Murray Blake

London food and coffee writer


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Honest Burgers & Smokehouse Chiswick

Honest Burgers
Unit 12, Brixton Village, SW9 8PR
Nearest tube: Brixton
020 7733796
Honest Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
website; map

“…..these burgers are outstanding. Served rare and round, mine was a shocking pink; yielding, slightly salty and full of gloriously savoury juices.” The Evening Standard

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The first Honest opened in Brixton in 2011 – founders Tom Barton and Phil Eeles had set up a successful catering business in Brighton, then Tom moved to Brixton and the idea of Honest Burgers began to form.  The pair teamed up with Dorian Waite, an experienced restaurateur who previously worked for Bills and Strada and the three of them set up a company, jumping at the chance to take a unit at the then rapidly gentrifying Brixton Village.  They pooled together a total of £7,500 to get the restaurant off the ground and set up the kitchen in the little retail unit.  Honest was an instant hit, opening at the beginning of London’s burger craze and receiving rave reviews from the burgeoning London blog scene.  They opened a branch in Soho the following year, before securing a tidy £1m from Santander which financed outlets in Camden and Potobello.    The Honest stable now boasts 10 restaurants and they have just raised £7m from a private equity firm, Active Private Investment, so expect further expansion very soon.

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They serve burgers and nothing else: you can choose from beef, chicken and veggie options (£7-11.75).  The beef burgers are made from 35-day, dry-aged British steak from Yorkshire-based farm the Ginger Pig, which supplies seven butchers across London (there is one in nearby Clapham). I chose the Honest – a beef patty with bacon, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce – all for £10 including chips.  Their patties are served medium rare as standard and mine arrived nicely pink. The steak mince was well seasoned though not overly salty and the burger had been rested before serving so it was succulent, but not bloody.

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The glazed brioche bun held up well to the juicy meat and the toppings all did their job, the slight sweetness of the red onion relish rounded things off nicely.  Their chips are handmade in the restaurants, with hints of potato skin and seasoned with rosemary salt, served perfectly crisp they are probably the best chips I have eaten in any burger place in London.

Verdict: A close second to Patty & Bun in the race for my favourite burger place, I hope they can maintain these standards as they continue their rapid expansion 8.5/10

Smokehouse Chiswick
12 Sutton Lane North, W4 4LD
Nearest tube: Gunnersbury
020 38196066
Smokehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
website; map

“The kitchen shows a real affinity for meat cooking in particular, and I found that the Korean spices and pickles are just what is needed to elevate the food out of Fred Flintstone territory.” Andy Hayler

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This is the sister restaurant of the wonderful Smokehouse Islington – it opened this April on the site of the former Hole In The Wall pub.  It is another creation from precocious executive chef Neil Rankin (who I have already written up a little biography of here in my review of the original Smokehouse) and is part of the Noble Inns group which includes the Pig & Butcher and The Princess of Shoreditch.  Their menu is similar to Smokehouse Islington but the beer selection is less interesting – possibly because of the more sleepy location they serve soapy country bitters rather than contemporary Bermondsey brews.  This is definitely a place for barbecue geeks – they have a ‘Ole Hickory Pit Smoker’ and Robata grill process; the shortrib bourguignon has received some great write-ups.

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After a passable starter of potted shrimp with sourdough toast and a sub-par hake ceviche (both £7),  we moved on to the main event – the Sunday roast.  They offer pork (£16), lamb (£17) and beef (£18) all served with roasted carrots, parsnips & potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding & gravy.  We chose pork and lamb roasts – both were served in hulking portions, crowned with an impressive Yorkshire pudding.  As expected, the quality of the meat was excellent and the cooking spot on – the pork had a bit more character than the lamb but I enjoyed both.  The impending meat sweats were tempered by the good amount of veggies on the plate – the highlight being the slightly caramalised carrots.  I was disappointing by the potatoes, which could have been crispier – I think they had been cooked earlier in the day and then reheated in the oven.  The gravy was unremarkable but decent enough – it should have been thickened for a bit longer, but the cauliflower cheese was a real success: it was rich, sticky and decadently creamy.

Verdict: a decent roast in homely surroundings – perfect for a winter’s Sunday afternoon 7.5/10

 

 

 


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José Pizzaro Broadgate & Tommi Burger

José Pizzaro Broadgate
36 Broadgate Circle, EC2M 1QS
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
Click to add a blog post for José Pizarro on Zomato
website; map
“It isn’t cheap but the atmosphere and tasty, moreish tapas provide a welcome injection of Latin passion into one of the city’s more soulless corners” City A.M.

