The vegans are taking over; carnivores are doomed. In five years’ time,finding a steakhouse serving actual, real steak will be harder than getting your hands on a vegan sausage roll at Greggs, or going 24 hours without seeing some red-faced middle-aged man with an inflated ego rant on about said sausage roll on Twitter.
Of course, that’s not true. The massive rise in veganism, at least as
I see it, is motivated by environmentalism; basically, the planet’s
screwed, and cutting down on meat seems one way us insignificant
common folk can take action into our own hands as governments
(America, Brazil, I’m looking at you), tear up global environmental
protocols. A small bunch of extremists cause a storm by threatening butchers, but actual, real, blood-and-flesh meat will always be available to those who want it.
Still, it makes sense to eat a little less meat. Which is why pretty
much every restaurant worth its salt now offers plant-based fare, and why vegan junk food, spearheaded by the excellent ‘fried chicken’ at Temple of Seitan, has become so popular. Most vegans don’t want lentils and lettuce every night – even health freaks like fast food after a couple too many (vegan) beers.
Halo Burger, located inside Pop Brixton, SW9’s temple to hipsterdom, claims to be the world’s first burger joint dedicated to the Beyond Burger. For the uninitiated, Beyond Meat is an American company promising a “revolutionary plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef” and doesn’t contain soy or gluten. What, then, can it be? I hear you ask. Pea proteins, yeast and beetroot juice, which lends a ‘bleeding’ effect – but of course. Not as appetising as 60-day dry-aged Aberdeen chuck steak, admittedly.
The restaurant doesn’t claim to target sandal-wearing, hemp tote
bag-toting hippies but meat eaters and flexitarians (basically those
who think veganism is a good idea but just can’t give up that
occasional juicy Sunday roast, post-pub kebab or morning bacon
rasher). Me, basically. And, I’ll be damned. The burgers were beetroot-bloody good. Choices are limited; there are a few red plastic stools inside; four or five benches outdoors (it was freezing on my visit, but halogen heaters save the day). You come for a burger or you don’t come at all.
We opted for the Halo Burger (two thin patties with two layers of
vegan cheese), and the quarter pounder with cheese (one thick patty). The general consensus was that the Halo Burger, with crispier patties, was slightly more meaty, but the quarter pounder impressed too. The ‘meat’ itself was tender, flavoursome, well charred, salty and satisfying. The texture was almost spot on, though I did want more blood (perhaps it had ‘rested’ too long?).
I’d honestly choose this over a proper burger nine times out of 10, if only to feel less guilty about impending ecological Armageddon. The burger was the complete package: light, tangy pickles just as I like them; vegan American-style cheese (which, let’s face it, isn’t really cheese anyway, so who cares what it’s made of?); crispy tomato and lettuce; and a secret burger sauce that I’d happily spoon freely into my mouth. Fries, the only side option, were perfectly crispy and salted. The paired down drinks menu offers posh soft drinks and beer.
The hardest thing when reviewing somewhere like this (I was similarly torn at Temple of Seitan), is what to compare it to. Are veggie/vegan burgers the competition? If so, it’s an 11/10, with 10 being no veggie burger I’ve ever tried. No. Halo Burger targets the current trend for American-style, dirty but good-quality burger joints. Burger King and McDonald’s are not the competition (it’s too pricey for that). Neither are the fat, chunky, often dry pub burgers that people eat with knives and forks – seriously, just get steak.
Halo Burger fits alongside London’s best, such as Bleecker or Dirty
Burger. Nowhere did I see an explicit reference to veganism – not all vegans are preachers. It was a little expensive at £12.50 for the Halo Burger with fries -more with drinks – which was my only real grievance. But was I satisfied? Did I get that lingering, satiating, umami-packed, greasy post-burger sensation I crave from a Bleecker? I did. Put one of these on every high street, next to the chicken and kebab shops and, if the price comes down a little, I’d choose it every time.