at the edges. It’s like an old In-N-Out Burger dream, without the guilt. And Halo Burger is the perfect plant-based replacement for your drive-thru, late-night, golden-hour burger needs.
Address: 49 Brixton Station Rd, Brixton, London SW9 8PQ
Mercato Metropolitano’s a laid back, good-food and tasty-beer oasis in the heart of Elephant and Castle. Yet, despite the Italian-themed food hall’s seemingly endless array of colourful culinary possibilities – from all around the world – most diners seem to make the same choice; a mountain of chips and grilled meat. So needless to say, not so friendly for the vegans.
Recently, however, a new vegan startup planted its plastic-free roots in the midst of the carnage. Enter Love Shack London, a Hackney-based good vibe peddlar, now offering “plant-based power to the people” of south east London.
Setup alongside a stock waffle joint and beef and chip shop, the new Vegan Shack menu sparkles like a rainbow over a sea of beige. A tropical palette of fresh ideas bursting with even fresher ingredients. I felt Spring in my step just reading it.
When it comes to vegan fast food, I don’t usually go for more “rustic” burger patties. But this time the burger in question sounded surreal, like an eccentric work of vegan art. A flavour fiesta I was (not) dying to celebrate.
They call it The Mexican, but it might as well be called The Vegan Sunset. And it features a walnut, mushroom and black bean patty, guacamole, tomato salsa, a mysterious slice of “smoked vegan cheese” and grilled pineapple. All on a fluffy beetroot brioche bun.
The patty itself was perfect. Juicy and firm, yet fresh, wholesome and beany at the same time. And everything was complementary. The creamy, homemade guacamole. The tangiest, tastiest, most tantalising tomato salsa I’ve ever tasted. And the sweet tartness of the grilled pineapple.
Unsurprisingly, The Mexican kind of fell apart in my hands. But it didn’t matter. I licked my fingers in silence. Spellbound by every single bite. It was exquisite. And paired perfectly with the overpriced bottle of Brewdog x Verdant Sheena IPA I got from The Italian Job.