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…

TASTE THE RAINBOW – BREWDOG’S COLOURFUL NEW VEGAN BURGER GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND

Hi, Pathetically

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…

Address: 21 Great Tower St, London EC3R 5AR

HALO BURGER – PROPER MELTY FAST FOOD BURGERS WITH NONE OF THE MURDER (AND ALL OF THE GOOEY CHEESE)

halo burger vegan cheese burger
Hi, Pathetically

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

LOVE SHACK – MEATY MERCATO METROPOLITANO’S NEW PATCH OF VEGAN PARADISE

Hi, Pathetically

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.

Address: 42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR

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

TOP FIVE VEGAN FLAT WHITES IN SOUTH EAST LONDON

Nathan Dumlao

When it comes to vegan flat whites the only real option is oat milk. It’s thicker, creamier and tastier than anything else. Dairy included.

It’s serious business too. Oat flat whites. They’re fuckoff expensive. Now up to £3.50 a pop, with your own KeepCup in some cases – even though Oatly Barista costs £1.80 a carton when you’re not buying it in bulk.

Luckily, though, I’ve tried as many coffee shops as I could, from Bermondsey to Croydon, so you know exactly where to spend way too much on a tiny cup of delicious brown liquid and leave feeling satisfied. Like it was the best decision you made all day.

With that in mind, here’s my list of the top five vegan flat whites in south east London.

Instagram / fuckoffee

5. FUCKOFFEE
163 – 167 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UW

If you’re looking for an edgier, 2019 update of Friends’ Central Perk hangout, Fuckoffee’s just the place. It’s like Empire Records for millennials. So don’t be surprised if you hear System Of A Down’s “Chop Suey!” fade into a completely uncensored version of Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” before 10:00am.

Part of the Jonestown Coffee family, I think, F**koffee uses ridiculously fresh organic espresso beans straight outta Papua New Guinea. The beans are dark and sapid, and the oat flat whites are consistently textured and delicious.

Twitter/Caffeine Magazine

4. MUGHEAD COFFEE
359 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6AT

Jammed between New Cross Gate and New Cross, Mughead Coffee serves Red Brick Seasonal Espresso, by east London roaster Square Mile. And the oat flat whites are always made with pride. They’re slightly creamier than usual, but still bold, decadent and rich.

Mughead brags about their cinnamon buns, a lot, but there are some tasty looking vegan baked options too. It’s a hip spot. A mixture of Goldsmiths art students, woke existentialists, MacBook remote workers and New Cross locals with time to kill. A solid regular.

Ozone Coffee

3. THE WATCH HOUSE
199 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UW

The Watch House in Bermondsey Street’s the kind of ostentatious, fairytale coffee shop black Americano enthusiasts lose sleep over. In fact, it’s the anti-Fuckoffee. Everywhere you stand you’ve got someone trying to squeeze by, or a corner of solid, reclaimed boat-looking furniture poking you in the calf.

The Watch House’s EMPIRE espresso blend is provided by east London “roasting partner” Ozone Coffee. And sticking to character, The shop serves flat whites in tiny, thimble-sized cups. But man, they are delicious. Condensed. Concentrated. And bursting with flavour. They’re richer, darker and a little less creamy than usual, but still thick, velvety and rewarding.

Hi, Pathetically

2. THE WAITING ROOM
134 Deptford High St, London SE8 3PQ

The Waiting Room’s part of a quirky Deptford and New Cross vegan-vegetarian mafia that also includes the amazing Full Nelson burger bar and vegan “meat” suppliers and Sunday roast innovators City of Seitan. So of course the shop offers an amazing selection of vegan treats. From croissants and other pastries, to loaded gourmet hot dogs and barmy bánh mis.

On the coffee front, The Waiting Room uses Union’s hand-roasted signature espresso blend Revelation. And the flat whites are simply supreme. There’s no other word for it. They’re just so consistent. Full-flavoured. And unforgettable. A lot of credit has to go to the baristas, though, who just seem to nail the texture better than anyone else. There’s depth. Even though it’s short-lived and fleeting.

Social Supermarket

1. OLD SPIKE ROASTERY
54 Peckham Rye, London SE15 4JR

Old Spike’s tasty, small-batch “speciality” beans are roasted in-house and there’s a real hands-on feel to the coffee-shop-cum-homeless-focussed-social-enterprise. Old Spike also helps local passersby out with the best oat flat whites in (south east London) town. If you get the right barista – and bear with him – they’re the absolute perfect blend of dark and light. Bitter and creamy.

There’s not much to the shop itself, really. It’s more walk-in, grab-a-coffee-and-go than sit back and drift off to a cool Spotify playlist. Luckily, it’s practically in Peckham Rye Park, so there are loads of Instagram-friendly spots for a quick coffee-flavoured timeout. To a cool Spotify playlist.