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It's January, which means that people who like to hop aboard fads have two to choose from. Either you can stop drinking, or you can go vegan. This article is about the latter.
This January, many of the major fast food chains are releasing vegan friendly items. So as a vegetarian who is making the slow (read: snail's pace) journey towards veganism, I decided to try the two with the most hype. Greggs' vegan steak bake and KFC's vegan burger.
Greggs' vegan steak bake
I went to Greggs first, as their steak bake is far exceeding all other Veganuary launches in terms of hype. I got there just in time too, the person before me got the third last steak bake, I got the second last, and the person behind me nabbed the final one.
I'd like to make clear that even when I ate meat years ago, I didn't eat very much of it. Therefore I've never had a classic Greggs' steak bake. So don't expect my take to give a damn on how meaty the filling tastes, I just want to know if this thing stands up on its own two feet. And does it? Pretty much. Warm, Quorn mince inside that classic Greggs puff pastry is a good combination. It's a tad too salty, so maybe buy a drink as well while you're in there. But that's about it.
While I was there, I couldn't help but buy a vegan sausage roll too. Arguably the most influential dish London saw in 2019 — apologies to the burger at the Compton Arms, but we think approximately half a million more people tried this £1 fake sausage blanketed in pastry. If it weren't for the vegan sausage roll, not only would the steak bake probably not exist, nor would the KFC vegan burger, McDonald's veggie dippers, Burger King's plant-based burger, etc. It's been so successful that all Greggs employees are getting a £300 bonus due to a vegan sausage roll associated sales bump.
And here's the thing. It's really bloody good. The steak bake is pleasant and all, but it cannot compare to the majesty of the sausage roll. Firstly it's much easier to eat. There's no risk of losing some liquid filling. And I don't singe the roof of my mouth on it, as I managed with the bake — and yes, this is probably down to my own incompetence rather than the dish. Its only downfall is its slightly paltry size — you need to eat at least three of these to arrive at anything close to fullness.
KFC vegan burger
My first attempt to eat a KFC vegan burger was entirely fruitless. The server at a somewhat deserted branch in Finsbury Park told me that it would take "10 minutes or more" for the burger to be ready, and I had other places to be. Poor planning on my part, but really, who can blame me for thinking that fast food would be y'know... fast. The next day I went to a far busier branch right next to Old Street roundabout. My experience was entirely different.
Half the people in there were, like me, ordering a vegan burger. The others were all talking about the vegan burger in a manner that can only be described as part cynical, but still clearly curious. This KFC knows what the punters want, and is ready for them. My burger arrived near-instantaneously, and I hurriedly decamped to a local park to try it out.
Again, the meat here is Quorn, and it tastes... not very dissimilar from the Quorn at the supermarket. That's not a knock, I quite like Quorn, I'm just not totally sure what's exciting about this burger. It's coated in the famed 11 herbs and spices, but — perhaps because I lack a nostalgic association with them — I'm not sure how much they really add. A decent sesame bun, fresh lettuce and (poorly spread) vegan mayo round out the experience, and it was all rather pleasant.
I can't help feeling like an English teacher might print this article out and destroy it with red marker. "Pleasant, decent, solid, good. Boring language Harry, break out a thesaurus, use some metaphors and similes." But I just can't muster up the enthusiasm. These were two mildly enjoyable vegan fast food items, but that's about it. If I had to rank them, the KFC burger tastes a bit better, but Greggs' steak bake is roughly a third of the price so better value for money.
At the end of the day, Greggs' vegan sausage roll is the best, don't settle for anything else.