All this trouble to save the life of a chicken: The gammon food critic visits a vegan cafe

Restaurant reviews by Justin Tanner, our retired food critic who thinks since these Bully XLs are being culled anyway we might as well make them fight each other

VEGANISM. The way I see it, you’re going some if you’re going a step more extreme than Hitler.

And what happens if we all stop eating chickens tomorrow? They’d be fucking everywhere. You’d be shooing them off your car before you could get in it, and there’d be flocks of them wandering the streets.

But I’ve had a text from an ex, in town and wants to meet up. At a vegan cafe. They’re like that, vegans. Never miss an opportunity to win converts, like born-again Christians and ski holiday enthusiasts.

She was always a bit hippy. Went to university, liked a spliff, read books, all the dangerous stuff. Still I won’t hold it against her if there’s a chance of some action. She never used to be averse to a length of meat, after all.

I stroll in there, having lied to the waiter that my shoes are pleather, and there she is not just older but having tubbed up. How’s that possible when all you eat is aubergines and fucking lentils?

The menu’s worse than I thought, though if you could eat sanctimony it’d be a feast in itself. No meat, no dairy, everything plant-based. Even the beers are ‘vegan’, as if you use cows to brew Banks’s mild.

She orders the five-bean chilli. I make a mental note to open the windows if she comes back to mine, because she’ll be farting like the breath of Beelzebub.

What will I eat? Cauliflower fritters sound disgusting. Plant-based burgers I won’t eat on general principle. Lentils were a joke in the 70s, let alone 50 years on.

My ex suggests the 3D-printed steak might be a gentle introduction to veganism. Apparently it looks just like a steak but it’s made of soy and beetroot and shit. I reply that this looks just like a restaurant but it’s apparently a meat forging mill.

But, open-minded as ever, I give it a try. And as bullshit passed off as meat goes, it’s not even close to the Greggs sausage rolls. Looks the part. Tastes alright. But why go to all that trouble when you could just slaughter a cow?

I nip off to the loo and the Pepperami I smuggled in down my trousers. It’s a bit sweaty but tastes like heaven, especially knowing I’ve got one over on the diet Nazis.

The so-called meal over, I suggest that, seeing as I’ve crossed the divide and come here, she owes me a visit to a steakhouse? She says ‘it doesn’t work like that’ and ‘this was probably a mistake’. You’re telling me, love.

Will I eat vegan again? Not knowingly. And believe me, with their fake food I’d know. I detour via the Chinese for a mixed meat chow mien special, then head home for some proper food and a hearty wank. Another day in paradise.

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Let's move to a commuter town marginally better than Slough! This week: High Wycombe

What’s it about?

Want to work in London but can’t afford the financial or psychological damage of living there? High Wycombe makes a perfectly shite alternative.

Known to locals simply as Wycombe, because the high bit can be taken as read, this once historic market town is a desolate concrete wasteland haunted by hooded figures far more vengeful than the unquiet dead.

Spend an hour mooching around the charity shops, vape shops, betting shops, pawnbrokers and money-laundering fronts and you’ll never complain about London rents again. Compared to this, they’re worth it.

Any good points?

It’s the ideal place to raise children if you want them to have boring childhoods and bland personalities. Neither posh enough to be Windsor nor shite enough to be Slough, it’s a location that’s vaguely existed for hundreds of years without developing any character.

Back when every town had its specialist industry Wycombe made chairs, a fact you can celebrate with a visit to the Chair Museum. Free entry and it’ll leave you marvelling at the importance of sitting on your arse.

You’ll have the chance to view up to twenty different chairs, which all look quite similar, and children can try building their own chair before dismantling it again for the next unfortunate visitor.

The whole museum takes around five minutes to explore, and can be enjoyed again and again and again, as there’s fuck all else to do.

Wonderful landscape?

The one perk of Wycombe is it’s surrounded by some genuinely nice looking fields. It even boasts a couple of National Trust properties.

Hughenden Manor was the home of former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, one of those rare Tories with good points, and the Hellfire Caves where a slightly less shameful party hung out: sex-loving Satanists. The latter understandably attracts far more visitors and has a delightful tearoom.

Just through the depressing pebbledash streets of Sands you’ll reach Adams Park, home to Wycombe Wanderers, so named because they wander around the pitch pretending to have injuries and never score any goals.

Known to fans as ‘The Chairboys’, despite having the logo of a swan, their fans are as confused as their marketing team but are to a man masochists who derive endless pleasure from their League One humiliation.

The club did make it to Wembley once, but it was during the pandemic when nobody could watch and they lost anyway. They make locals very proud.

Hang out at…

If you’re feeling adventurous, journey into the past by exploring the dilapidated shopping centres that have died slow and painful deaths.

The Eden Centre: once a hub where middle-aged women rushing to House of Fraser and Dorothy Perkins, now an empty labyrinth peopled only by an overzealous Christian with a clipboard.

The Chiltern Centre: where you can have your eyebrows threaded by a woman in a burqa, outside Wycombe’s historic Wimpy. Although the Wimpy has been shuttered for thirty years, the Chiltern Centre still has two shops: a massive fuck-off Primark, and Wilko. So just the one shop.

Nightlife? Because you have to get very, very drunk to enjoy High Wycombe?

Locals frequent The Snug, a pub as cosy, atmospheric and welcoming as embracing Jeremy Paxman inside a bell jar.

For clubbing, stroll past the homeless quarter to find Life On Mars. Much like the planet Mars, Wycombe’s flagship nightspot has no known signs of life, having been closed for the past decade. Luckily, visitors can still enjoy all the classic elements of a night out by getting sworn at and punched in the face by the loitering thugs outside.

Where to buy?

For a guaranteed break-in or mugging, Desborough Road is affordable for the first-time renter. Alternatively, Amersham Hill is close to the train station if you’re ready for a fucking mountainous hike every morning.

If you want to pretend you don’t really live in Wycombe, the outskirts are the place to buy. Holmer Green was the childhood home of James Corden, though he wasn’t actually born here. Instead the concrete monolith of Wycombe Hospital only has its associations with Jimmy Savile to besmirch it.

From the streets: 

Joe Turner, aged 38, said: “I know I live here but where is it exactly? Somewhere in the South?”