The temperature was 38 degrees celcius at the time this photo was taken.

Amerikai Hetek

[Content note: aeroplanes]

Last week I got on an aeroplane for the first time in about four years to fly to Budapest, in Hungary. Our fellow passengers on the return trip were treated to me and a couple of friends hysterically discussing the finer points of whether or not vampires can get boners in a moderately successful attempt to distract ourselves from the fact that we were in a metal tube with visibly shaking wings that was only staying in the sky by some vague trick of physics. I’m quite scared of flying.

Everything is fine, and I'm not panicking.

Wobbly, yet aerodynamic.

In the morning, before willingly loading ourselves into the un-reassuringly named “air bus” we decided the appropriate way to end a trip that had been full of delicious traditional Hungarian dishes would be a trip to the McDonald’s that someone had considerately built just around the corner from the apartment we were renting. The first point of excitement was that the soda dispenser runs wild and free in the customer area of the restaurant instead of hiding away behind the counter. When you buy a drink, you are handed an empty cup which you fill up yourself. Unsupervised! You could mix two different drinks together and nobody would be able to stop you! The second point of excitement was the “Amerikai Hetek” which I am assuming translates to American Menu. I know, you’re impressed, I was only there for a week and I’m practically fluent in Hungarian already.

The chips are a lie.

The Atlanta Burger

I ordered the Ropogós Atlanta Burger because I wasn’t going to let vegetarianism get in the way of McDonalds selling me a burger that came with fries inside it, but when it arrived I found to my crushing disappointment that the fries which had appeared so plump and appealing in the menu image were, in reality, crunchy shards of potatoey disappointment. Much closer to the American definition of chip than the British one, they were not what I’d had in mind for my burger experience.

Years of vegetarianism means I don’t have much to compare the burger to in terms of McDonald’s other meaty offerings, but I found the beef patty juicy enough and the bacon sufficiently crispy to make up for the starchy lie of the fries.

 

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Veggie Deluxe burger in its box, accompanied by a portion of chips, a portion of cheesy bites and a little pot of tomato sauce.

McDonald’s Veggie Burger Secret

I’ve been ordering veggie burgers from McDonald’s for years and I’ve always been confused about why I sometimes get what I want (a burger with lettuce and mayo) and sometimes I get the bizarre sandwich smothered in litres of excessively sweet sweet chili sauce.

I like the vegetable patty that McDonald’s do. It’s a lot better than many pub veggie burgers I’ve had, especially the one from The Chequers in Royston: a mediocre at best patty of mashed vegetables in breadcrumbs, which was served to me burnt in a plain white bun that hadn’t even been buttered. I despise McDonald’s weird sweet chili sauce, and the absurdly awkward to eat sandwich with the two halves of the veggie bean burger. Why put it in a long roll when you have hundreds of rolls designed to be the exact size you actually need? Why is your sauce so sweet? Are you putting jam in my spicy bean burger?

Yet I keep ordering the McDonald’s veggie burger, because there’s not much else and sometimes I get what I want: a nice burger in a nice roll with some nice lettuce and some nice mayonnaise.

Friends, I have finally worked out what has been going wrong all these years. McDonald’s do TWO veggie burgers. There’s the spicy bean burger and the veggie deluxe, and, as the person behind the counter in McDonald’s Swaffham kindly explained to me, the spicy bean burger is the long one with chili on it and the veggie deluxe is basically the Chicken Supreme but with a vegetable patty.

This is a life changing moment. Never again will I gingerly scrape off as much chili jam as is possible with a couple of paper napkins, only to have the whole assembly fall apart the second I pick it up anyway. Never again will I carefully peel off the half a tomato they put on top of each half a patty. I am free to eat the boring veggie burger with lettuce and mayo I’ve always wanted. I suppose if you actually like the spicy bean burger sandwich and have occasionally been getting the (superior) plain version by accident you know the difference now too.

Go forth and spread the knowledge.

And the cheesy bites are pretty good too.

Lotus Kitchen of Vegetarian Delights

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, located in Withington, Manchester, might be my new favourite takeaway. Frequently when ordering takeaway I’m limited to just a few items on the menu, and my vegan friends have even fewer options, if any. At Lotus, every item on the menu is vegetarian with many vegan options, all clearly marked.

I ordered the Salt and Pepper Crispy Veggie King Prawns and the Special Fried Rice for me and my partner to share (which came to slightly over £14) and got about ten enormous fake prawns (or frawns for the portmanteau fans among us) and a very large portion of rice (easily enough for two platefulls).

A very common problem I have with fake sea food is the tough texture which I find very peculiar with something intended to be fishy, but the frawns were very soft. The prawn part of the crispy prawns didn’t have a hugely strong flavour but the crispy batter on the outside was peppery and delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed them and only let my partner eat one or two before I finished them off.