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(Grants of Shoreditch Ltd)

Margaret Thatcher conceived and Prince Charles opened Broadgate Arena (now known as Broadgate Circle) in 1987 – it was designed by Arup Associates in a post-modern concrete-laden style.  The development won numerous plaudits, including the Royal Institute of British Architects’ National Award in 1991, but an application for listing was rejected by Tory culture secretary Jeremy Hunt a few years ago.  This left the door open for further development and although the circle is used as an ice rink during the winter there had been demand to make better use of the space during the rest of the year, leading to Arup being brought back in to create an arena for shopping and eating.  They were able to attract an impressive list of restaurants to the new venture, including Brixton’s Franco Manco, Yauatcha (from the Hakkasan Group), the Botanist and the wonderful José Pizzaro.  As José on Bermondsey street is one of my favourite tapas places I was keen to see what José Broadgate has to offer.

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The restaurant has 65 covers and so is a lot bigger than the tiny, intimate José; a lot of money has been invested in the fit-out, designed by CADA – there are some nice features, including concrete panels with patterns inspired by Pizzaro’s Extremadura hometown, but on the whole it feels a bit corporate (I much prefer the rustically decorated José).  The menu is mainly composed of tapas dishes and charcuterie, they also serve a range of Spanish breakfast dishes which I think will be a hit with local desk monkeys.   We started with some decent padron peppers (£5) and some beautifully rich and nutty Jamón ibérico de bellota (ie acorn-fed ibérico ham) sourced from Cinco Jotas (albeit for a whopping £23).  Next, we had some grilled octopus with Catalan olive oil (£10) – the octopus was cooked perfectly so it was soft and melt in the mouth; its salty, sea flavour was enhanced by the rich olive oil and a hint of paprika.

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There are five larger dishes on the menu (£12-25, as well as the presa ibérico which has been getting good reviews) – we chose the whole grilled baby turbot (£24) with pan con tomate and a green salad.  The fish was very fresh and exquisitely cooked so that it was still moist and full of flavour.  The dearth of sauce or seasoning let the true flavour of the fish stand out.  Aubergine stuffed with a traditional Extremadura dish called migas (stale bread soaked in water, garlic, paprika, and olive oil – £12) was interesting and I guess authentic, but a tad boring, especially given the quality of the rest of the dishes we sampled.  We finished with an amazing dessert of chocolate with olive oil and salt (£6) – this was effectively a chocolate mousse with the cream replaced with olive oil, the resultant dessert was rich, decadent and as it used dark chocolate, fairly healthy – a great end to our meal.

Verdict: José Broadgate has fantastic food, but I prefer the humbler pricing and bustle of it’s (diminutive) big brother José 7.5/10

Tommi Burger
30 Thayer Street, W1U 2QP
0207 224 3828
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Click to add a blog post for Tommi's Burger Joint on Zomato
website; map

“In some ways it’s like something your dad would produce at a barbecue, if he spent endless summers out there in the rain honing it to perfection.” The Independent

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Tomas Tómasson opened his first burger joint in Reykjavik in 1981, quickly building a mini-empire over the next three years with six restaurants that flipped over a million burgers.  He sold up in 1984 and pursued other restaurant interests, including opening Iceland’s first Hard Rock Cafe and rejuvenating Reykjavik’s plush Hotel Borg.  Tómasson took a break from the business in the early 2000s, travelling the world and eating loads of hamburgers (research, apparently) before opening the second wave of Tommi’s burger joints in 2004.  Four more restaurants followed, with expansion into London in 2012, then Copenhagen and Berlin in 2014.  Apparently Tommi, whose portrait hangs in all the restaurants (he looks a lot like Hemingway), has eaten a burger every day since the first of the new joints over a decade ago (burgers for Christmas?) and is often found working behind the grill in his restaurants.  The menu is pretty simple – a beef or veggie burger (both £6.9) and a steak burger for £8.9, the only side on offer is fries (£2.75) and you can add bacon and extra cheese for £1.

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Their beef comes from traditional butcher HG Walter in Baron’s Court and the mince used in my burger was of good quality, lean and tasty.   The patty had been cooked medium using coarsely chopped mince and was fairly juicy, but underseasoned.  All burgers come with standard toppings of lettuce, american cheese, tomato and onion- in the age of wacky toppings many find this simplicity refreshing, but I found it a bit dull and wasn’t keen on the raw, bitter red onion.  The bun (supplied by monolith bakery Millers which is owned by Alex Polizzi, that annoying TV hotel makeover woman) was quite doughy and starchy – I much prefer a brioche style bun.

