I have been vegan for five years, which means that in 2019, I am one of those people who goes on about how hard it used to be to get soya milk in my local Tesco as if it were the war. Of course now, things have markedly improved: vegans surf the white waves of oat, hemp, and nut (heh) milks in most coffee shops, and can purchase even the tallest bastion of convenience food (mac and cheese in a box, obvs) in participating branches of Sainsbury’s.
It’s a great time to follow a plant-based diet, partly because the links that veganism used to have with 'wellness' and health food are, to a degree, falling away. In their place are frozen pizzas and nuggets, blocks of ‘cheese,’ and crucially, vegan versions of existing takeaway delicacies.
The most famous of these is the Greggs vegan sausage roll, which captured the hearts and minds of a nation when it launched earlier this year, but on Wednesday the 30th of October, another fast food vendor moved in to compete. Until mid-November, Subway is serving vegan versions of its Meatball Marinara sandwich at locations in Birmingham and Manchester. If it’s popular enough, there’ll be a national rollout next year.
I went vegan when I was about 20, which means that before that I had a whole adolescence spent between the Solihull and Birmingham New Street branches of Subway, chowing down on Spicy Italians, and classic-recipe Meatball Marinaras after school and college (before going home to eat my actual dinner). Driven by my own self-involved nostalgia and an insatiable appetite for trash, I decided to make a pilgrimage back to my hometown for one day only to give the vegan version of one of the UK’s most popular sandwiches a bite.
AD CAMPAIGN AND MARKETING: 2/5
One thing I will say is that the marketing campaign for this sandwich… not great, lads. A vegan Meatball Marinara is basically just as big a deal as a vegan sausage roll, but other than a few vegan Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, I’ve hardly seen it covered. For the national rollout they should cause a fuss with a Greggs-style parody with a social video pretending that the original MM is a popstar doing a new era or something. Hi @Subway if you would like this idea, my fees are reasonable.
THE LOOK: 5/5
The vegan Meatball Marinara looks almost exactly like how I remember the original one. Which is to say: like shit. It’s your classic four-ball affair, available 'with cheese and toasted' (got the thrill of my life being able to finally respond 'yes' to those four magic words), and two options of vegan cheese. I got the sandwich on Hearty Italian, the bread of life, along with a squirt of Subway’s new vegan aioli (great addition), and honestly, it was like I’d never been away.
All my best teen memories of Subway involve thick slabs of salami and gristly meatballs, and there’s obviously none of that here. While I’m not sure what the vegan 'balls' are made of (nor do I want to know, to be perfectly honest), they’re meaty in the way that vegans are accustomed to – easy to chew through, and close enough to be a convincing duplicate of their processed, real meat bröthers but crucially, not quite the same. This is a good thing.
VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5
Along with a drink (a fountain Tango, I’m not a moron) the vegan MM set me back £3.59, which is a) the same price as all the non-vegan sandwiches and b) a much better alternative to a sad Eat or Pret, which is often actually more expensive.
OVERALL VERDICT: 5/5
This sandwich ROCKS. I really can’t overstate how much I enjoyed it. It’s a great blend of a nostalgic novelty, and something that I would genuinely and happily buy on my lunch break for a low price. I really hope that Subway roll it out to the rest of the country because really, at the end of the day, don’t we all deserve to relive our nostalgic years by shovelling bread items of questionable nutritional value down our necks in canteen-like settings while silently looking at our phones? I want that for all of us, I really do.