Burgers

My tenure is up at ‘The Otherside Magazine’ . I’m damn proud of all of my writing for their site, especially all the burger reviews I posted. For your viewing pleasure I have archived them all on this page..
“Welcome to Burger Paradise.”
“G.N.”


1) Burger Hunter


Man I have the biggest hankering for an umami filled burger. A whole meal in my hands, dripping meat juices onto my plate. A battle against time, the bun giving in to the meat maelstrom within but you don’t care, the overload of endorphins blended with all that protein has made you not notice that you’ve finished your burger and are now gnawing on your own hand. Add a slice of cheese you never know it might be tasty.

Yes that was a grand imagining that I just put you through. You understand the task ahead, a quest for the most tantalising burger in the capital. I am on the hunt to find a place to fill my burger void. A variety of establishments are placing this meat & bread dish in the prime time slot on their menu’s.  A fine burger just needs a bit of tender care. Like anything else on a menu you must respect each ingredient used, the burger is not just a menu filler but one of the main players.

First off the bat is ‘The Hawksmoor’, which gets top merit for keeping the burger movement fresh with a monthly change up of one of their burgers on the menu. Until recently it was the ‘Bobcat Bite’ a riff on the famous green chile cheeseburger of New Mexico. Today it changes to the ‘Buck Rabbit Burger’, a burger topped with a Welsh Rarebit. The use of high quality produce makes all of their burgers shine.  Although the burger that made me a make b-line for the place originally was the ‘Kimchi burger’. It sounded so fascinating, the crunch of the kimchi, a little hit of heat, then a morsel of that mouth watering meat.  Alas that bloody great kimchi overpowered the burger, slightly to salty, leaving  your mouth covered in a saucy layer of flavour protection that left you numb to the taste of 100% Longhorn goodness. So bummer about the Kimchi but respect for going out on a limb, being inventive and showing much love for the burger culture.

Next week I will seek out another joint slinging burgers. In the meantime send in any tip-offs that will hopefully produce some great burger leads.

Signing off, Greg Nay
https://thebrokenspork.com/

The Hawksmoor,SEVEN DIALS, 11 Langley St.
London WC2H 9JG
020 7856 2154 / http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk

2) The Burger Hunt Continues

The hunt for the finest burger in London continues. Another place, another green chilli cheeseburger, this is Lucky 7′s.The restaurant is a visual knockout, hand painted lettering,well sourced original artwork that play on the sensibilities and heartstrings of American culture. Tongue in cheek and stimulating. The burgers, while not wild at heart are classics that do not need to be fussed with.

The burger arrives and sits open on the table. Lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle lay to the side, accessories to the fact. It could be a sign of weakness, lack of confidence. Show me this burger as it should be. If I want to take a peak at its insides, I will. Sometimes you may be exposing too much. Take a bite first, then work it out. Let the burger do its magic, then learn its tricks. Exposed, the patty laid under a chopped green chilli relish, not quite a salsa but playing the part. A slice of Monterey Jack resting between them.

The bun, buttered, toasted and sesameed. Weak, white and fluffy inside, not a challenge for the mild heat of the chilli’s and cheese. It played a disappearing act when it came to putting up a fight with the patty, not that there was much of a challenge to be had. The meat hinted at an aroma of buttery steak and had the mouth-feel of a crumbly British Summer BBQ burger. Its only saving grace was the warmth and tang of the griddle. Even this faded fast as I tackled a few fries and pot of coleslaw.

I wanted to love the burger here, the place is charming, an outburst of brilliant Americana, sincere in its execution. I wanted the burgers to be as big and bursting with flavour as this establishments personality. Charmed and char-grilled, ready to carry on to the bovine bun slinging establishment.

by, Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Lucky 7, 127 Westbourne Park Road, W2 5QL
Tel: 020 7727 6771, http://www.lucky7london.co.uk/


3) New Hunting Grounds

As this is a burger hunt and since many burgers have already been discovered by others, it is time to really search out these marvelous meat monsters. Get off the beaten path, check out a new neck of the woods. The chances might be slim, but the reward will be greater. Mouthfuls of marginal ground beef will most definitely be consumed, I will feed you the glory and not the pain. Out there in the wilds of London lurks a burger of exemplary standing, a trophy well worth the hunt.

Villandry Kitchen in High Holborn has been harbouring a burger amongst its typically French offerings for who knows how long. Is this item on the menu for the picky eaters or there to go along with the trend of specialist burgers? I am not here really to question it status amongst the other dishes but to get to the bare beef burger basics. Can the burger hold its own against the more regular mainstream hamburger haunts?

The Villandry Kitchen Burger came balanced on a ‘oh so cute’ wood cut platter. The burger nestled in a beautiful brioche bun. Encased in something that can take care of itself, a real burger juice absorber with shellac armour to keep it all in and not out. Plus it provides a little sweet hit to offset the char-grilled meat pattie.  A lick of comté was just that a lick. This is a  fine cheese that needs to be well represented. In this situation, the char-grill flavour overpowering, the pattie itself dense and unforgiving, meat and nothing but.  A side of moutarde could not save the well cooked medium rare puck that was too complacent, formed by reason and not by love. No give, one bite after another, stubborn to the very end.