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The fries had been bought and cooked from frozen and were unremarkable.  Apart from the quality of the meat used in the burger I was underwhelmed by Tommi’s offering.

Verdict: a reasonable burger, but not a patch on Patty & Bun 6/10

 


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More Burgers

Patty & Bun Liverpool Street
22/23 Liverpool Street, EC2M 7PD
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
Click to add a blog post for Patty & Bun on Zomato
website; map

“Good lord, this was a wet and sloppy delight – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.” Samphire & Salsify

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Patty & Bun, purveyors of the best burgers in London, opened a second site near Liverpool Street in the spring of last year.  The small restaurant is just round the corner from the station entrance and is more geared towards takeaway customers than their original perma-rammed James St. site.  Their menu offers 3 beefburgers (£7.5-8.5) along with chicken and veggie options, as well as a daily burger special. And in effort to cater to hungover city boys they have also branched out into breakfast burgers – with P&B bacon, sausage and veggie rolls (£4).

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I couldn’t resist the “smoke cheese everyday” (£11.5) special of a beef patty, packed with bacon, green chilli relish, chipotle ketchup, smoked cheese mayo and smoked cheddar.  The bun was the usual (and now much copied) P&B glazed brioche effort – it was slightly sweet, nicely sticky and did a great job of holding all the components together.  The highlight of the condiments was the smoked cheese mayo (they make the mayo in-house and keep their recipes a closely guarded secret) – it was decadently rich and a perfect texture, being thick but still runny enough to integrate with the juicy burger.  Chips were cut medium-thick and served skin-on with rosemary salt – they were definitely freshly prepared and nicely crispy, the hints of potato skin adding good texture.

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For me, the burger was exemplary – the meat was moist, well-seasoned and full of character.  The general consensus still seems to be that P&B serve up the best burgers in London, although there has been some debate about the Liverpool St branch doing some sneaky pre-cooking (explained by the management as holding burgers in a thermodyne).  You should also note that whilst you can sit in at P&B Liverpool St it is not a place to linger – the few high seats and tables are not very comfortable and we were politely but swiftly told to sling our hook as soon as our final morsel of food was dispatched……this is proper fast food.

Verdict: bring a bib 9/10

Five Guys Burgers & Fries
1-3 Long Acre, WC2E 9LH
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
Click to add a blog post for Five Guys on Zomato
website; map

“Five Guys fails at EVERYTHING it attempts to be. Like many of my compatriots, my overwhelming feeling after leaving Five Guys was that I had just been on the receiving end of a lot of broken promises.” fatmanclaphand

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Five Guys is an American burger franchise (think of a slightly posher McDonald’s) that first came to London a couple of years ago and now has 8 outlets across the capital and 16 in the rest of the country.  The Five Guys moniker comes from the founders Janie and Jerry Murrell who had four sons when the company was formed in 1986; another son arrived two years later and all five are currently involved in the business.  I went along to the flagship Covent Garden branch which opened on the 4th of July (when else?) 2013 when London was going burger crazy – initially the queues were long and the reviews lukewarm, but the hype has now died down and I only needed to wait about 10 minutes for my meal on a Saturday lunchtime.

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The burger was a very flat, fairly dry affair – it was cooked through and a bit underseasoned, especially compared to the highly salted chips.  They offer a good range of toppings and I opted for grilled onions (which were undercooked and not quite caramelised enough), green peppers (decent) and relish (slightly sweet but with a nice gooey texture).  The roll was heavily seeded and quite dense/bready, but looked rather sad and collapsed after it’s imprisonment in silver foil.

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I opted for “small” fries which were jammed into a small cup and then placed into a paper bag into which another shovelful of fries was liberally sprinkled – this would have been enough for two and despite my best attempts I couldn’t finish them.  The origin of the potatoes used for the fries is displayed on a whiteboard which is a nice little touch and the Dutch potatoes used for my fries had a bit of character – they were moist and well coloured.  Novelties for London customers will be the unlimited soft drinks refills (a dentists nightmare which is common in the US) and the wide range of extra toppings which can be added in any quantity for no extra cost.

