3 out of 5 stars
10 Morning Lane, London E9 6NA. Wednesday to Sunday 12-8pm.
Keeping on top of food trends can be tricky if you don’t eat meat. Are gourmet hot dogs any good? Is charcuterie delicious? How do they make pulled pork? Luckily, the rise of wickedly unhealthy vegan cuisine means that those of us who don’t eat animal products and those who do can both partake in indulgent culinary trends.
Temple of Seitan is London’s first vegan chicken shop, offering up faux-fried poultry made from seitan. Known by some as “wheat meat”, seitan is made by removing the starch from wheat flour until it’s just a gelatinous matter that’s got a meat-like texture — although the restaurant also offers gluten-free “chicken” bites for coeliacs.
With chips, coleslaw, mac’n’cheese as sides — all of which are vegan — it’s a fun way to bring fast food to those living on a plant-based diet, or even for those wanting to cut down on their meat consumption. That said, there’s a danger of this just being a novelty product without substance or longevity (or taste). Yes, there’s a constant queue outside, but is that just the opening hype?
We arrive at Morning Lane at 2 pm on a Saturday, and a throng of people are lining the pavement outside, waiting for their fix. We even end up sitting on the pavement to eat, having failed to secure a seat inside. After a worried look at their Instagram shows that instances of them selling-out before closing time are not infrequent, I’m relieved to learn that they tend to stock up for the busy weekends.
The main menu offers the Temple Burger, a strip sub, a roast roll, or two pieces of fried “chicken” — all of which channel standard fried chicken shop fare, though, at £6 each and an extra £2 for chips or coleslaw, they aren’t exactly channelling chicken shop prices.
My friend has been before, and wasn’t taken with the Temple Burger (“too much bread”), so we opt instead for a strip sub, roast roll, chips, coleslaw and a fizzy drink. That comes to just under £20.
The red cabbage coleslaw is a little watery, but the chips are delicious, freshly cooked and salted french fries. The roast roll is certainly a mouthful, featuring a soft white roll stuffed with roast chicken-style seitan, fake bacon (“facon”) and oozing with gravy and vegan mayo. It’s salty, rich and delicious — albeit a little overwhelming. Meanwhile, the sub is packed with perfectly crispy “chicken” strips, lettuce and a pleasant kick of sriracha.
Their Instagram also reveals a secret menu, and we’ve heard great things about the mac’n’cheese, all of which calls for another visit.
It’s not exactly the real thing, especially not with the prices. But the too-full, slightly greasy feeling we’re left with afterwards is the satisfying, troubling feeling of glorious junk food that vegans are rarely afforded.