“Ou et le bon sauvage?” I want you wild and unruly, hardcore Gaul style. You could be something, a real beast of burger, overpower me with a serious slice of cheese, throw in some truffle mayo. I can take it, I’ll put up a fight but at least I will respect you for being a noble savage.

by Greg Nay   www.thebrokenspork.com

Villandry Kitchen, 95-96 High Holborn, WC1V 6LF
Tel: 020 7242 4580, http://www.villandry.com/

4) The Elusive Meat Easy

I have ticket number 27. They’ve reached 13 and 14. The music is going strong. The first burger has been served to the most eager beaver.  All eyes on him, or shall I say his burger. Most people looking kinda serious, their ears pricking at the slightest sizzle of beef. The upstairs full, the downstairs a construction site.The Goldsmiths Tavern in New Cross is having a refit, soon even the Meat Easy will be gone from its location above the pub. Chalk letters on the freshly painted front door, the only sign that something’s going down.  A little like a speak easy, more like a meat easy.  Tacky lines just a front for my brimming excitement.

While I wait for my number to be called there is plenty of time to check out the options. Standard cheeseburger,bacon cheeseburger, chilli cheeseburger and.. the dead hippie. Two mustard fried beef patties, cheese,lettuce and special sauce. Originally I was going to go for the classic, but Dead Kennedys are playing  on the stereo and I’m getting punk bloodlust. So the ‘Dead Hippie’ it is. “California über alles” all the way. Number called, food ordered, another beer sunk and I killed the hippie. He was a soft burger thrill. Pillowy bun, mild meat, perfect for the double dip. One mustard,one ketchup.

You can put burgers into two different categories. The brash n’ bold, the taste of overkill. Meat for the sake of beef sensations. Ingredients to excite and ignite your imaginations. Buns to make a statement, to hold down the fort. The other, there to be a burger, to be that thing you see in a comic book. The one Jughead drools over. Not trying to prove anything, it just is what it is. Comfort food to help you along. A standard bearer for the iconic status of the burger. The Meat Easy burger proudly fell into the latter category.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the wildcats, the too far out and the whacked, but the mythology of a burger is built on a solid foundation. It is something that comes without bells and whistles, that slides down a treat, accepts the ritual application of its condiment cousins and doesn’t reject them as not worthy.

The burger that I just scarfed down, is all good in my books and even better in my stomach. The Meat Easy closes down after Saturday (16th) night. If they have escaped you this time don’t worry because they are going to be back in one form or another. check out their website for future shenanigans.

http://www.themeatwagon.co.uk/

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com


5) Royal Burger Hunt

“I’ll have the Royale with Cheese your Highness”, Byron makes the royal connection. One week away from the big day, shops full of Kate and Will merchandise. The tribute burger had to be launched. Well there is the word ‘Royale’ in it. Might be in French, but screw it burgers are American anyways. When semiotics are all over the place you might as well just roll with it and see if it leads to a good bite.

When I think of the cute couple, two six ounce patties dripping in melted cheese(Montgomery) always comes to mind.  Ketchup stains on Will’s double cuffs, mustard on Kate’s dress. Sophisticated right, a sleek bit of burger ingenuity or a right Royal ripoff?

As I slipped my hands round the Great British bap, you could feel the weight of the nation between your hands. No problem the bun provided a lot of cushioning, this should not be hard to deal with. A bite or two later and it had split, ten ton of beef revealed. I had made a commitment here, so I picked up the pieces and carried on. Marriage is also about exploration and I did an awful lot of that while looking for the Montgomery, which was lost amongst the vast herd of cattle. Now and again unmelted angles of the cheese would release a touch of tang. This must be an open relationship, where everything is shared, at least tell me about the tomatoes,onions and lettuce you have hidden up in the tower.

This celebration of such a grand event shouldn’t have me feeling this way. Stuffed, already over it before it has begun. Only my stiff upper lip kept me going. Surely the best of British should be on display here. Fine beef, maybe some great chutneys thrown in the mix. The cheddar was a champion, but had no support, nobody to rely on. Did you want to make this work? For all we know this burger could be a Republican.

by Greg Nay  www.thebrokenspork.com
Byron

24-28 Charing Cross Road London WC2H 0DT
Tel: 020 7557 9830
check website for other locations: http://www.byronhamburgers.com/


6) The National Burger Gallery


Rembrandt with cheese please, and hold the onions. I am eating a burger inside the National Gallery. This is not a guilty pleasure. Smuggling in food, munching and marveling at the masters. Where high art meets lowbrow dining. Actually, I am sitting at a proper table with utensils and a napkin. The gallery’s National Café has a burger on the menu.