Verdict: an unremarkable and overpriced burger 5/10

 


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More reviews – no. 3

Smoking Goat
7 Denmark Street, WC2H 8LZ
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
map
Click to add a blog post for Smoking Goat on Zomato
The food at Smoking Goat isn’t finger-licking good, it’s fist-and-wrist-and-possibly-elbow-and-knee-licking good.” Marina O’Loughlin, The Guardian

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The smoking goat opened last autumn and its rough and tumble, messy Northern Thai street food has received a lot of attention since then, with favourable reviews from Marina, Fay and even a minor royal.  Head chef Seb Holmes was poached from another Thai kitchen, the Begging Bowl in Peckham, and is joined by Gino Tighe who previously worked at The Quality Chophouse.  It is situated in a former Soho dive bar – space is tight with around 40 covers, most of which are seated around the bar  and the smell of the smoky wood ember barbecue permeates the whole room.  They employ the requisite no bookings policy and score extra hipster points for having no phone or website.  A lot of reviews have focused on the queuing, darkness and noise, but I didn’t encounter problems with any of these: I arrived early (just before 7pm) and was seated straight away; for me, the atmosphere was fun and buzzy.  The menu is short and sweet with a handful of choices for each course – starters are up to £6 and mains £15-20.

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We started with the popular fish sauce wings (£6) – these were the biggest wings I have ever eaten (monster chickens?) and came deep fried, smothered in sesame seeds and sticky, crispy batter.  The meat was dark and packed with flavour, with only a subtle hint of fishiness: it was very juicy and simply fell off the bone.  Our next dish was a special of roasted whole scallops (great value at £3.50 each) – these were served in the shell complete with their coral.  The scallop had been carefully prepared and cleaned so there wasn’t any grit and the cooking was bang on: the flesh was soft and silky, with a slightly smoky finish.

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For mains we had slow roasted duck legs (£15) and pork saddle chops (£20).  The duck legs were firm and juicy, encased in a rich, sticky glaze and paired well with a lemongrass and kaffir lime dip.  The pork saddle chops were the day’s special, the meat having arrived freshly in the morning – the chops had been chargrilled and were firm, glutinous and lightly smoked. Som tam (green papaya salad) offered some light relief from all the sticky proteins – it was loaded with chilli and laced with zesty lime and sweet palm sugar.  We washed all this down with pints of Gamma Ray American Pale Ale by Beavertown which were full of vigorous hops with a nice tropical fruit finish (all for an eye-watering £6.75 a pint).

Verdict: great value Thai food in a hip setting 8/10

Luc’s Brasserie
17-22 Leadenhall Market, EC3V 1LR
Nearest tube: Bank
020 7621 0666
Luc's Brasserie on Urbanspoon
website (it plays an annoying tune); map

Luc’s Brasserie has been fattening up pinstriped Lloyd’s underwriters for many years, situated at the heart of Leadhall Market they serve traditional French bistro food in a relaxed setting. They offer a set price lunch menu of 3 courses for £19.95 (which is fairly reasonable given its central location)  and an a la carte with starters up to £9.50 and mains for £12.75 to £17.50.  Dishes include many French staples, including baked Camembert, steak tartare, duck confit and toulouse sausage.

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I went along for a mid-week lunch, starting with smoked haddock gratin with mussels.  This arrived very promptly and must have been pre-assembled and then finished under the grill, but the fish was fresh, firm and full of flavour; the breadcrumbs were crispy and nicely laced with cheese.  I really enjoyed the sauce which was creamy and rich (I think it might have been enhanced by a drop of fish stock).  A simple but very pleasing dish.

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Feeling unadventurous, I opted for the half of roasted chicken with frites for my main course.  Again, this arrived suspiciously quickly: the leg and breast had been separated from the body and were clumsily presented along with an old-school sauce boat of gravy.  The meat was a tiny bit dry but still fairly juicy and the skin was perfectly crispy.  The gravy was reasonable and the frites were thinly cut and freshly made. Service was fast, efficient and generally friendly.

Verdict: reasonably priced French bistro food 6.5/10

Bleecker burger
Spitalfields Market, Unit B, SP 4 Pavilion Building, E1 6EA
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
Bleecker St. Burger on Urbanspoon
website; map

Zan Kaufman’s route to London foodie fame is an unusual one.  She started out as a New York corporate lawyer, but her love of food led her to take a second job in a Manhattan burger restaurant.  Then she decamped to the UK (her husband in British) and, inspired by KERB founder Petra Barran, bought a truck and converted it into a food van.  Her Yankee style burgers (made with rare breed meat from The Butchery in Bermondsey) quickly received rave reviews, including a 10/10 from the Burger Addict blog.  She opened a permanent space in Spitalfields market in February (although the burger van is still out and about) and I went along there for a mid-week lunch. They have a small unit near the main entrance of the market and a few picnic tables of seating around – beware, the market is covered but still outdoors, so it can get pretty chilly there.  The menu is short and sweet with the only offerings being a cheese or veggie burgers (£6), a bacon cheeseburger (£7), a double cheeseburger (£9), and the mighty Bleecker Black (£10).

