It was a chilly Thursday afternoon in Manchester City Centre. Lorcan, Emma, Alan and Alex made their way to Greggs to sample their carbohydrate-heavy delights. It was that time of year again, yes Piers Morgan had eaten something on Good Morning Britain and he was not impressed at all. Last year Piers attempted to eat a vegan sausage roll before spitting it into a bin. He pulled his face into the best grimace he could manage, made a long guttural noise and declared the sausage roll did not please him. In fact, it should not even be called a sausage roll he exclaimed, such was the disappointment brought to his delicate mouth. Piers is a contrarian by nature and by profession, if Piers ever walks into a room smiling and singing to himself we should all be very worried and make our way to the nearest exit.
So this year when I saw Piers was going to try the Greggs vegan steak bake I was not expecting much. Would this be the year that he punches his co-host in disgust? Perhaps he will shoot a cow live on air to balance out the lack of meat? Or use a slice of corned beef as a napkin to wipe the nasty vegan steak bake-off his lips? Thankfully none of these post-apocalyptic-Piers options came to pass. Instead, Piers held up a picture of a steak and claimed the vegan steak bake was not a steak. He then claimed vegetarian and vegan products should not be allowed to use meat terminology. I can, however, guarantee if Greggs called it a slab bake he would claim they should not use construction terminology either. Then if Greggs made up a name such as “vake bake” Piers would opine there is no such thing as a vake. Much like any conversation or interaction with Piers Morgan, it is a lose-lose scenario for all involved.
It has come to the point that if Piers told his viewers he enjoyed the steak bake sales would drop and it would be described as a kiss of death. So fuelled by Mr Morgan’s poor review the group made their way to Greggs on Oxford Road. Lorcan was energised to be able to eat Piers Morgan’s kryptonite but held back from strutting to the shop, it was not even 2 pm and one must maintain a sense of reverence on the way to a Northerner’s hallowed ground, Greggs. There was, of course, a queue, people were hustling and bustling to buy barms, baps, muffins, bread rolls and all over sorts of baked goods. The scent of baked bread wafted out into the street and steam began to build on the windows. This was lunchtime and despite the wide range of products on offer Lorcan only had one thing on his mind. So the group waited patiently to make their way to the front. However, when they arrived disaster struck, the shop had sold out of vegan steak bakes. The group made their orders but Lorcan was deflated. On the way to the office, he ate his vegan sausage rolls during a true walk of shame. All that rushing and effort yet no vegan steak bake to show for it. The group arrived back at the office and Lorcan sat in a state of shellshock. This must be what war veterans feel, seeing unimaginable sights and horror i.e. no vegan steak bakes in their shelf. However, Lorcan was not a quitter, he was not going to let this moment beat him. He sprang to his feet and powerwalked like he never powerwalked before. He was going to try every Greggs in town if he had to, but he would find this fabled vegan steak bake.
Lorcan moved like a man possessed and was soon at the Greggs on Mosley St (off St. Peter’s Square). He joined the queue but soon found out they were sold out as well. Well, that was not going to dent his optimism, no he stepped into the street and began strutting (it was about time) towards Piccadilly Gardens. He entered the store and the baked holy grail itself was resting on the hot shelf, vegan steak bakes. There was more than ten flaky pockets of joy sitting on the shelf and less than 8 people in the queue. Soon Lorcan was at the counter and ordered two vegan steak bakes, as they were handed to him a smile spread across his face. To the other customers, he was a mad man, who smiles manically when handed a pastry? They would never understand, the trials and tribulations which brought Lorcan to that shop, the rejection which had been overcome and how this sense of dread had turned to exhilaration instantaneously. Lorcan swaggered back to the shop like a man who had won the bakery lottery, a smile on his face, a skip in his step and two vegan steak bakes held close to his heart as if they were his puff pastry children. He considered eating them in the street, devouring them animalistically like a lion who catches a gazelle but opted to delay gratification. He would deliver the second steak bake to Emma while it was still warm and then sit while eating his steak bake. He wanted to be able to devote as much of his energy and attention to tasting this steak bake, standing would be using valuable energy which could be redirected to his taste buds. So he delivered the steak bake, found a quiet area and unwrapped his pastry prize slowly.
First the smell, there was a strong waft of pastry, savoury gravy and onion. If that scent could be bottled and made into a perfume it would sell like hotcakes. Northerners would gravitate towards it like the walking bread (sorry walking dead). Already Lorcan’s expectations had hit new and dizzying heights, would the taste live up to it? Well before we get there, let us first talk about the texture. The pastry is the same as the other Greggs “bake” products, so it is a crisp and flaky puff pastry with a light crunch to the bite. After this crunch one bites into the gravy centre. The gravy envelops the vegan steak within this bake. Now for clarity, this is not the vegan equivalent or a t-bone steak, it is closer to a mincemeat consistency. If this is going to irk you, that is fair enough, perhaps you could replicate this at home with jackfruit or seitan for more of a grisly and sinewy mouthfeel. However, the taste makes up for this. It is a rich umami with the onion gravy dancing across the tongue like savoury treacle. I believe that the gravy is quite thick to hold all the contents within the pastry but this works wonders and is a very pleasant experience indeed. Eating something this tasty which infuriates Piers Morgan should be illegal, but I am delighted it is not. Lorcan compared tasting notes with Emma afterwards and to her non-vegan mouth, this was also a success. In fact, the trip to Greggs had sparked a conversation which had helped a member of the team keep their job, but that is a story for another day.
Thank you Greggs