Muzak, open spaces and ladies having tea. Tiered finger sandwiches, scones, cakes. Calm and delicate, sweet indulgence and conservative climates. These observations indicate that I must eat my burger in a reserved fashion. Who does that? Dainty finger food this is not. Finger licking beef dripping fun it is.  Hands gnarled, I am ready to grab hold and sink my teeth into a chunk of ground bovine. These twee ladies better put their hankies in front of their faces, because this ain’t gonna be pretty.

The burger fits perfectly in my hand. Snug as the soft jazz horned out across the room. Hands un-gnarled, predatory instincts calmed. Subdued by the classical environment and sophisticated situation.

This was another do it yourself presentation. No ketchup here, but a side of half n’ half, tomato and red onion relish. These went right in, on top of the glistening half inch thick pattie (Bickleigh White Park). The bun, a toasted Anglo-American bap maintained its composure throughout. Not even the sour patch puckering pickle could breakdown its stern interior. A slice of tomato fresh n’ juicy. Hard grilled edges of the meat  were mighty little flavour nuggets. The meat glossy, almost green. Wrong? No, very right. There was maturity to the beef. Aged like the building.  Buffed wood and black lacquered window sills, the flavour of antique air infusing with the meat. A double sense kickback.

I once ate a burger while listening to Death Metal, it was as intense and messy as the music. Here the jazz played smooth and efficient, the burger eaten equally well assembled. This was a planned out, marvelous construction. Art, architecture and meat in a bun. A fine portrait of a burger, rendered just right by the National Café.

by Greg Nay   www.thebrokenspork.com

The National Café
The National Gallery,
Trafalgar Square,
London WC2N 4DN
http://www.peytonandbyrne.co.uk/the-national-cafe/index.html
tel: 020 7747 5942

7) Meantime Meat Bun

It started with a beer, it lead to a burger. The Old Brewery in Greenwich, is Meantime Brewing Company’s beer mecca. Choices had to be made seriously, you cannot possibly get through all these glorious barley/hop/wheat refreshers in one sitting. As the plan was to be there for a while, food should clearly be digested. First a quick plough through some oysters and then a pint of………prawns. Rip their armour off and devour, Maybe partake in a hoptastic citrus style IPA. The sea, a place to indulge in now and again, get your feet wet, but the call of the cow is too strong. A burger needed to be ordered. If not for any other reason than the pairing was with a beer I had not tried.

Man, the cook must be a pyromaniac. Not only did he take a flamethrower to the meat, he tortured the bun with a red hot poker. Fortunately, cooler pink and fresh fleshy meat lay inside the chargrilled charcoal. This was indeed like sitting by a campfire, smoke in your eyes, the next day carbon on your face, your clothes infused with a campfire odour. The only thing to extinguish this situation is a pull from a ‘Meantime’ beer. The one recommended was a ‘Union’ Vienna style Lager. Toasty and caramel which altogether intensified the fire. The saving grace, was that medium rare meat, the cool contrast enabler.

The bun hinted at crusty, not too hard with a soft centre inside. A muffled, primary bite through the charred flesh. Deeper and the meat relaxed. Out the other-side, a slight bitter burnt note, then the soothing balm of the grain mustard mayo, moist salvation. The final tear-away and the mouthful is complete. There was some cheese, but it was lost in the blaze. Little help, the saltiness withdrawing any spare moisture in the meat.

This sounds like burger hell. Surprisingly it wasn’t. It could have been, say if the burger was well done, or maybe if I didn’t have a kink for burnt toast. A freak situation that worked on the day. Taste is not a simple thing, break it down and find out what works for you. Obviously I am of the scorched earth variety, with a hint of salvation. Within the depths of hell there is always a glimmer of hope, if that fails there is always beer.
by Greg Nay, www.brokenspork.com

The Old Brewery,
The Pepys Building,
The Old Royal Naval College,
London SE10 9LW
tel: 0203 327 1280, http://www.oldbrewerygreenwich.com/

8 ) 1/2 pound of Hawaiian

Would you believe it, a Hawaiian burger joint here in London, gnarly.
After hitting spots where burgers were not the main event on the menu, I thought it would make a change to dine at an actual burger joint. One with a  mission to sling these things day in and day out, delivering the goods.

A surfboard, a lick of bright blue paint, walls textured with bamboo and wood, it could easily be a shabby tiki clip joint. £20 blue rum concoctions and for a extra fiver you might be able to see a bit of skin.

With multiple locations in Japan and Hawaii, Kua ‘Aina has branded down here. What counts though, is that disc of chargrilled meat. Identify yourself as a firmly ensconced burger franchise and consumers tend to make allowances. Market yourselves as a laid-back side street burger den and you have upped the stakes. The customer closer than usual, more intimate. Expecting that little bit more out of you. He see’s the person and not the corporation.

The photograph of Obama buying their burgers was a nice touch. He has good taste right?Things got a little debatable when I received my 1/2 pound Avocado Burger tempered with Hawaiian spices. The burger released a watery juice, no fat flavoured deposits were released. Cooked medium for your discomfort. Bun sweet n’ sesame’ed,  but not the original poppy seed variety which would have been a welcome change. The Avocado, my burgers ‘USP’ should be double checked for ripeness. Not ready to be eaten, pride yourself on fresh? then deliver. Where were the secret spices? Wars have been fought over the trade of spices, have we lost all respect for them? lives lost over saffron and my burger did not even shed a scented tear.