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I couldn’t resist trying the Bleecker Black – a double cheeseburger with black pudding, American cheese, onion and hot sauce.  The burgers were smaller than I imagined and were cooked wonderfully medium rare though well coloured on the outside, the meat was properly seasoned   The bun was of the more traditional seeded variety (rather than brioche as is the trend these days) – it was lightly toasted, had a nice light consistency and stood up very well to the burger juices and sauce.   I enjoyed the black pudding which was moist and peppery, with a hint of crunch although it’s flavour did dwarf the burger meat somewhat.  Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the “American” cheese which was sharp and slightly sweet, it melted nicely into the burger meat and bun.

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On the side I had “angry fries” (£4) which come smothered in blue cheese and hot sauce – they are made from Maris Piper potatoes and are cut freshly (skin-on) every day.  The fries were nicely crispy, liberally salted and the little hints of skin added texture; the hot sauce wasn’t too hot but worked well with the punchy blue cheese.

Verdict: great quality burger and fries, probably my second favourite in London behind Patty & Bun 8/10

 

 


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Burger marathon

Shake Shack
24, Market Building, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RD
Nearest tube: Covent Garden
Shake Shack on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: an American upmarket McDonalds which opened last year amid much hype

Setup: efficient counter service – when you pay you get a buzzer that summons you to a hatch to collect your food…….although expect a long queue

Burger: disappointing – very thin, underseasoned and overcooked

Bun and accompaniments: the bun was slightly sweet and sticky, the cheese tasteless and the gherkin overly salty

Chips: crinkle cut, cooked from frozen but nicely crisp

Verdict: over-hyped glorified McDonalds: not worth the wait – 4/10
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Patty & Bun
54, James St, W1U 1HE
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Patty & Bun on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: a pioneering pop-up that found its own home just north of Bond street in Autumn 2012

Setup: long, long queue, funky interior and hip waiting staff

Burger: soft, rich and cooked to order – thick and juicy

Bun and accompaniments: the brioche bun was light and sticky but strong enough to hold everything together; oily cheese and crisp bacon worked well together

Chips: skin-on maris piper – essentially good chip shop chips

Verdict: possibly the best burger in London – 9/10

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CASK Pub and Kitchen
6 Charlwood St, SW1V 2EE
Nearest tube: Pimlico
Cask Pub and Kitchen on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background:  a fantastic craft beer pub in the middle of Pimlico wasteland

Setup: the pub has a franchise by forty burgers

Burger: a blend of 40 day aged rib eye ad 30 day aged rump – thick, nicely seasoned and served medium rare

Bun and accompaniments: a pretty conventional bun with a hint of sweetness, the cheese was rich cheddar and the gherkin firm and nicely vinegary

Chips: standard fries, freshly cooked

Verdict: well prepared, good quality meat: a fantastic partner to a malty porter or hoppy IPA – 7/10

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The Ritzy
Brixton Oval, SW2 1JG
Nearest tube: Brixton
Ritzy Cafe on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: the kitchen at Brixton’s independent cinema

Setup: the menu at Ritzy includes diverse dishes from goat curry to poached salmon

Burger: poor quality (burger van style) meat that had been severely overcooked

Bun and accompaniments: the bun might have been bought in bulk from Lidl; it was served with industrial relish and raw sliced onion

Chips: cheap and cheerful, cooked from frozen

Verdict: hard to believe that food like this is still served in London……simply terrible – 1/10

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Unit 2A, Tower Place, EC3R5BU
Nearest tube: Tower Hill
Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Urbanspoon
website; map

Background: Kiwi pioneers of the London burger scene who have since bloated into a 60 restaurant empire

Setup: a choice of 13 beef burgers with some weird options like a Kiwiburger which comes topped with beetroot, pineapple and an egg

Burger: West Country Aberdeen Angus cooked to order: it had a nice texture but was a tad under-seasoned

Bun and accompaniments: I chose the Smokin’ Joe which was stuffed with tart dill pickle, sweet shallots and strong smoked cheddar, sandwiched within a sweet brioche bun

