Honest Burgers have introduced a ‘bleeding’ plant-based vegan burger from Beyond Meat to their menu. What on earth does that mean? What does it taste like? Is it enough to convert meat eaters to the vegan cause? I find out.
When Honest Burgers opened on King Street last year, it quickly became clear that their pink beef patties were the best in Reading. But there was one big hole in their menu: they didn’t have a vegan option. There’s the veggie fritter, sure, which many of my vegetarian friends adore. But it contains cheese and milk and real, egg-based mayo.
Well, this month, Honest have introduced The Plant Burger, a new dedicated vegan option to fill that gap. And because Honest don’t do things by halves, it’s not just any old dairy-free, vegetable burger, it’s a ‘meatless meat’ patty from Beyond Meat, which apparently looks, feels, tastes and even bleeds like beef, but is actually 100% plant-based.
You’ve probably seen a few of these ‘bleeding’ plant-based burgers popping up in the news, in Iceland’s freezers, or on Facebook lately (I seem to be continually ad targeted by Impossible Foods, Beyond’s competitor – apparently I have the algorithm of a meat eater looking to quit about me), where they declare their meat alternatives ‘the future of protein’. Aside from catering to those already flying the aquafaba-coloured vegan flag, burgers like Beyond Meat’s aim to convince meat-eaters there’s another, just as tasty option out there, to reduce the amount of meat eaten and damage done to the planet on a larger scale.
The Beyond Meat Plant Burger is made from peas, potato starch, coconut oil and beetroot, to give it that meaty red hue. Chipotle mayo comes from London’s sustainable food brand Rubies in the Rubble and is made with aquafaba, a protein-rich chickpea water. The ‘cheese’ is smoked vegan gouda.
That doesn’t sound very sexy. But at a trial at their King’s Cross restaurant, the Plant Burger started selling out, even to non-vegans, and Honest rolled it out across the country at the start of November. So I decided to sample the bleeding vegan burger here in town to see how it tastes, if it’s good enough to win over vegans and if it can convince meat eaters to abandon beef.
A plant burger, that bleeds? That doesn’t sound attractive…
In all honesty, it isn’t that attractive. The beetroot gives the patty a pale pink, squishy appearance, sort of like a raw beef burger before you put it on the barbecue, which I’m not sure is entirely appealing to even the most-carnivorous of meat eaters.
Altogether though it’s smothered in melted vegan cheese (surprisingly delicious), stacked with red onions, mustard, vinegary pickles and a pert brioche bun. Unlike some dry, beige veggie burgers, the Plant Burger is rich in colour, sloppy, messy and everything you expect from a regular beef burger.
And does it really bleed?
Not really, although when I squeezed it, it did ooze juices of some kind.
A good, if very unscientific, way to compare the ooze factor is with these photos of the Plant burger (left) against the very beefy Reading burger (yes, since starting this website I have become the type of person who takes photos of my half-eaten burgers, don’t judge).
The plant patty is thinner, slightly more structured and dense than a beef burger. But it still has that wobbly texture and a dribbly pink interior.
So, does it taste like meat?
Pretty much, yes. If I hadn’t known the dish was vegan, I’d have assumed it was a beef burger having a slightly off day.
To properly test the flavours, I pulled a bit of the patty out of the bun and nibbled it on its own. It was soft, charred and smoky with a slight iron-rich tang that reminded me of beef straight off a chargrill.
In fact, the beefiness was so convincing it caused my vegetarian dining companion to say: “My brain’s in shock. This tastes just like a normal burger.”
Is it good enough to convince me to switch from beef burgers?
I was surprisingly impressed with the plant burger. My meat-eating friend declared it: “better than any fast food beef burger I’ve had”, and I’d go as far as to say it’s better than many real beef burgers I’ve had around town as well.
However, it’s not quite as satisfying as Honest’s own chopped beef patties, and I probably will still be ordering them. But it is good enough to convince me to swap to a plant burger every other visit or so. I also discovered you can request the Plant patty in any flavour combo if you’re not fully vegan. So I’ll be trying it in the Reading burger next time.
How do I get one?
The Plant Burger is now available on the permanent menu at Honest Burgers for £11.50, including a portion of rosemary fries.
Find it: 1-4 King Street, Reading, RG1 2HB.
Open: 11.30am- 11pm Monday – Friday, 11am-11pm Saturday, 11am – 10pm Sunday.
Explore Reading was invited to sample the Beyond Meat Burger by Honest Burgers.
Hello! I'm Claire, the founding editor of Explore Reading. I'm a Reading native and former digital director of Time Out Shanghai. I founded Explore Reading so no one can say, ‘there’s nothing to do in Reading’, again. When not editing Explore Reading, I'm probably drinking a Manhattan.