Indoctrinated, fooled by charm, the Hawaiian radio and infomercials, the picture. damn why do I fall for these things? This is not the first time I have been tricked by faux charm devices. I wish there was some kind of  Hawaiian adventure to be had. Lush, tropical and probably more to offer than a burger, but if the option is there, greet me with a lei and knock me out with something exotic.
Surf’s out and I am staying on the beach.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

KUA ‘AINA
26 Foubert’s Place
London
W1F 7PP

Tel: 020 7287 7474,  http://www.kuaaina.co.uk/


9) Malmaison Burger Captured

Tucked away in a corner of Charterhouse Square, behind a beautiful Victorian facade and down a set of stairs leads you into a darkly lit den. Settling softly into suede upholstered chairs, cutlery reflecting intensely under overhead lights. The Brasserie of the hotel Malmaison is about to unleash ‘The Mal Burger’ on yours truly. Informed that it will take 20 minutes to cook, I imagine that this must be of leviathan proportions, cooks battling to contain it between the bun, maybe piercing it with a skewer, writhing until it finally succumbs and is ready to be served.

Brought out on a special edition wooden serving platter, it was not the monster I envisioned, but perfect in proportion. A sprinkle of salt covered the top of the bun, twinkling the way a cupcake topping does in the shop window.  With a light squish down on the burger, I watched the juices run. A steak chopper lay there ceremoniously to the right of this creation. As if possessed, I cut the burger in two. This could be seen as taboo, but I was drawn in, intrigued, wanting to know more. The insides checked out, basic burger anatomy, the pattie dense, but a brilliant medium rare pink. A bite, the brioche bun had a thin crisp resistance, sweet interior and a wisp of salty smoke from the bacon pressed against it.

Juices dribbled out of the now cliff faced burger, moisture replaced by the house made ketchup and fresh tomato.  A fishy pickle tasted of the sea and could have easily been grown in a underwater seabed, if only. The beef working well, sharing its meaty aroma, infusing with most of the other ingredients. Unfortunately the big oozy slip of gruyère was lost in the smoke of the chargrilled meat.  A little more wallop is needed on the cheese front for the partnership to work.

My burger aftermath smothered all over the white linen napkin. The paper tablecloth covered in juice splatters. A greasy spoon delight consumed outside its comfort zone, not knowing how to act in this demure hotel atmosphere. Down here in the subterranean world, away from the daylight, Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde. Lost in animal instincts and quasi victorian charm I wonder, can you get this sent up to your room? What goes on behind closed doors at any hotel is a mystery, but I know what I would be getting up to at the Malmaison.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

The Brasserie at London’s Malmaison hotel
18-21 Charterhouse House Square, London, EC1M 6AH.
tel: 020 7012 3700, http://www.malmaison-london.com/hotels/london/brasserie.aspx


10) Burger à L’ Anglaise

You roll up on somewhere not known for being a burger king, not even a prince, although this place does have charm, it doesn’t have what I am looking for.

Le Café Anglais: shards of Art Deco afternoon light, High ceilings, neutral paint job, rectangular light sources cornered with metal. Above the oyster bar a chandelier of epic proportions. Forcing class and sophistication into a building that maybe once had it, but now even dawn of the dead zombies would shun it.

Black velvet, Guinness and champagne, six oysters to whet the palate. This dork, this burger hunter is going all out. Dollar signs for eyes, lost in the bivalve sea sick beauties. The menu looked like real a blast, a mad collection of bits n’ bobs, from elegant dining to comfort eating. Except for one thing, forget about the burger, just don’t even think about it.

The bun, brioche, but tough, maybe defrosted,dried out or even days old, take your pick. The burger came naked, pickle, lettuce and tomato on the side. Throwing it out there for all to see, I took a bite. Salt burst, meat tear, and a muffled mouthful. The pattie was on the verge of being a herby seasoned sausage. Where the meat should have some give, a little crumble and then melt away. Here you ripped at the meat, chewing on large springy dense chunks, which in turn splintered off into little dense chunks, never dissolving into any kind of goodness. Quickly I chucked in the extras. Still not enough, ketchup, then dijon mustard were added. With the aid of thirst quenching beer, it was done.

The burger hunter takes risks. Here he takes one for the team. Duped by what was probably a filler item on the menu, he bides his time, on the look-out for that prize trophy. Out there somewhere a mighty fine burger sits amongst all the regular dishes on a menu. Many big hitters have already been discovered, but there must be more….

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Le Café Anglais
8 Porchester Gardens
London W2 4DB
tel: 020 7221 1415, http://www.lecafeanglais.co.uk/


11) Joe Allen-Trophy Burger


“Can you hook me up with a burger?” I asked.
“Of course sir.” Came the quick, almost automated reply. I wondered how often they are asked this question, or if they ever say no.

