The burger restaurant that sticks out like a sore thumb
As this blog approaches its first birthday, it’s only fitting that I give my opinion on Meatliqour, the successor to pop-up Meateasy which was the first restaurant ever reviewed here at The Picky Glutton. I was impressed by the labour-of-love burgers at Meateasy, but I’ve had many, many burgers since then, so there was no guarantee that I would still be impressed by their reemergence at Meatliqour. To help me out I tried rounding up as many of the dining companions who were there with me at Meateasy, but I couldn’t get them together all on one evening so I ended up visiting Meatliqour on three separate occasions. This means this review is my longest to date, so I won’t be too offended if you just want to scroll down to my Verdict at the bottom of the page.
Meatliqour is oddly situated to say the least. It’s located on the premises of an old Italian restaurant on the ground floor of a multi-storey car park right behind the Debenhams department store on Oxford Street. The interior is stranger – the weirdly shaped dining room is dimly lit with lots of red neon and some funky-looking murals decorating the walls. My favourite is the bizarre zoological mural gracing the large-ish dome set into the ceiling immediately to your right as you come in. There’s a bar serving an immense menu of drinks which is larger than the food menu, a few benches and several semi-communal tables, including a large round one underneath the dome (which, if you’re sitting underneath it, produces a peculiar reverb effect whenever you talk).
Meat overload 1
My first visit was with the Lensman on a weekday lunchtime where we found the place surprisingly sparse despite the intense Twitter/Facebook hype surrounding Meatliqour’s opening. In what would turn out to be a recurring theme, we found the service to be exceedingly slow despite the sparse number of customers.
All the food is served on communal trays lined with grease proof paper which works when there’s just two of you, but for larger groups you’ll need to place sheathes of kitchen roll in strategic places. I started off with the I Am Lomo, a mini spicy pork burger which tasted unremarkable and not in any way spicy. Far more tasty was the Lensman’s choice of deep fried pickles. Although they were a bit on the oily side, the enjoyably thin and crispy batter encases slices of perfectly juicy and tart gherkins. They may sound weird, but they taste great and they’re distinctive too.
I decided to keep it simple for my first burger at Meatliqour, opting for the classic cheeseburger. The beef patty cooked medium was incredibly succulent and, for the lack of a better term, very beefy. It was as if it’d been braised in beef stock and then shoved inside another cow before being braised again. It was almost too juicy though as the flimsy bun struggled to hold the entire burger together – the patty could clearly have benefitted from being rested for longer before serving. The cheese and lettuce were rather tasteless and anonymous too.
The Lensman seemed to share pretty much the same opinion of his Dead Hippy – essentially a two-patty version of the cheeseburger but with pickles and burger sauce. He enjoyed the beef patty more than anything else.
My high regard for Byron’s onion rings is well documented and they’re the standard by which I judge all other onion rings. Meatliqour’s onion rings weren’t nearly as oily or excessively puffy as Meateasy’s version. The batter here was much fluffier, but was otherwise quite bland and the actual ring of onion underneath was too soft and didn’t have the gently sweated nature of Byron’s onion rings.
The Lensman’s choice of coleslaw was even less successful. Although not very creamy, it was also quite bland. At least the strips of red cabbage had a firm bite.
Despite the fact that we had to waddle back to work, we both indulged in dessert. I opted for the coconut cream pie which was almost too wispy and light, making it quite insubstantial. The taste of coconut wasn’t strong enough either. Following my disappointing encounter with coconut cream pie at M Wells in New York, I am coming to the conclusion that coconut cream pie just isn’t my thing.
The Lensman were more impressed with his dessert of key lime pie. He enjoyed the fluffiness and thought it had just the right amount of zestiness.
Meat overload 2
Based on my first visit to Meatliqour, I would’ve concluded that, like Meateasy, the meat is great but everything else is rather mediocre. On my second visit to confirm this theory, I had the assistance of the Euro Hedgie and his Anonymous Banker sidekick. The place was significantly busier on our weekend lunchtime visit and, just my like first visit, service was slower than watching paint dry. Placing our order, getting our trays cleared and settling the bill all took what seemed like an eternity. Placing our order alone took 20 minutes.
Once we finally did, I opted for the buffalo wings as my starter. Despite warnings of mouth burning hotness, the buffalo wings weren’t actually very spicy after a brief, initial hit of tabasco-style hotness. The Euro Hedgie and Anonymous Banker seemed to enjoy their deep fried pickles, although it was a little hard to tell as they talked shop in between mouthfuls.
The Euro Hedgie broadly agreed with the Lensman’s verdict on the Dead Hippy – the meat was good but everything else about the burger was substandard. He called it a ‘likeable burger’, rather than a ‘loveable burger’.
I had mixed feelings about my Double Swiss burger which is a two patty burger with mushrooms and, allegedly, Swiss cheese. The patties were overdone and quite dry, but at least the mushrooms added a bit of moistness as well as a pleasing nuttiness. The large mass of bland cheese and vegetables meant the buns struggled to hold it all together with frequent spillages. Colour me deeply unimpressed.
