In the past visiting a vegetarian or vegan restaurant used to mean eating food that was virtuous and wholesome rather than indulgent.
Burger Lolz on Abbeydale Road have gone down a different path, offering what co-owner Maisie Manterfield calls comfort food, rather than fast food – burgers, fries, shakes, chilli and hot dogs all feature on the menu.
They use vegetables, proteins and grains to mimic meaty ingredients.
I had to double check when ordering as some dishes mention the words chicken, bacon and cheese but everything is strictly vegan.
It’s a cafe-style place with a serving counter where you order and a few tables and chairs plus a long ledge in the window where you can eat perched on a bar stool.
The colour scheme is bright with ice cream pastel colours and one walls is decorated with rows of pot plants and a black mirror but it’s all pretty minimal looking.
Maisie said the place is undergoing a makeover in January, when she’s also changing the menu, which they do every six months.
She said the whole enterprise was inspired by a family member.
“My sister turned vegan and my mum had no idea what to cook for her. She’s not a massive fan of vegetables!
“I was still vegetarian then and I started cooking for her. Not long after that I went vegan myself. It came from a passion to sustain someone you love and grew from there.”
Being vegan opened up a whole new world of ingredients with the need to make everything from scratch.
Her discoveries included agar agar and other seaweed-based foods and grains such as seitan that are used in some burgers.
She doesn’t use a lot of tofu, perhaps surprisingly.
It took Maisie a while to perfect vegan fish, using banana blossom,which is apparently popular in South East Asian cuisine.
They do fish specials on Fridays.
Maisie, who is 22, worked in a bakery from the age of 16 to 18 and then set up her own tiny vegan cafe, working at one time in part of the neighbouring Steel City Cakes premises.
She realised she didn’t have the kitchen space and then moved on to doing pop-up burger cafes.
She added: “I met my partner, Shaun Whelan, in 2015 and he was sick of his job so we decided to go into business together.”
They opened in July 2016. “It took off a lot more than we expected it to. It’s going really well.”
She said the clientele are “an absolute mix – students, meat eaters, vegetarians, a lot of vegans, hipsters and out-of-town bands.”
Some people pop in for a quick bite, others bring a bottle of wine and linger a little longer.
Maisie, who also somehow finds time to sing with an alt-rock band called Air Drawn Dagger, has ambitions to branch out with the cooking to “something a little bit fancier”.
They already offer a five-course taster menu at times and may open later some evenings but don’t want to burn out or incur big staff costs by staying open all the time.
My friend Linda and I visited on Sunday evening for an early teatime meal, arriving at 5pm.
Last orders on Sunday are at 5.30pm and it looks like they are strictly adhered to as one group of four late arrivals was offered only side dishes and decided not to bother.
As well as burgers and hot dogs , other mains include ribs and pie of the week with chips and gravy and some of the side dishes, such as mac and cheese, are substantial.
We went for two main dishes and two sides and hardly touched the basket piled high with chilli cheese fries.
Unfortunately the kitchen had run out of ice cream so I couldn’t indulge in a freakshake but the pictures look amazing and it would be well worth a return visit just to try one.
I went for a mac and cheese burger with a beetroot patty (you can also have a seitan one) and Linda ordered a chilli bowl.
Our other side dish was mozzerella (sic) sticks and this was a big favourite with both of us.
Six sticks of breaded cheese were dotted with delicious pesto and served with a little dish of marinara sauce, that tasted more like barbecue to me.
The oozing cheese, crunchy topping, fragrant pesto and piquant sauce were a perfect marriage.
My burger was enjoyable but maybe a bit too stodgy with lukewarm mac and cheese fighting battered onion rings.
I didn’t taste the ‘bacon’ but the whole thing came to life in my mouth when I got a mouthful of relish and gherkin.
The crisp fries were great but the chilli topping was way too salty and the cheese sauce, while a murky yellowy-brown colour, tasted fine.
Linda loved her chilli bowl, which had tortilla chips around the side and chilli mixed with rice and salad and different relishes in each corner of the bowl.
Again, the balance was perfect.
We didn’t have time for pudding but were well stuffed anyway.
With soft drinks, the bill came to £29.35.