A Tale of Two Burgers

I’ll be honest, this probably isn’t what the internet really needed – another f*cking burger restaurant blog post, but I thought I’d share my two cents on the matter. There is still so much hype about ‘luxury fast food’, and contrary to the predictions from the 2013 preview article in Time Out, rather than dying down, the business is only getting bigger. Meat Liquor is still branching out, there are ‘Wishbones’ to snap in Brixton and the burger wars across central London are showing no sign of relenting. Typically, I would say that this isn’t really my scene. However, like many of us, I’ve been drawn in by all the noise and have ended up spending my hard earned money on glorified grease.

So far, only one establishment has really blown my mind. Honest Burger has completely changed my outlook on burgers. I genuinely steer clear of what has now become riff-raff from gastropubs and other restaurants, as they just don’t match up to it. From Honest they are so thick, juicy and perfectly rare. If that sounds slightly pornographic, that’s because it probably is a little bit. The chips don’t let it down either. Skin on, rosemary salt and starting at £7.50 for the combination, really isn’t too bad value for the pairing when you look at the pricing of their competitors.

honest

In my opinion, there are clear winners and losers in this game. Sometimes it’s the eateries, and sometimes it’s the customers. Today I feel a little bit like a loser, as I feel the contents of my Shake Shack pass through the pores on my forehead. I’ve always been bemused by the length of the queues outside the likes of Shake Shack and Five Guys. I’ve always said to myself I wouldn’t be one of those people. Unfortunately though, my attempt to taste another Honest Burger was thwarted by kitchen refurbishment. Having built up a craving and desire to have an awesome burger we decided to see what all the fuss is about and become one of ‘them’.

I don’t think it was worth it. Rik’s description of the place is probably the most astute account: “it’s nice, but nothing special. Just a slightly better version of Burger King or McDonalds.” The main difference is a meal here will set you back three or four times more than those two.

After 15 minutes of queuing, five minutes of waiting after ordering and parting with £16.50, I received my double SmokeShack™, cheese fries and a concrete (which I thought would be a thick milkshake, but disappointingly I found out that it was just a small pot of ice cream: an overstated McFlurry). Once again, I was unimpressed by the portion size and my first look at what I’d broken the (burger) bank for. All I have to say is that their website tells me I ingested more that 2,000 calories and it was nice, but not amazing. I will not be waiting in line again in the future.

Smoke Shack

Somehow these places are still drawing in the crowds. My starting position remains unchanged. This fad, with the exception of Honest Burger, isn’t for me. So to conclude, I’ll leave you with a graphical summary of how I feel about this artery blocking genre.

burger graph

Aaron

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Three Outside Zone One: Top Picks from South and West London

Moorish, Abbeville Kitchen and Bingham’s

So, as you may have heard, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Rik has been snapped up by another site that is paying for him to eat things and write about it. The bad news is you’re stuck with me now. I guess I’ll have to be a bit more committed to posting.

With that in mind, here’s a quick list of three restaurants outside zone one you really should try (especially number one).

Three – Moorish Lounge, Norbury SW16

OK, so you may not have even heard of Norbury, but if you’ve always wanted the opportunity to taste a good, home-cooked Moroccan meal without having to wake up at five in the morning and take a three and a half hour flight, then this is the place for you.

Moorish is family-run and everything is prepared from scratch in authentic Moroccan cookware. The restaurant has a capacity of about 20 people, although if it gets to anywhere near that you can expect a wait of up to two hours for your meal. As long as you’re not too famished, the wait is completely worth it.Image The menu features all the mainstays of Berber, Moorish and Arab influences, including mouth-watering couscous dishes with lamb or chicken and tagines filled with a delicate mixture of meat, vegetables and spices. Finish it all off with some mint tea and the experience is complete.

Authenticity and good value are the key descriptors here and if you want that little bit extra, you can BYOB or enjoy some shisha to boot.

Two – Abbeville Kitchen, Clapham SW4

Abbeville road is well known by Claphamites and is full of top-notch restaurants and pubs to sample as the mood suits. Abbeville Kitchen is right up there with the best of them.