Down a small street, of which one whole side is the back of a theatre, a small sign swings in the afternoon breeze. Joe Allen’s, a secluded oasis of a place, has been around since the late 70′s, serving the intelligentsia of the capital with Euro-American dishes whilst harbouring a secret burger delight for those only in the know. Dark wood, cavernous acoustics, staff dressed in pre-fad whites shirts and black ties. Paper tablecloths, red brick and blue columns. Theatre posters mingle with shots of  American sports players. Busy, full of crowded murmurs.  Service running fluidly, chaps discussing the theatre. I am relaxed and drawn in by its charm, but also by the thrill of ordering off menu.With the burgers of late being on the haggard side, this well known trophy burger should dazzle its way across the mouth, and be real show stopper.

The dinky service bell dings, my burger arrives. Served open, which let the large slices of sweet sweating bacon hit the nose, just as the plate hit the table. There were two bold scorch marks across the small brioche bun, branded, the chef meant business. The burger lurched at an angle, ready to be sauced and picked up. A generous slice of onion let you have the pleasure of selecting your ring size. You could have shoved the whole slice in there, but you would have been blowing fiery onion bubble burps all night. Keep it sophisticated my burger brethren.

The cheese had oozed its way over everything and settled down, gooey and chewy. This was a cheese that you could play around with in your mouth. Sophisticated right? The bacon;hard edges, soft centre, added to the masticating fun. A performance at first going real good, unfortunately burning out just before the triumphant finale. The bun, originally bellowous, became compressed and unforgiving. The pattie verging on spherical, dried out too quick, and once all the other good bits had disappeared the leftover meat and bun had to be finished off with the aid of a bit of red and yellow.

A shame, it could have been just one of those days. I am inclined to come back soon, because I have seen the talent, and I want to be there when this reclusive star shines. Till the curtain rises.

Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Joe Allen
13 Exeter Street
London
WC2E 7DT
Tel:020 7836 0651
http://www.joeallen.co.uk/

12) Hunt for an Honest Burger continues

Whilst walking around Brixton Market, a truly Honest Burger was found…….

Everything about this place breaths new world order(not the Ronald Reagan bullshit), but a place where real people have tried to build their own identities. Through produce, attitude and delivery.  From the reclaimed wood that has been sawn, hammered and nailed into tables and counter fronts. This is a bare bones brigade production. Here the product is at the forefront. Horns mounted on a featureless wall give a simple nod to what we are about to receive, amen.

The burger brought out, sat in a shroud of butchers paper, accompanied by a batch of rosemary seasoned home fries. The tell tale slide of enamel against the smooth grain of a homemade table, made the ritual devouring of another burger that much more endearing. After the first bite, the bun split, stress tears, weakened by a combination of pleasurable juice extractions and structural decisions. A red onion relish,  stalwart of the British burger condiment regime, moreish, and not overly sweet and sticky like most versions served up. The onions provided the glide, the bacon rigidity, and the mild cheddar schmoozed all over the parade. Wondrous brown meat stains left on the white fluffed interior of my glossy puffed bun kept the action vivid throughout.

The course Ginger Pig sourced beef gave way without much of a fight- which is the way it should be. The sneakily hidden, low lying pickles of the rear guard lay under the meat, crunching with just a little pressure.  Keeping calm and carrying on; the smart move of incorporating a wet ingredient on top and one down below, provided an emergency supply of moistness incase the battle tank of beef dried up. Fortunately this was not the case and the patty held out till the end. The final intake, the beef quick to crumble and the victory was theirs.

This very British burger, survived my blitzkrieg bop of an attack valiantly.  There is a burger for every occasion, if you want a Yankee burger melt, don’t come here. If you want an exceptional well balanced, composed bit of new Blighty, make your way to this establishment. This is the new frontline, the flagpole has been placed, the proper British burger has been born.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Honest Burgers
Unit 12, Brixton Village, SW9 8PR
Tel: 07739182955
Web: http://www.honestburgers.co.uk/


13) Lucky You, There’s a Burger in your Chip

“Yo Danny Trejo, I love your movies. Yo Danny Trejo, your burgers are badass too.”

“Que Pasa? No entiende.” He might say, what is this Mexican-American doing in Hackney? ‘Cept for passing himself off as a mighty fine burger. In the parking lot, slash market(Netil if you ask). The tumble-weed had already passed through, the Sunday I turned up; just bare tables in a bare lot. A low rumble of some boxy Dub from the bike ambulance next door played out, as the two fellahs behind the grills of ‘Lucky Chip‘ surveyed the barren land, and watched the approach of one hungry soul.

I was here for a bit of takeaway. Picking up a double to chow down on in the luxury of my own abode. For the goddamn life of me, I had meant to come down ages ago, but due to mismanagement of my fragmented existence, this would be my first mosey down to this fun times burger hut.

