The London burger revolution started a couple of years ago during the recession when people just needed that cheap and fatty friend to help them through the day. Burger restaurants were popping up everywhere, making it suddenly trendy to be eating and talking about burgers. There were burger vans, pop up stalls, and even burger events. It started a new culture, where people suddenly had requirements over how a burger should be cooked and what the bun should be like, they even wanted to know how long the beef had been aged for. We’ve come a long way from the 99p McDonald’s stalwart.
My burger rules are simple: 1) The bun must hold its shape and it should be soft, preferably brioche, and never a crispy ciabatta bun.
2) The patty is the star of the show and the meat should always shine through.
3) It should always feel like a dirty and naughty treat, never a light bite.
Let’s start with the staple- the reliable Byron burger. This is the Volkswagen of burgers. Never let’s you down and is everywhere you look. They’ve basically become the new Starbucks with one on almost every street in Central London.
Inside they are always trendy with good music and half-hipster staff. The Byron burger (£9.25) is consistently good but with a side of fries (2.95) is at the upper limit of how much a burger should cost. The Oreo milkshake here is unbelievably good, served up in the huge shaker, and easily enough to keep you from moving after the meal. Byron is the ideal place when you just need a quick fix without the queue.
Then there’s MEATliquor, MEATmission and MEATmarket. These are the one-night stands of the burger world. You love it while it’s happening but you have to promise yourself not to do it again for a while. MEATliquor is the flagship, and it’s a hell-hole of a burger joint. It’s how Satan would design a restaurant, and probably the last place my partner wanted to go after a nice shopping day in Selfridges. With graffiti all over the walls, blasting rock music and the stench of meat in the air, this is about as dark and meaty as the burger world gets. MEATmarket is my least favourite of the three, only because you can’t go there in winter because it gets so bloody cold and because it took me three attempts to find it.
The Dead Hippie (£8.50) is as good as it gets. Two beef patties, minced onions and Dead Hippie sauce. This really gets the fingers and chops dirty. A side of cheese fries (£4) are absolutely covered in cheese and salt as well. This is what going to a burger joint should be like. Fuck all this California bunless crap they’ve introduced at B&L to appease the waist conscious yummy-mummies.
Next up Burger & Lobster. I do love the concept, but the more I think about it, the less it merits that £20 price tag. Yes it’s top notch meat and it’s a big old burger that comes with killer fries and a good little side salad, but this is a hefty note to hand out for a burger. The bun always seems to disintegrate as well. I’d always stick with the lobster here.
Honest Burger is my personal favourite. It’s definitely the most chilled of all the burger joints, and it keeps things simple with a few things to choose from that are all great. The Honest Burger (£9.50) is the pick of the bunch. Caramelised onions, a great brioche bun, bacon and a perfectly cooked patty. All of the burgers come with rosemary fries and this pushes it up to the next level.
Always go for a pot of the Chipotle mayonnaise (£1), as this stuff laughs in the face of the shite they serve at Grill Shack and Jackson + Rye. A bottle of the Hawaiian Big Wave beer (£4.75) is a great choice to wash things down. My favourite thing about Honest Burger is they let you go elsewhere for a drink and give you a call when the table is free. Something all no-reservations places should do.
Dirty Burger is probably the hottest burger joint in town, and thankfully they’ve opened up in Kentish Town, saving me the trek to the deep south of Vauxhall. The name says everything you need to know. If MEATliquor is the one-night stand then this is the brothel. You go there and get a simple choice, hand over your money and tuck in. The Cheese burger for £5.50 is exceptional value, and is the best of its kind. This is the real in-the-know burger lovers choice.
Five Guys isn’t for me. It just looks like an even shittier version of McDonald’s. It just feels too commercial and there’s not that passion put into it like the other places. Burgers here are churned out just like the constant queue of Covent Garden punters looking for a quick fix. Even the website pisses me off with it’s option to see the nutritional value in the burger. What’s the about? As far as I’m concerned a burger should be a heart stopper, not have anything to do with nutrition. The bun’s just not that good either.
Shake Shack is another US import and exists within the touristy central arcade in Covent Garden. Maybe it’s because of this that I don’t love the place. It just isn’t cool enough, and again lacks that passion. The burgers are decent value at under a fiver, although you do need to double up to get your fill. The Double SmokeShack (£9) is the pick of the bunch, but it came overdone and a little on the dry side last time I tried it. A cardinal sin in the burger world. But the crinkly fries are spot on.
Haché. Well for a start it’s a crap name. I passed this place about fifty times before I realised it was a burger joint. Inside doesn’t pack too many punches either, it was all too nice and clean looking. There were even fairy lights. This was a big No-No. I’m about to tuck into a meaty feast and the surroundings should reflect this. Also there’s just too many things to try on the menu. A burger joint should keep the menu paired back and only offer a few things. I don’t want to see a Steak Milano burger on there, whatever the hell that is. And the bun was crispy ciabatta; which is no friend of mine.
There are countless other great places in London, and still I haven’t tried Patty & Bun, which I’ve heard only good things about. But nothing is worth queuing over an hour for. As a burger lover I hope the revolution continues. It’s a good thing to have these places where you can get down and dirty and get your chops messy at any time of the day. Sometimes it is exactly what you need. The problem for me is I get this urger about four times a week. For more London Burger info check out two killer burger blogs- Burger Me! and The Burger Addict.