Neat Burger, London £8.99 - burger only (£1.50 for extra cheese)
A while ago I decided to better myself and join the only elite club I’d ever be able to get into and became a vegetarian. Not quite the to the lofty heights of being an insufferable vegan ballbag as I’d rather inhale the takeoff blast from a rocket destined for deep space. The switch to ‘not being good enough to be a vegan’ was surprisingly easy considering I couldn’t class a meal as an actual meal unless it had some form of meaty protein. Life got much more manageable once discovering meat alternatives, some of which are almost indistinguishable from the real thing texture and taste wise. Of course, I’m talking about hotdogs and sausages which, let’s face it, tasted like a mystery when in meat form anyway.
So cruising around Central London post lockdown and with angry hunger encapsulating my entire body, my wife found Neat Burger, a vegan fast food joint tucked just out of the way of the big streets. All of the marketing material on the walls lovingly stated how much your meal saves a planet’s worth of water by not watering cows or some shit, and how plant-based living is the best ever or something. I dunno, I didn’t properly read any of it. I focused on the menu and ordered the Chik’n burger by screaming through the newly-installed plexiglass divider at the veganoid taking our order, safe in the comfort of knowing the plastic screen was there to protect me from the “I’m a vegan” bullshit that would’ve no doubt crossed the till threshold had it not been there.
A handful of vegan minutes later, our order was ready to be collected. The first bite tasted like sucking the mayonnaise out of an abandoned bin. I couldn’t pretend to myself that it tasted anything like a tradition chicken burger made from chickens at all; looking at it though certainly would’ve fooled even the most veteran of detectives, but sadly nothing apart from it’s presentation was accurate.
I had to flip open the bun bonnet and scrape out the bottom-line reducing amount of mayonnaise and the vegan cheese (which tasted as shit as the non-vegan burger cheese) to really get to the heart of the operation – the Chik’n itself.
Again, looking at it you’d immediately think “Ah, it’s just like normal collage of chicken offcuts, cartilage, appendages, and other shit that goes into every other meaty chicken burger,” and even the texture danced near (but not that close) to the parameters of it’s feathered cousin. But the taste. It tasted like soft pencil erasers that were left in a cardboard box near a tyre-yard fire. A slight bittery twang as if holding an old battery in your mouth while chewing a pillow. It’s no wonder they thought to cover the burger with mayonnaise as it really made me want to start eating meat again.
I left the place feeling like something was stolen from me. The same kind of sorrow that Voldemort probably felt when Harry Potter and his gang went about smashing up his horcruxes and ultimately destroying his soul. Maybe one day Neat Burger will figure out how to crack the vegan chicken code like KFC have (review soon), but until then they’ll just keep slapping on that vegan mayonnaise and hope nobody notices.