Vegan junk food has become an ever present in our lives since first emerging as a rare tonic to the kale days. be it pub menus or supermarket shelves the ready-made realisations of our deep fried dreams have become the norm, or so you’d think.
The general consensus is that one can’t walk through Brighton without being in close proximity to some kind of sauce-laden seitan, or deep fried tofu heart clogger, but as is the way with popular thought, such is normally wrong.
“We were looking into the vegan junk food options in Brighton and were surprised to find that there is a real lack of dedicated kitchens for it,” commented Alix, one half of Freeloada – the latest entrant into the city’s vegan scene.
“You would think, and people do think, that there is a lot more, but it is not necessarily the case, so we wanted to bring something new, something a bit different. We started out with the idea of just serving loaded fries with unique toppings, but have since developed that to burgers, wings and other sides, presented in ways, and in combinations that people won’t have seen before.”
Operating Thursday-Sunday out of the East Street Tap the kitchen is just about as “Vegan junk food” as it gets. Fries loaded with every sauce you can think, Moving Mountain burgers topped with mac n cheez, seitan deep fried and covered in jerk BBQ, whatever which way wings, it’s all there.
And then there is the Freeze Burger. A seitan patty with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and crushed nuts, all in a pink bun.
That’s right, just take a moment to read that back. Seitan. Ice cream. Caramel. Pink bun.
“The freeze burger has been getting a lot of attention, I mean, it’s not something you see every day, people seem a bit apprehensive to try it though, it’s definitely for people with a sweet tooth,” Alix added.
Following a wall-to-wall rammo opening weekend I was lucky enough to sit down and eat the very first commercially-sold Freeze Burger, and let me tell you, it is everything you want it to be and an awful lot more.
The glorious ode to gluttony turned up to our table in double quick time and came with a warning that it is to be consumed at pace, which given it was a scorching day down south, made a lot of sense.
The burger treads finest of all lines between insanity and genius and is all the better for it. Patrons on the table behind called out in surprise, the bar staff peered over from behind the till in anticipation and my dining companion laughed away as I covered myself in ice cream and sauce like a tearaway child at an all inclusive.
The bun is just dense enough to sop up the ever-increasing liquid content of the event and the central lump of seitan is presented in neutral tones as to let the vanilla and caramel take centre stage.
A sugar dusting would have tipped the Freeze Burger into full desert territory but the combination of bun, seitan and crushed nuts kept a savoury note running through each evolving mouthful, a foil against the irrepressible sweetness of the vanilla/caramel fusion sauce that rapidly coated most of my forearms.
Extra napkins arrived at the table around half way and they were much needed as the July heat finally took its toll on the ice cream, reducing the two scoops to a dipping sauce on the greaseproof below.
Hands covered in cream like the mess you always dreamed of being running the last bites through the teeth-shatteringly sweet puddle below was a true wonder of gluttony. An ice cream burger fondue for the soul in all its ridiculous glory.
Having used up a large amount of the pub’s soap supply washing my hands, arms and face off in the loos I caught myself with an ear-to-ear grin that only wonderfully barmy food can bring and that told the whole story.
I tore through the Freeze Burger between fits of laughter and confusion alike. Brain running a million miles an hour trying to comprehend just what was happening, finally coming to the conclusion that it was good. It was very good.
Noma this is not, but East Street Tap itself is not exactly known for playing it safe. On the kitchen’s opening Saturday the bar had run out of bog standard lagers by 3pm, leaving sunburnt bulldog tattoo blokes staring quixotically at the craft beer menu. This is a bar where you’re more likely to be served a Blackberry sour ale than a Bulmers and in this, a vegan junk food kitchen that puts ice cream in a burger represents the perfect bedfellow.
It was a pub-based dining experience that drew smiles, inquisitive questions and applause alike. It was a riotous event, revelling in its complete pointlessness. The unrelenting glory of delicious delirium. Profanity on a plate.
The Freeloada menu is a laminated tome of vegan junk food bliss, the type that demands repeat visits (I went twice within the opening week myself) and I implore any and all that make the trip down East Street to try the Freeze Burger at least once for there is nothing quite like it.
There will be ample time for the buffalo burger, for the Korean BBQ wings, the Moving Mountains mac and cheez centerpiece, but right now, with the sun shining and the sea less than 100 yards away, one must do as the British do and get ice cream all over your face, hands, arms and clothes.
You will not regret it, and you will come back for more.
Freeloada Vegan is open 12-8pm Thursday-Sunday at The East Street Tap.
Full interview with Freeloads in UC003 coming this August.