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

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.

LEON RESTAURANTS LOVE BURGER – THREE MAGIC WORDS: CAROLINA. MUSTARD. MAYO

Hi, Pathetically

I should have written this post ages ago. Leon’s Love Burger is one of my earlier vegan junk food memories. A touchstone I’ve gone back to several times. And it never disappoints.

The Love Burger was launched in January, to celebrate Veganuary 2019. And it’s still on the menu. Because it’s cheap, unpretentious and consistent. It’s simple, but jazzy enough to make sure you’re paying attention. And there’s always a Leon.

The texture and taste of the beetroot and soya patty is spot on. A convincing, no-frills, meat-free burger base. The Follow Your Heart smoked vegan gouda is mellow, smooth and perfectly cheesy. The burger sauce piques your interest. And the Carolina Mustard Mayo seals the deal.

Leon ain’t stingy with the sauce bottle either. Love Burgers can get messy. But the robust sourdough bun resists the sogginess, making sure the tasty, saucy flavours stay where they need to be to keep each bite interesting.

leon restaurants vegan jack wings
Hi, Pathetically

Recently, Leon added Jack Wings to the menu. Now I’m not sure where I stand on jackfruit as fast food. I’ve had a lot of unconvincing, underwhelming experiences, where the end result was an uncomfortable intersection between healthiness and debauchery. But these cheesy jackfruit wings are legit.

They call them wings, but they’re more like croquettes, or cheese-filled, crumb-coated nuggets of gold. And again, Leon adds a sprinkling of pixie dust, this time a vegan garlic aioli dip, which compliments and elevates the gooey bites perfectly. Love Burger and Jack Wings. A match made in vegan junk food heaven.

BYRON’S CHEEKY TRUFFLER – PROPER HAMBURGERS ARE NOW VEGAN TOO

byron burger vegan truffler special
Hi, Pathetically

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.

PATTY & BUN GOES PLANT-BASED – THIS IS HOW FAR VEGAN JUNK FOOD HAS COME

patty and bun's new plant-based pamela burger
Hi, Pathetically

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.

this.uk plant based chicken goujon from patty and bun
Hi, Pathetically

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…

ARANCINI BROTHERS – DEEP FRIED RISOTTO BALL BURGERS AND LOADED POTS TO MELT YOUR VEGAN HEART

arancini brothers risotto ball burger vegan
Hi, Pathetically

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.

Address: Arch 34 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA

THE FULL NELSON – SPELLBINDING SOUTH EAST LONDON VEGAN JUNK FOOD WITCHCRAFT

full nelson seitan colonel burger vegan
Hi, Pathetically

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.

full nelson veggie vegan bar penthouse fries
Hi, Pathetically

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.

seitan vegan wings
Hi, Pathetically

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.