Leora Mansoor reviews Glasgow’s meat-free alternatives
In a Glasgow Guardian article from earlier this year, Luke Shaw describes the hunt for the perfect burger as “the kind of task Sisyphus would be given nowadays as a philosophically astute punishment”. While an astute observation to make, lacking in his statement was any awareness of the laborious (and often futile) nature of finding a vegetarian or, heaven forbid, vegan alternative when eating out, nor how much likeness it can actually bear to Sisyphus pushing that boulder up that hill.
Fortunately for those who have struggled with that uphill conviction and endured the semi-horrified interrogations: “You don’t eat meat? Does that mean you only eat, like… vegetables?”, there has been a surge in not only vegan options in Glasgow over the years, but in vegan restaurants too. Call it capitalism, call it progress– in any case it suggests that the search for a decent animal-produce free meal out may never be the same again.
Or will it? Born out of self interest, hunger and a genuine interest in whether there really is such a thing a decent vegan burger on this side of the Clyde, I ventured to take a look for myself.
Many may already know this place from the late-night events they’ve attended in the basement, but by day the venue is transformed into a spacious vegan restaurant. The Stereo Burger consists of a smoky broccoli patty in a brioche bun, served with chips. I was pleased that the burger was creative enough to not fall into the Stodgy Bean Burger category, the chips were decently portioned and salted to perfection, however the price of the burger at £9.50 wasn’t the most student friendly and the vegan cheese that I paid an extra pound for added absolutely nothing. That being said, the service was friendly and fast and I definitely left full.
The Flying Duck
I’m still unsure whether the 20% student discount or £1.50 Amstel with any burger was enough to compensate for the 40-minute wait for the food. When our burgers did arrive, they came with chips (which at £9 to £12, they really need to), but they were uninspiring and a little chewy. Unfortunately, all the burgers we ordered between us (four in total) did fall into the uninventive basic bean category. I feel inclined to include a special mention of the meal that actually stole the show – albeit not a burger – the vegan “Philly Cheese steak” was the only meal that I would return for, boasting melty vegan cheese, chips, and a cheaper price point. All but one participant deemed their meals not worth the money (the outlier being the thoroughly impressed, but notably carnivorous, Philly Cheese orderer), though all of us left adequately full enough to participate in a fairly quirky pub quiz after.
I was nicely surprised when I walked into Mono and found it to be a bright, open space with sofas, tables, a bar and a record shop attached. There were two veggie burger options on the menu, out of which I opted for the seitan option over the falafel. I found it to be sweet, tender and nothing in likeness to the Stodgy Bean Burgers I’ve come to dread over the past week. What the burger lacked in meat it more than compensated for with flavour – the somewhat unlikely amalgamation of mustard, mayo, dill pickles and barbecue sauce was delightful. It didn’t come with cheese and it didn’t need to; the burger was as juicy as the bun was crispy and it didn’t fall apart all over your hands while you ate it. The service was friendly and attentive and we all left not too full, but definitely not hungry. The meal came to £9.50 all in all– definitely worth it.
Bread Meats Bread
Don’t let the name or predominantly meaty menu throw you off: the vegan section in this restaurant is actually more bountiful than the places I visited dedicated solely to vegan cuisine. I went for the the fried “chick’n’ burger” (fried seitan) with vegan bacon and cheese, which was £9. The burger itself was delicious; it had a nice spicy undertone to it – a flavour I have found to be lacking in many vegan options – and the cheese came at no additional cost. However the burger did not come with chips, making it decidedly worse value than some of the other options and would put the cost of a full meal up significantly – something to keep in mind if you are especially hungry.
Over the past week I have discovered that, while Glasgow as a city seems to take its burgers seriously, there is still everything to play for in Glasgow’s vegan burger department. I came across a few decent options but, on the whole, burgers seem to be an overrated regular on veggie menus for the moment and four in one week definitely isn’t worth the subsequent breakouts. I have also learned that, just because a burger is vegetarian rather than fully vegan, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s tastier (BRGR’s vegetarian falafel burger as an example of that certainly isn’t). The best vegan burger, and only place I’d truly consider visiting again, was Mono in terms of deliciousness, service, ambience and value for money. And besides, it’s nice to eat outside of the West End every now and then.