The burger on everyones lips has been ‘El Chapo’, so one was ordered, the second was the aforementioned ‘Danny Trejo’; the burger of the week. I chewed the fat, while burgers were grilled and jalapenos roasted. It was a thing of beauty when the cook, sprinkled large sparkling flakes of salt over the meat. The eye n’ stomach firmly placed an order with the brain to spark up the salivating.

Burgers tucked into boxes and money handed over. I head home to chill and partake in a half n’ half of Lucky Chip’s offerings. My blade does the trick, and the saturated interior of both burgers, glisten, juices splitting light like a heavy cut diamond. The meat: a righteous pink, coarse ground, cloaked in cheese and sauces.

The heavy sesame’d bun, looked like it was going to be a bread overload, but handled itself admirably. Durable, but not too tough, absorbed goop without falling apart. It had a lot to take on and survived.  The seeds on top not just for looks, they added another flavour/texture layer. The tactile nature of the bun, not to be dismissed, you taste with all your senses.

Both burgers were nice and wet. Moist to the last bite. The edge had to go to ‘Danny’. The chile cheddar clung to the patty. A multi-fronted assault of smoke and heat came from the seared meat, chipotle and the cheese. The sour cream keeps you cool, the spinach another chiller ingredient, projects itself perfectly with the meat. Why always the lettuce? New angle, chuck in spinach.

El Chapo was still a dope delight, but the whammy of blue cheese and bacon salted me out (salt reductions). Roasted jalapenos, superior to your garden variety pickled, a char-grilled pleasure. The stand-out situation here, comes down to meat quality, plus care and attention to detail. Some places can drop a whole funk load of ingredients into the bun, but if the meat can’t handle the melange, the burger can’t cut the mustard.

Danny Trejo: Dry Aged Beef Patty, Tequila Salsa, Chipotle Mayo, Chili Cheddar and Sour Cream.
The El Chapo: Dry Aged Beef Patty, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Blue Cheese, Roasted Jalapenos and Garlic Aoli.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Lucky Chip
Netil Market, E8 3RL
Opening times WED-THU 6 til 10pm,
FRI 6 til 11pm, SAT-SUN 12.30 til 11pm
Web: http://www.luckychipuk.com/

 
14) What the Puck

This is it, I’m going for gold here. L.A. food legend Wolfgang Puck has opened a restaurant in London. The Cut, located inside  45 Park Lane hotel, is a gleamed out, glitz fest of a venue. Marched by a hostess to the far end of this narrow, corridor of a restaurant, past continuous waves of waiters decked out in dark glamour – making eye contact and giving me a little bit of the creeps. Pulled out chairs and pushed in people, sat in the dazzling autumnal sunburst  of a Saturday afternoon, filtered by huge curtains and backed by residual light reflecting off chrome surfaces.

With the likes of Daniel Boulud serving up high end versions of the everyman snack, I was in no doubt about Mr. Puck dropping one on his menu. The burger being on the button at £15 pounds- hits the limits for the price you should really be paying. Don’t get any extras here, or you will be stung, stay focused get the burger. If you want to splash a little get a glass of red with your burger. I went for a Pinot Noir.

The burger arrived, and charmed my pants off with its presentation. Two thick cut slices of tomato sat, nestled cozily on top of the burger. one yellow, the other purple; a wonderful core of caramelised onion; two varieties of pickle, relaxed by the sidelines, waiting to be included in the fun; a pickled red onion also lurked on the periphery, everything proudly exposed. This was a wonderful visual cue, that initialised primary taste sensations. Brain waves poured the sauce on thick, well before the first bite was taken.

Zang! An all to much hit of Ogleshield barred the initial chew from anything else but cheese and salt. Second attempt and everything mellowed, hints of residual cheese kept it sharp while the extra features picked up the slack and chilled the situation out. Resistant burgers are futile. This is the way to go. As you worked your way through, all the ingredients fell in procession. The thick cut tomatoes, let loose with the juice; the two gherkin tag-team; a thick cut bread n’ butter style pickle, the dulcé of the pickle realm, the other more akin to an iconic burger extra, jammy and spiced- kept the transition smooth until the eventual meet up with the meat. In its protective cheese shroud, the USDA  Black Angus kept up its contractual duties: it had a well balanced meat funk but not wildy juicy or even intensely flavoured. The chargrilled not charcoal edges  were so profuse, it looked like the overdeveloped edges had been attached with meat glue. If your burger is too wet and nothing else, then it is nothing but a bit of fun and a slight tease. But, if you get some wet, and then the hook of a bit of hardened texture round the edges, then you have something to sink your teeth into.

The brioche bun, heavily seeded with poppy and sesame, was a self-titled smash bun. Breaking down but not falling apart, flattened spreading its mass, letting the dabs of shallot-jalapeno marmalade and dashes garlic aioli reach through bread barriers to become another flavour supplement, in an already busy combat zone – fought heartily around the beef. Which sat like a tart, while the jazzed up ingredients, acting cavalier, pried for the attention of the patty. This burger was cobbled together with much thought given to each individual item that was to be used. With the emphasis on meat at this restaurant, I would have hoped that the patty would have shined with as much enthusiasm as everything else, and not just have become a mouthfeel.  Whilst going for gold, I reckon we got a silver, but heck, it still made the cut.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

The Cut
45 Park Lane
Mayfair, London
W1K 1PN
Web: http://www.45parklane.com/cut-at-45-park-lane
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7493 4554.