Chips: my thin cut rosemary fries would not set the heather on fire

Verdict: ubiquitous and slightly soulless, but still a decent burger – 6/10

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MEATliqour

74 Welbeck Street, W1G 0BA
Nearest tube: Bond Street
MEATliquor on Urbanspoon
website; map

A lot has been already been written about MEATliquor, both online and in the printed press; common themes include long queues, obscenely loud music and decor that tries hard to be offensive (……but the burgers are great).  I went on a freezing Monday night so thankfully I didn’t need to queue for too long (circa 20 minutes) – there was no hand stamping regime to manage the queues but there was a very grumpy bouncer manning the front door.  The dining room is hot, dark, very noisy and slightly chaotic, with bizarre anti-capitalist decor that looks as if it has been produced by a trendy design agency.  On entering, you are ushered to the bar to wait again and enjoy a cocktail (the waitress forgot about us so we waited a bit longer than usual – I suggest you badger her until she offers you a table).  The menu is very simple – it is a selection of ten burgers, a chilli dog and chicken wings (all reasonably priced at £6.50 to £8).  There are four kinds of chips (fries) ranging from unadorned to “Phili” which drapes them in steak, onions, mushrooms and cheese.  I chose the Dead Hippie: apparently the name derives from visits the chef made to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert – an event that attracts a lot of brain dead hippies.  It consisted of two beef burgers, cheese, pickles and finely chopped white onions, all piled between a light sticky bun.  The burgers were perfectly cooked with a rich pinkness in their centre – the mince was fresh and fatty, lending a beautifully moist finish.  It is certainly one of the best burgers I have eaten in London.  The fries and slaw were acceptable and nothing more than that, but the onion rings were really fantastic – they were sweet and tangy, housed in a light batter.

Verdict: Just about the best burgers in town.

Dead Hippie.

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Dead Hippie, Slaw, Cheese Fries and Onion Rings.

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Also see: Samphire and Salsify, The Trishaw and Tuck & Vine.


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The Draft House

206-208 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UP
Nearest tube: London Bridge
020 7378 9995
http://www.drafthouse.co.uk/
The Draft House Pub on Urbanspoon

There is a lot of online debate about who invented the hamburger: the most credible source I can find claims it originated from the Mongols who stashed raw beef under their saddles and over time the meat became tender enough to eat raw.  Many decades later as world trade routes expanded the idea was exported to Hamburg and the canny Germans decided to heat the meat up to make it easier to digest.  Many American towns on the Eastern seaboard lay claim to the first hamburger in a bun, and the folklore features many good ol’ American characters like Louis “Lunch” Lassen (New Haven, Connecticut), “Hamburger” Charlie Nagreen (Seymour, Wisconsin) and the Menches brothers (Hamburg, New York).  But it is very hard to trace the origin of a dish as simple and superfluous as a hamburger.  It is, however, much easier to trace the origins of the recent hamburger boom in London – the day, almost five years ago, when a canny entrepreneur called Tom Byng opened the first Byron Burger.  His restaurants raised the bar in terms of meat sourcing and cooking, also adding a bit of style to the mix.

The burger trend has spread far and wide in the London restaurant scene and is now also improving the quality of pub food.  The Draft House chain is famous for its burgers with the esteemed Jay Rayner having paid them a visit a couple of years ago.  They now boast five branches which all focus on proper beer and decent pub grub.  At Tower Bridge they have around 20 beers on tap ranging from continental weissbiers to British porters and bitters.  The clientele were a mix of office workers and students/creative types – the atmosphere was very congenial but it was certainly not buzzing on a wet Tuesday night.

The menu is short, boasting pub grub classics like fish and chips and macaroni cheese.  There are three kinds of beef burger and I opted for “The Poke” (£9.75).  It is a 8oz burger with Crushed Bird’s Eye Chillis, Old Amsterdam Cheese and an Onion Ring.  I was asked how I wanted it cooked and it arrived medium rare as requested.  The burger was encased in a slighly sweet seaseme seed bun and nicely topped off by the rich mature Dutch cheese.  In fact, I actually preferred my burger to the “Mo” I had at Byron – the meat had stronger seasoning and was nicely married with the sweet sticky bun.  My onion rings were equally pleasing, coming in a light tempura-esque batter and they had certainly been cooked in fresh oil.
Verdict
The Draft House has a fantastic range of ales, continental and craft beers – their burgers are cooked to order using good quality ingredients and the rest of their small menu looks very tasty.
Food 2.5/5
Atmosphere 3/5
Service 2/5
Value 4/5

Also see: thecriticalcouple, burger feast by Burger Me! and GET FORKED!.