The Special Fried Rice was equally wonderful. It had at least three different fake meats in it. Pieces of fake prawn, thin slices of a chewy, tofu based dark meat and strips of what I assume was a gelatin based product similar in texture to mock duck, but with a much more appealing appearance than mock duck generally has. There were also various vegetables mixed in, and the rice itself was perfectly cooked.

Overall, this was one of the tastiest meals I’ve eaten in a while, and I’d recommend this restaurant to vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike.

Mega Chips

While perusing the delights on offer in the M19 section of Just Eat, one of the people ordering takeaway with us suggested the Don Paulo takeaway, which they described as “real italian food”. Scrolling through the menu it did at first seem to be full of fancy italian food, and much cheaper than Domino’s.

That was when we discovered the “Mega Chip Pizza”, nestled incongruously between the more traditional margarita and funghi pizzas. Although I couldn’t eat it as it wasn’t vegetarian, another member of our group did order it. It turned out to be exactly what we expected: a pizza with a handful of chips sprinkled artfully across the top. When asked to describe the pizza, Frankie, who ordered the pizza, stated “It was both mega, and chips. It did what it said on the tin.” He described the crust as “disappointing” as there was “too much margin on the pizza. The crust to pizza ratio was all off.”

We also ordered pizza chips, which was a portion of chips with tomato and cheese on top, and was delicious by all accounts.

They appeared to be slightly confused by our order of a pizza with no cheese on top, as they did give us that pizza, along with an identical one with the cheese. The extra free pizza seemed to be a replacement for some tiramisu which we ordered but didn’t show up until we called back and asked for it again. The tiramisu did eventually arrive two hours after we originally placed the order, and was a good sized portion.

In general the food was cheap and fairly nice, even if some of the pizza crusts were a bit overdone and the food arrived an hour and a half after we placed the order.

It was a learning experience, and what I learned was that I probably just wanted Domino’s.

 

Thanking the Lucky Star

Having had pizza for dinner on Saturday, a Sunday night Domino’s didn’t seem quite as appealing as it otherwise might, so Frankie and I dove into the delights on offer on Just Eat for residents of the M20 area. We almost ordered from “The Little Chippy”, but for some reason I decided to check the reviews in detail for the first time in my life and despite its 4 star rating seems to occasionally just not bring the food to its customers (Content note for disablist language at the link: Little Chippy reviews).

My second favourite review for the “The Little Chippy” was the person who ordered 3 times and only received food once (marks for persistence there, but I don’t think I’d continue ordering from the same no-show takeaway multiple times in the hope they would one day bring me food).

My favourite was this though (which you should read with the knowledge that they gave 5/6 for both quality and delivery time, and 6/6 for service:

Was a bit cold as delivery man got lost, chips weren’t great, gravy was a bit lumpy. Was starving and paid for it so couldn’t of been that bad. Hopefully better next time

I have so many questions about this review. “Hopefully better next time”? WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO REPEAT THE EXPERIENCE YOU JUST DESCRIBED? Why did you give 5/6 for delivery time when the delivery person got lost? Why are you giving bad chips and lumpy gravy 5/6 for quality? WHY DID YOU GIVE 6/6 FOR SERVICE?

As you may surmise, we did not end up ordering from here and instead ordered from Lucky Star, which is a wonderful takeaway that has all the vegetarian food I could possibly desire. Sweet and Sour mushroom balls! Vegetable steamed dumplings! Mock duck in satay sauce! Egg fried rice!

The mushroom balls were crisp and plentiful (I think you get like 12).

The steamed dumplings were filling and flavorsome (plus you get like 12).

The mock duck was juicy and the satay sauce superb.

There’s not much you can say about egg fried rice, but I eat a lot of rice and that was some good rice.

The Lucky Star is one of the speedier takeaways I’ve ordered from and they’ve yet to get my order wrong. Plus, there’s no part of the experience I’d describe as “not great”, “lumpy” or “cold”.

Oh Brave New World That Has Such Burgers In It

[UPDATE: According to @thatpeskyfeminist onion rings aren’t a permanent menu item anywhere, which is a DISGRACE]

I’m very fortunate to live about a five minute walk away from the Aberystwyth McDonalds and despite the fact that my recent McDonalds experiences have been marred by their atrocious sweet chili sauce this evening I was craving a spicy bean burger. Everyone’s favourite fast food chain likes to keep me on my toes and when I order a veggie burger meal it seems to be about 50/50 on if I’ll get a sandwich with sweet chili sauce and tomatoes or a burger with mayo (which is what I actually want). I asked for onion rings to go with it and was told “that promotion is over”, so we can add onion rings to the list of things that you’d expect to be on the standard menu that are inexplicably absent from Aberystwyth (along with Domino’s sweet roquito chili peppers and large double decadence bases).

