Published: 06:00, 13 May 2021
| Updated: 13:57, 13 May 2021
Think food in Margate and the chances are that fish and chips will instantly spring to mind, washed down with a tub of lukewarm jellied eels, garnished with candy floss.
The furthest thing from your hungry imagination could well be the prospect of tucking into a quinoa burger. But hold that thought just for a brief moment, because you may just be surprised.
It is perhaps fitting that a seaside resort which was once derided for its old-school offering has now embraced the kitsch approach in a bid to woo over those with a few quid to fritter – even better if they come from London with wallets at bursting point.
The town's arts-led revival over recent years has been well documented as, for that matter, has its penchant for some very fine restaurants.
But when it comes to its grub-to-go offering, it has slipped under the radar a little.
So on a rather gloomy Saturday lunchtime we arrive on Margate seafront.
A couple of weeks earlier, when the sun was out, the place was packed with the outside seating areas of cafés and pubs heaving. Today, only a few brave souls are prepared to brave the salty sea air which comes on a gusty wind which even the seagulls are squawking about.
As the clouds taunt us with the promise of a downpour at any given moment, we head to the Old Kent Market. Perched bold in red opposite the Turner Contemporary, the former cinema building has long been transformed into one of the town's most interesting destinations.
Inside there are artisan bakers serving up fresh loaves and buns, a double-decker bus offering a range of plates, specialist outlets for burritos and bagels and also the Little Prince, which lays claim to be being Britain's smallest pub (and in which you'd struggle to pick up a cat, let along swing it about willy-nilly – metaphorically speaking, it's not some weird Thanet tradition).
But just inside the main doors on the left is Master Foody Moody's – an outlet which specialises in vegan food.
Now, don't be like that. Hold fire on your 'if it's not chicken covered in a secret blend of herbs and spices I'm not interested' knee-jerk reaction and just read on...
Having spent most of 2020 following the plant-based diet as part of a health kick – I've since switched back to being a good-for-nothing vegetarian – I developed something of an appreciation for vegan grub.
My fears of everything being bland and lacking in meaty goodness were quite quickly replaced with a real appreciation of the flavours those specialising in such dishes need to bring to it in order to win over increasingly-demanding from cow-pie-munching customers (of which I was once a fully paid-up member).
So back to Master Foody Moody's. I didn't ask if Master Moody himself was about but one can assume he wasn't either of the two friendly women who took our order. I expect the little scamp was out the back cutting up some herbs or something*.
It conforms to the clichéd look of a vegan outlet – plants festoon its heavy-on-the-green logo, the cutlery to take with you is all little wooden spoons and forks, the food containers are card and the food in its display cabinet is all quiches and salads. And its array of noodle dishes and wraps look inviting.
So as my son and I ponder our options, we decide to go for something which may. potentially, have an appeal for those willing to stick their snout in something other than a dead animal's remains. Even if only as an experiment. We choose a burger.
We plump for the Prapatti Patti which looks a bit of a beast and will set us back a not-too-cheap £7. It's a quinoa burger made with pepper and mushroom, garnished with tomato, mayonnaise, beetroot, lettuce and pickles between the obligatory bap.
We splashed out an extra 50p each to have vegan cheddar (yes it exists, and no, it doesn't taste like rubber) in the mix too.
There's no chips option, before you ask, so we decide to go both feet in to this healthier option by washing it all down with a Mango Fandango smoothie made up of, as the name suggests, mango, plus pineapple, banana, lime and apple juice. Ours for £4.50.
After a five-minute wait while they prepare it, the food and drink is handed over.
Now, pre-pandemic, there were benches in the Old Kent Market where you could perch with your food and drink. Today your only option is to head out onto the street.
Unfortunately, the only seating, right outside, is fully occupied. These are clearly braver – and more warmly wrapped up – folk than I. There is a spare table outside the neighbouring pub but the signs nailed down on each make it clear that if you're not supping a beer the pub has sold you you'll be shot (or something like that). We pause only for photographic purposes.
So we ponder our options. The wind and threat of rain is not making the option of sitting by the beach any more attractive. No one wants their bap being blown down the prom. So, in true weedy fashion we take our burger boxes and drink back to the car and drive the 10-minute trip home before sinking our teeth into the Prapatti Patti.
En route we try and take a sip of the smoothie. It's so thick we can't get the stuff up the straw. A flaw. But only for a few moments as it finally chugs its way down our throats. It's zingy and fresh and chilled. And boy, it is sweet. I know it's all natural sugars, but try telling that to my blood sugar levels.
Finally, back in the warm, burger hits mouth and judgement is made. And it is satisfyingly big – both hands are needed.
First off, it should be said that quinoa burgers are notorious for falling to bits. Quinoa (mispronounce it to the middle classes at your peril), after all, is a seed so you can see the challenges for the burger-maker.
Yet, remarkably, this little fella doesn't collapse under its own weight. Somehow as it hits the mouth it dissolves only on impact.
And, my word, this is a tasty burger. The all-important balance of pickles and mayo is bang on the money – it neither swamps the burger nor disguises it.
The shards of raw onion are sparse and give that nice little kick, while the beetroot is a vegetable which ought to appear in burgers more often if this is how good they can taste.
In short, the burger is a treat. Nothing is too stodgy, the salad is springy and the combination of flavours does a merry dance across your tastebuds before disappearing satisfyingly into a gut which welcomes not having to digest the red meat it was bracing itself for.
A couple of hours after scoffing it there's not that sense of regret I used to have in my meat-eating days. Not regret that I'd just stuffed down a slice of cow, but the regret I'm now having to carry the food around in my gut which would feel weighed down by it.
Is my appetite sated? Indeed it is. I even have to put on hold scoffing the pint of cockles I bought from the stall opposite the Old Kent Market.
Vegan food is a big step – psychologically more than anything else – for the meat-eating to take.
There's the assumption that if you're going to eat a big burger you would be wasting your money not to find the fattest slab of beef to sit beneath your bread bap. But ultimately the taste is the real test and the Prapatti Patti passes it with flying colours.
Give it a go, you may just be surprised.
* Oh, and having just looked it up online, Master Foody Moody's, rather than being named after a cheeky young Margate chap with entrepreneurial spirit, is a "concept created by the spiritual teacher Adi Da Samraj". Apparently he wrote many books including a children's tome called Vegetable Surrender "that introduced a group of vegetables with exaggerated human characteristics looking for truth and coming to the Famous Master Foody Moody".
It may be worth over-looking some of his other methods of spiritual enlightenment according to his Wikipedia page.
Ratings out of five
Food: Great burger, finely complemented with the obligatory salad and sauces. Would I have it again? Absolutely. *****
Drink: I can't blame fruit for having sugars – it was a fresh and tangy experience but could, potentially, have been a bit bigger given its cost ****
Decor: Given it's a permanent outlet in a marketplace, it's not going to get top marks, BUT, it looks the part, albeit a tad clichéd ***
Staff: Nice and polite, service relatively swift, just a shame Master Moody couldn't be bothered to show himself ****
Price: For two burgers and a drink to share will cost you £19.50 of your English pounds. A tad pricey, but to get good quality fast vegan food is a treat ***