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.

PUREZZA – PLANT PIONEERS REINVENT PIZZA

Purezza / Instagram

The rapidly evolving world of vegan pizza is a gamut of good, bad and fugly. Some pizza makers think all you have to do to is remove the cheese and throw in a bunch of random roasted vegetables. Or falafel.

But luckily, times are a-changin’. Fast. And Camden and Brighton-based Purezza is one of the most-exciting new-age pioneers leading the plant-based pizza revolution.

Purezza’s mission is simple; to make their plant-based food superior to similar non-vegan alternatives. To do this, head chef Filippo Rosato spent more than two years in his “lab,” working with Italian brown rice to create cheese “tastier than traditional mozzarella.”

Ridiculous, right? Bet it didn’t seem so ridiculous in 2018, when Rosato’s Parmigiana Party creation (red tomato base, smoked mozzarella, aubergine parmigiana, crumbled soya sausage and a dusting of nutritional yeast) won National Pizza of the Year at the National Pizza Awards.

On top of its signature mozzarella, the multi-award winning, all-vegan Italian restaurant also offers raw cashew, ricotta style and creamy coconut cheese. And apparently, they all take ages to make.

We got to the Camden branch of Purezza late after a gig. Ten minutes before closing. So my bandmate Daryn and I quickly ordered a sourdough Parmigiana Party to share and sat down. Needless to say. This panicked decision is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Because, believe me when I tell you that the fabled Parmigiana Party literally melts in your mouth. Even now, I’m salivating just thinking about it. The textures. The flavours. How they complement each other perfectly, blending into one gooey, heavenly, Neapolitan-style bite after another. Until it’s all gone. Way too fast. And the shop’s closed. And you have to go home. And you live miles away in south east London. And you wish you could go back in time, order one each, some Courgetti Spaghetti and a Cheesesteak Calzone.

Disappointment at my own lack of foresight aside, Purezza more than lived up to the hype. In fact, the Parmigiana Party blew my mind. The crumbly, ‘nduja-like texture of the sausage. The fluffy, freshly singed crust. The rich, cheese-soaked centre. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best pizza I’ve ever tasted and I can’t wait to go back and try them all. According to Daryn, who’s pescaterian – for transparency’s sake – it was as good as the pizzas he had at Strarita and Sorbillo in Naples.

Excitingly, for vegan pizza’s improved credibility’s sake, Purezza is competing in the 2019 World Pizza Championships in Parma, Italy from April 9-11. They’ll take on more than 6,500 pizzerias from all over the world. Aiming to showcase that “not only can [vegan pizza] be done, but that it can be done really, really well.” Damn, I hope they win…

Address: 43 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PN