Aside from my onion ring woes, when I got home and opened up my bag I was delighted to discover that today my gamble had paid off and I had indeed come home with a burger and not the sandwich slathered in weird sweet and not at all spicy sauce that doesn’t deserve to share a sentence with the word chili. I was so delighted, in fact, that I forgot to take a photo to put up with this post before I gobbled it down right into my tummy, alternating between mouthfuls of burger and undignified fistfuls of chips. Speaking of which, before we get on to the burger I feel the need to spare a sentence or two in defense of McDonalds chips, those delicious sticks of carby goodness so often compared unfavourably to your common or garden household cardboard. Let me tell you now that if cardboard tasted like these little golden slices of heaven I wouldn’t have half the problem I do disposing of my pizza boxes, which are extremely unappetizing even if you do salt them.

And so we come to the burger. Vegetarian burgers can be incredibly hit and miss. I’ve payed £10 for a veggie burger and chips in a nice pub and received a bland, burned patty made of mushed up carrots and peas in a dry roll without so much as a token lettuce leaf or smear of butter. This evening I payed slightly less than £5 for the delicious vegetarian feast that is the Spicy Bean Burger meal. The lettuce was crisp, the mayo tangy, the roll soft and the Spicy Bean Burger… well I wouldn’t go as far as to call it spicy, but it was definitely made of beans and joy. I’ll take the McDonalds veggie burger over the 500th gastropub whose only vegetarian option is a mediocre goats cheese salad any day, and fuck the haters who want to tell me about the ten billion calories in each piece of lettuce. You know what else the burger has apart from calories? DELICIOUS BEANY GOODNESS.

Simply Superb

Almost anyone who’s talked to me for more than ten minutes knows how much I love Domino’s. I’ve been known to order Domino’s three days in a row (when I’ve been able to convince people to pay for me) and I’m as enthusiastic about the third day as I am about the first. While waiting for our pizza to arrive this evening I was running around the living room like a hyperactive toddler, chanting “Domino’s” to myself in a marginally more tuneful manner than the average football crowd chants the name of their favourite player, pausing only to run through to the kitchen to peer out the window and see if it had arrived yet. When the delivery driver pulled up outside I’d already spotted them from halfway down the road and I was standing with the front door open before they’d even stepped out of their car. I was singing that one song from Mulan to my housemate as we walked home, only I made it about pizza. (Let’s get down to business / to defeat / the hun (ger) / did they send me pizza / when I orrrrr / deeered iiiiit ).

I am one of those people who has opinions on different branches of Domino’s. I can tell you that the one in Royston generally doesn’t put enough filling in their Double Decadence base, and whichever one it is that delivers near Plaistow is sometimes stingy with the cheese. I’ve always liked the Aberystwyth branch because I’ve always found them to be generous with the cheese on top and with whatever cheesy monstrosity it is that goes into the center of a Double Decadence pizza, and that held true this evening… when it eventually arrived.

I have a very specific pizza that I always order, because I am incredibly picky and I know I like it. It’s a large pizza with a Double Decadence base and sweetcorn, mushroom and sweet roquito chili peppers on top. This evening we were going for the 50% off when you spend £50 deal so I ordered my usual pizza (with Jalapeños instead of chili’s as the latter isn’t available in Aber)  my housemate ordered some other (inferior) pizza and we got nachos (instead of the mac n cheese balls, also not available in Aber) (seriously what the fuck is up with the menu in Aber?), garlic pizza bread, cookies, and of course extra garlic and herb dip (49p each or double up for 98p, an impressive saving of… 0p). After about 20 minutes of intense staring at the pizza tracker, with our pizzas apparently in quality control, my housemate got a phonecall to say they don’t actually do large pizzas with the Double Decadence base. The pizza gods were against us, but we persevered. The person on the phone offered us three medium pizzas instead of our two large pizzas, so we selected the toppings for the three pizzas and I continued my irritating prancing around the living room.

The pizza itself was, of course, delicious. I love the two thin and crispy bases with garlic-y herb-y cheese between them topped by juicy sweetcorn and tangy peppers. Dipping the crusts in the garlic and herb sauce is a special pleasure and even with my medium pizza I got through two pots of the dip. There was, of course, far too much food for two people, which is how I like all my meals to be. Domino’s is expensive but with a 50% off voucher it’s totally worth it to be able to stuff your face with mounds of glorious garlic and cheese smothered pizza. Plus, there’s always some leftovers for breakfast.