The vegan burger that ‘bleeds’ is a recent phenomenon.
Tesco will soon stock the Beyond Vegan ‘bleeding’ burger and Iceland has been home to the No Bull bleeding burger since before BBQ season. But no iteration of the vegan burger-that-bleeds has caused quite such a stir as the Moving Mountains B12 Burger, which this week launched at Harvey Nichols in Manchester.
Served in the muted surrounds of the Second Floor Brasserie, there was a low-key air of anticipation for this much lauded burger. I was lucky enough to be seated next to the founder of Moving Mountains, Simeon Van der Molen, who was prompted to develop the burger after a routine blood test found he had high cholesterol and he was advised to give up meat. Like many who have ditched meat for a plant-based diet, Van der Molen missed a juicy burger – and lacking anything he found particularly compelling as a vegetarian alternative, he was spurred on to create his own. The result, the Moving Mountains B12 Burger, has been two years in the making.
“We’re targeting the flexitarians and meat eaters,” he tells me. “As opposed to the hardcore vegans. Because they’re already vegan. They’ve converted. We want to offer a decent alternative to those who still eat meat. We want to move them away from eating meat.”
As the burgers begin to arrive, the table, mostly comprising food bloggers and journalists, begins dutifully photographing the burgers. I ask Van Der Molen how many of his own meatless burgers he has sampled. “Hundreds,” he admits. “But I’m looking forward to seeing what the chef here comes up with.”
Harvey Nichols’ take on the Moving Mountains B12 Burger involves serving the vegetarian patty in a softly doughy vegan bun, then garnishing with vegan cheese, vegan pesto, lettuce, tomato, and a single jalapeno. Courgette fries and an Asian-style coleslaw are on the side. I pull back the bun to get a good look at the patty, which is thick and moist unlike the thin, dry vegetarian burgers I am used to. The blood is actually beetroot juice, and for those put off by the thought of a veggie burger that evokes an episode of American Horror Story – don’t be. The burger does not get particularly ‘bloody’, rather it is just juicy. You can only really see anything resembling blood when you give it a good old squeeze.
Before I have my first bite, Van der Molen warns me that a lot of vegetarians often eat and enjoy the burger, but later cannot stop thinking about it, plagued by thoughts they have actually eaten meat. I am sceptical. Can it really be that convincing? I take a tentative bite – and bloody hell is it ever.
There is a sinewy fibrousness to the consistency of the burger, coupled with the beetroot juice, that is unlike anything I’ve experienced in vegan or vegetarian burgers. I often find replica meat manages to capture the salty and bitter tang of meat, but a particular note is missing. I want to describe that note as an aged quality. And that is what the Moving Mountains B12 Burger has: that slightly ineffable and almost not-entirely-appealing old flavour, plus the uncanny texture and juiciness. I’m not surprised to learn that some vegetarians have sent the burger back, convinced they’ve been given the wrong, formerly alive, order. That evening, I can’t stop thinking about it.