15) Burger Hunter: Tales of a Legend

This week, the burger hunter heads over the pond in search of a legendary burger…..

We were dead in the water, sitting ducks in a sea of traffic. Thank god for Slayer, a three hour drive from New York City to New Haven Connecticut, made that little bit easier by the lord’s music – wait I think I mean the devils(in plural for extra metal). This was all  in the name of tracking down a legendary burger.  An establishment dripping with burger heritage, ‘Louis’ Lunch‘ purports to have spawned the hamburger that we know and love today. Risen from the searing flames of a vertical broiler dating back to 1898, this original hamburger sandwich comes dressed with just a sliver of onion and a slice of tomato, which is served on toasted white bread. That’s it, bare basic burger values – if you want, you can have smear of cheese spread, no catsup, no mustard, no nothing.

Asking for ketchup here will supposedly piss off the establishment, but I don’t think enhancing the flavour of something should be frowned upon. I guess if they gave in now, it would somehow weaken the overall charm of the place and this place has it by the bun load. Small two person booths, all old wood and intimate with names and notes carved into them. Same with the counter, which looks over those charming burners made of crafted U.S metal. The building itself a freestanding brick box with red shuttered windows  and a red door – overshadowed by taller buildings – sitting in the foreground of a parking lot, resembling the last railway car in an empty rail yard.

Buying into a tradition and all its condiments – the sights and sounds around you can build up a tasty atmosphere and here it was just as true. People shouting out orders, other people trying to figure out what to have on the most simplest of menus. Snark signs salute the rule of thumb, that simple is best. I do agree that the burger provides a clean taste. the beef and nothing but the beef to hide behind, which in this case is not intensely flavourful, just a solid beef hit with just enough juice to complete the task at hand. I am  a sucker for the ritual and the sentimental, the cheery patrons and the no nonsense attitude of the guys behind the counter feed into that myth.

The trouble is, a burger as we know it, is not just about the beef, and amongst those cats that shout ‘Where’s the Beef’?, I can tell them its here but that its not the whole pickle, but just part of the story. This is a sketch of what the burger will become. They call it a “Hamburger Sandwich’  and that observation is on the money. Not yet developed into the layered monstrosities and beautiful burger buns that we now tackle, this a taste of history between two slices of toasted white bread.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Louis’ Lunch
261-263 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06511-6611
Web: http://www.louislunch.com/
Tel: (203) 562-5507


16) Eat My Meat Liquor

Do you remember the day you ate a ‘Dead Hippie’? I do, it was in the height of a warm spring. The Meatwagon was turning out hot burger buns in the New Cross area. Blowing peoples minds and greasing up their sanity. Doors closed and they moved on and over to a pub in Peckham – way more chilled situation, but none the less grinding out more burgers for us all to enjoy.

Now things have taken a turn towards complete cathartic chaos. The new and more permanent structure that is Meat Liquor, sees Yianni Papoutsis and his cocktail making compadre Scott Collins, create a wonderland akin to a T.G.I.F on acid, where burgers and drinks mix with the visual carnival inside. Cables hang and lights dangle. Neon blushes the shadows of altered beasts, that adorn the surfaces of the walls and even the ceiling. The gutted, former Italian eatery left behind ornate wooden arches, bringing gothic charm to this ram-shackle space. The darkness in-between, carried by whispers from candle-lit tables, keeps you contained in caged hunger as you scramble your way through the restaurant, on a quest to find a free seat. Staff roam wild, lurching from out of nowhere to take your order.

The navy grog, is hitting home and the music thumps rhythmic; swaying with the cadence of the restaurant. My double bubble(that’s the burger) arrives and just in time to synch-up my first bite with the sonic wail from Iron Maiden as they tell me to “Bring My Daughter to the Slaughter.” A double cheeseburger with the title bubble, I assume pointing its finger at the American cheese melt  that ensnares the beef within.  The steam glossed bun, makes for one slippery bugger. A burger that is just as righteous as the one I sunk my teeth into all those months ago. It comes with no pretense, no stressin’ here about chuck, shin or rib. There is no wonder jumble of words on the menu to implant a sense of grandeur into your taste folder, no elevation of task put on by the restaurant, these guys put everything out in the open, slam it down and fry it on the griddle. It’s a chewy number, that you can wash down with a cold brew.  It’s when eating becomes a party. It’s when the spirit of the burger rings true.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com

Meat Liquor
74 Welbeck Street W1G 0BA
Web: http://www.meatliquor.com/
Tel: 020 7224 4239

17) Bukowski Eats Grilled Burgers

You board the BOXPARK pop-up mall like a cargo ship, and walk along a corridor of identical metal containers, all serving the purpose of one commercial venture or another. Sticking your head in to Bukowski Grill, it has that temporary feel of the original burger establishments, which were made from old railway dining cars converted into cheap all night eateries. Was this an ironic representation of the burger’s origins or just clever design or a stroke of luck. Either way I appreciated the gesture. Shades of brown; coffee and cooked beef, the food and drink  subconsciously reflected in the interior design. Hanging lights shift dozily in the breeze, tight booth seats and one walkway, the cooks penned in at the end of the container, framed by the format. I dig the simplicity.