Anonymous Banker grunted his approval as he wolfed down his bacon cheeseburger – sadly I was unable to elicit any actual adjectives from him. At least the bacon looks crispy.
Anonymous Banker couldn’t finish his side dish of macaroni and cheese, which was large enough to be a main dish in its own right, so I helped him out. Mac and cheese is an odd dish – since it’s a childhood food, whatever version you had as a child determines what you think is a good mac and cheese. That probably explains why I don’t think much of mac and cheese – I never had it until I grew up. The shells of pasta here were soft and large, while the cheese had formed a chewy pizza-like crust layered on top of the pasta rather than taking on a gooey form mixed in with the pasta. Anonymous Banker wasn’t happy with it, but the Hedgie seemed to accept it for what it was – cheap and cheerful stodge.
Meat overload 3
Thus far I’d only visited Meatliqour with one or two other people, but for my third and final visit I had a whole entourage with me – the Jolly Giant, the Youngling, Fidel, the Griddler and Kangaroo Face. The wide selection of drinks, eclectic music, funky decor and copious quantities of cheap meat make Meatliqour seem like an ideal outing for large-ish groups, but the loud music makes it hard to hold a conversation, while the inefficient, brain-addled service is even more frustrating then when it’s just a couple of you. From ordering a second round of drinks to settling the bill to chasing up a dessert that never arrived because it’s sold out but the waiter forget to tell you, the service just felt amateurish and slipshod. It’s probably not helped by the single ordering computer for the entire dining room and the large, oddly shaped, dimly lit dining room which makes it hard to get a waiter’s attention and just as hard for that waiter to make their way to you quickly.
Even more infuriating is the ad-hoc nature of getting seated. Reservations aren’t accepted, so it’s a case of first come, find your own table first. Unless the proprietor’s mates have reserved the nice big table at the back. Even when you’ve found a table, you may be in trouble if one of your number is running late – in our case it was The Griddler. The rule is that you join the end of the queue (usually out in the cold), even if your mates are already there and seated. Ostensibly equitable, it’s absolutely bonkers when there are five of us already seated and ready to spend money for meat, but are waiting for just one person. A more grown-up and consistent queuing system (and ordering system while we’re at it) is desperately needed.
Thankfully our experience improved when we finally managed to order and our food arrived, or at least it did for most of us. The Jolly Giant seemed very pleased with his deep fried pickles and Dead Hippy. Then again he’s usually pretty happy when there’s a bottle of Meantime beer to hand.
Youngling seemed satisfied with Double Swiss which, unlike the version I had only a few days before, wasn’t overcooked and was quite juicy. The buns still struggled to keep the burger from falling apart though.
Both Kangaroo Face and Fidel were confused by their bacon cheeseburgers. Instead of the crispy, chargrilled slices of bacon that graced Anonymous Banker’s bacon cheeseburger, what they got instead was a disturbing pink mush that vaguely tasted like bacon. Fidel didn’t have too many complaints about the beefy patty, but Kangaroo Face shared my concerns that the patties hadn’t been rested long enough leading to excessive juiciness, contributing to the burger falling apart quite easily.
The Griddler couldn’t form much of an opinion at all about the patty in his chilli cheeseburger – he complained that the chilli was so overpoweringly strong that he couldn’t taste anything else.
I was woefully unimpressed with the chilli cheese fries. The mountain of fries buried underneath an avalanche of bland cheese and tasteless chilli sauce was a massive disappointment. The only saving grace were the slices of juicy chilli peppers which added a slight piquancy.
The plain old fashioned fries are just fries. As it says on the menu, they’re not chips and that’s not a good thing.
The buns in my buffalo chicken burger did a better job of holding everything together than the buns in all the beef burgers I’d had to date at Meatliqour. The breaded chicken fillet was an actual breast fillet of chicken rather than reconstituted mash and was suitably juicy with a firm meaty texture. The breaded batter added little beyond a touch of crispiness and, as with the buffalo chicken wings, the hot sauce didn’t leave much of an impression beyond an initial hit of tasbasco-style spiciness that quickly subsided.
It’s easy to understand why Meatliqour has received plaudits above its station – besides the cheap burgers that are usually quite good, it’s the quirkiest restaurant you could imagine in a location that’s otherwise stiflingly mainstream and there are very few other quality restaurants in this price range nearby. Meatliqour’s failings can’t be ignored though: the appallingly slow and inefficient service, the haphazard seating policies, the inconsistent quality of the cooking and the fact that there is little worth eating beyond the beef patties themselves.
None of these flaws are irreparable, but at the moment they’re collectively irritating enough to put me off going back. If they are ever fixed, then Meatliqour could become a destination that’s actually worthy of the hype and praise that it’s received. At the moment though it’s an amateurish operation struggling to escape its pop-up roots. If I was judging Meatliqour on the quality of its food alone, it might receive a cautious four stars but considering everything else it doesn’t deserve anything above three stars. For now.
Address: 74 Welbeck Street, London, W1G 0BA
Phone: 020 7224 4239
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Thursday noon-midnight; Friday-Saturday noon-02.00; kitchen closes one hour before closing time. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £20 approx.