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.

ONE PLANET PIZZA THREE CHEEZLY MARGHERITA – THE STICKIEST, CHEESIEST FROZEN VEGAN PIZZA IN TOWN

Hi, Pathetically

Public service announcement. If you live anywhere near New Cross and Deptford, you have to try the new Embas Express Supermarket in New Cross Road. It’s a vegan goldmine loaded with rare gems. The range is incredible. I’ve found everything from Follow Your Heart Bleu Cheese Dressing to Sgaia’s Vegan Mheat Steaks. And finally, I found it. One Planet Pizza.

The independent, partly crowd-funded company’s range of frozen vegan pizzas has been on my hit list since I saw them at Vegan Life Live 2019, Alexandra Palace. I didn’t get to try a slice then, because the queue was too long. But it looked and smelled amazing. So imagine the excited little vegan dance I did in my head when I found the whole damn range in an obscure, independent, express supermarket in New Cross Road.

I decided to keep it simple and go for the Three Cheezly Margherita. That’s the one I remember from the expo. And straight away, it had one up on my regular Kirsty’s Classic Margherita – and every other frozen pizza I’ve ever tasted. Because it’s the only one I’ve had that comes with basil leaves already on it. Ready to go. Just pop it in the oven.

Like a lot of vegan margheritas the cheese topping is sticky and gooey. But the three cheese combo makes it thicker and tastier than usual. The texture’s better as well. And the tomato sauce is richer and more flavourful. It’s a quality frozen pizza. So it’s no surprise that One Planet Pizza won Best Vegan Ready Meal at Vegfest 2018.

Interestingly, when I saw One Planet Pizza at Vegan Life Live, the Norwich-based company used Bute Island Sheese on their pizzas. Nowadays, however, they’ve swapped to VBites’ Cheezly alternative. Not sure why. Also, if you don’t live near a magical Embas Express, One Planet Pizza is available from Ocado and hundreds of independent stores across the U.K.