It has been a few weeks of not engaging in the hunt. The festive end of year rituals required a degree of hibernation and day long feasting. This did not include going out the door for a brief burger bun fix. But now I have a hankering, and in the new year I don’t want to mess about with the regular burgers, if they have something special to serve, so be it. This year it’s all about the craziness, I generally go for the plane Jane; patty, cheese, pickle, sauce, bacon sometimes. A burger experience is not just about the iconic, it is also a state of mind, it is there for interpretation, they are melting pot made, and not bred from just one culture. Each establishment has its own story, its own ingredients and hopefully this is reflected in the food.

Bukowki’s Spanish influence is all over December’s burger special.  The ‘ Iberico Burger’ is larder stuffed with Spanish ingredients: Morcilla(black pudding), guindilla peppers(similar to banana peppers, but sweeter), panceta Iberica(think Italian pancetta with way classier fat). The brioche bun was toasted then finished off with the rest of the burger in a Josper(Spanish) charcoal grilled oven – meat scent fumed upwards and nestled its flavour into the egg n’ butter enriched bun. With an obscene amount  of toppings crowding this burger, I forgo any of the condiments, saving them for chip dipping.

The butter bun pancaked and the burger lurched but never broke, morcilla spilled out overboard, and was rescued later. The taste was exhilarating, I feared too much meat on meat action, but the creamy blood pudding licked the upper arches of the buttered bun, the panceta; a soft salt blanket, restructured the follow-through bite, as beef was hit and the light chargrill smokey notes were gently extinguished by the lactic acid abused pickle. The medium rare meat crumble cake, came pretty in pink and possibly let the other participants have a little too much fun at it’s own expense, but it seemed happy to just be there. You always have to have someone more mature there to drive you home at the end of the night. Other ingredients that caused just a little stir were the guindillas, the red onion chutney, and the oven-dried tomatoes. You could sense they were there; providing moisture, sweetness and tart highlights, but rumour has it that they didn’t want to dance. It all adds to the mix though, and the multitude of crumpled napkins were testament to that.

No sauces were harmed in the eating of this burger. Leave that for the purists.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com, twitter: @thebrokenspork

Bukowski Grill
Unit 61 BOXPARK, Bethnal Green Road,
London E1 6GY
Web: http://www.bukowski-grill.co.uk/


18) Sloppy vs. Straight Edge

The burger hunter spins the wheel on what defines a good burger. In many reviews the importance of a burger buns structural integrity is put into question. This has nothing to do with the taste of such said item, but how it is going to handle half a pound of sweating beef, squelches of sauces, maverick mayos, and malevolent mustards. You can call in the lettuce for support, hope that a cross hatch of bacon slices will keep things in place – blast that bun if it falls apart.

Well I am here to say, fuck it I want a sloppy burger. Sure, sometimes you want a tight ass bun that gets to grips with what your eating, but after having my way with a Umami burger at the Hawksmoor, all the chaos of its flavour enhanced items brought this burger to breaking point. Now maybe I was so high on fifth flavour fumes when the burger bun barrier broke, that I didn’t care anymore. Not a terse word passed my anchovy butter slicked lips, all the detritus dotted about my plate. The game wasn’t over, the towel was not thrown in. I picked up this goodness piece by piece, some bites were beef strong, others crisp from a shard of parmesan tuile. Fried mushrooms, sun-dried beef tomatoes and the newly donned king of burger cheeses, ogleshield- British raclette fantastic, but with its toes firmly dipped in the cheddar realm. My flavour zones went deep into dark fungal forests, into the night scent of tomato plants reaching for the moon, and let me brush my hands through lush green, cow filled meadows, all cud happy and productive.

Damn, this wasn’t supposed to be a review, but it damn near turned into one. Back to the sloppy. Now is it a skill to keep everything contained, is it too easy to get reckless? I think if you’re enjoying the taste so much, that when that inevitable break happens, it should not discourage you from picking up the pieces with relish. If that burger is such an animal it cannot be contained, then you shouldn’t change up the bun and miss out on its flavour and mouth feel. Now if the burger’s components are just slipping out due to negligent construction, then by all means reign on its parade, or if the bun is just a big fluffy puss, then no doubt bust its balls. To conform and make rigidity a critical point in the review of a burger, is to keep things way to straight edge and loses out on the divinity of this fine creation.
Get messy or keep it vertical, just make it tasty.

by Greg Nay www.thebrokenspork.com, @TheBrokenSpork

 

 

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