The menu changes daily and features a great selection of modern European classics with the occasional experimental twist. The dishes are well thought out with balanced textures and flavours. Some of the highlights on my visit included a razor clam, fennel and pea shoot salad, which was fresh and delicate, whilst on the other end of the calorie scale, a deep-fried pig’s head fritter with tartar sauce provided a salty mouthful complemented by the perfect amount of fat to melt on the tongue.

http://web.abbevillekitchen.com/

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One – Bingham’s, Richmond TW10

So this is the most expensive of the three, but if you’ve got some pocket money to spend Imageand the time to make your way out to Richmond, this place is amazing. In summer (if it ever comes) the French windows are opened so you can admire the river view, complete with aspirating, amateur rowers. The décor is classy and elegant, very much in line with the food here, making this a very safe bet to impress family, clients or anyone with half a taste bud.

Personally, I can say that this is the best example of British cooking I’ve ever had and perhaps even better than some of its Michelin starred counterparts from the inner city. Naturally, they’ve stolen a few ingredients from around the globe, but that’s what ‘British cooking’ actually means, doesn’t it?

The starter was sumptuous, smoked potato gnocchi served with broad beans, English peas, summer truffle and roast chicken juices. I think I now know how the Japanese felt when they discovered the fifth taste, Umami (literally translating as delicious and also know in English as glutamate). For my main I opted for the baked Cornish brill with fresh herbs, glazed spring vegetables, grilled razor clam and hollandaise, which was as good as white fish gets. Finally, I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but in following with the trend of the night, desert was pretty special. Mascarpone Mousse with candied pistachios, espresso ice cream and hot Valrhona chocolate sauce finished of the night perfectly. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for hot and cold, so I guess this is the best adult alternative to sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream.

Bingham’s comes in at £45 for three courses, and paired with a couple of drinks from their extensive menu and talented bar staff can really tickle your taste buds, even if you only have half of one. AD

http://www.thebingham.co.uk/

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Polpo, Covent Garden

Italian Tapas. These two words, through no fault of their own, seem like bad culinary jiggery pokery. Like something the Italians are doing just to annoy the Spanish. Perhaps on this island of ubiquitous Dominos Huts and Pizza Stradas it is hard to accept that maybe Italian food is more than that. For those who refuse to bow down to such foodie ignorance (see also: the British love of Indian food) there is a feast of lovely little Italian places dotted across London to sample. Polpo is often near the top of any such list. Based on my experience this should not be the case. Continue reading

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L’Atelier

It has definitely been a while but 2 Michelin star French food is what come backs are made of. Thanks to all the good deeds that Aaron and I have  done over the year (saving cats from trees, not listening to Ed Balls’ view on the economy etc) we thought gluttony would be the perfect sin to counteract our surplus of karma.

Continue reading

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L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

It’s been a while…. I know… We’ve been very busy, but what’s important is we’re back and ending the year on a high, or at the very least with a large bill. Continue reading

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Dishoom, Covent Garden

If you have read my thoughts on Guglee and/or Chor Bizarre  you will know that when it comes to food from the motherland, OK or good enough will just not do. Dishoom, with all the hype around it, promised that it could live up to my salivating expectations. The name comes from the sound effect used in old Bollywood films when the good guy punches the villain and everything about the place packs a punch: the wafting aromas, the decor, the noisy buzzing atmosphere akin to Bombay itself and most importantly the food! Continue reading

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Roka, Charlotte St.

Roka is well up there with my favourite restaurants in London. I first tried Roka two years ago with Rik and on that occasion, despite being on a tight budget, I was amazed by what they produced. I think my words at the time were something along the lines of ‘I can’t believe I’ve just paid five pounds for ten leaves of spinach, but those are the best ten leaves of spinach I’ve ever had!’ Continue reading

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NAM Soho – Random Lunch

As another Vietnamese café near the bustling area of China Town you could be forgiven for overlooking this neat little venture.

I sometimes struggle for the right words to describe NAM on Dean Street, Soho, as every time I think back to my experiences here, my mind is swamped by a sea of superlatives, which I find hard to narrow down. Continue reading

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Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane Hotel

A  five star hotel with a restaurant to match; I bloody love this place. In the heart of theatre land, St Martins Lane hotel is a magnet for the more discerning guest. You will come here and be drawn to Asia de Cuba by its stunning Phillipe Starck design: dim hanging light bulbs, library columns, retro photos and pale wood finish but you will stay for the food. Continue reading

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Random Lunchtime!

In the day to day food fight, lunch could be fast replacing breakfast as the most under-appreciated meal of the day. I don’t mean from a nutritional standpoint, we’re all too well aware of the health and dieting problems caused by skipping breakfast, I mean from the good food perspective. Continue reading

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