Beastly bountiful burger bonanza – 35 burgers from 25 burger joints tasted and compared
When I last toured the burger eateries of London I concentrated exclusively on the chains and concluded that Byron was easily the best of the bunch. This time I turned my attention to some of the the independent burger joints in the capital, although I also visited a handful of chain branches that escaped my gaze last time. Given the ubiquity of burgers, I concentrated mainly on restaurants that serve just burgers, or at least just beef dishes, but inevitably a few market stalls, pubs and other assorted stragglers snuck in until my body just couldn’t taken any more beef.
As with my chain tour I eschewed other meats and concentrated on just plain beef burgers (with just a couple of semi-exceptions as we’ll soon see). What constitutes a good burger is very much a matter of personal preference, but I prefer a medium rare patty that’s succulent with plenty of flavour but is also well-constructed enough that it doesn’t fall apart underneath its own weight. The coarseness of the ground meat used to make the patty is also a matter of preference, but I find the coarser the grind, the more interesting the taste and texture. Buns and toppings shouldn’t overwhelm the meat with their own flavours.
The more quirky nature of the independents covered here meant that I couldn’t stick to my usual formula of burger, onion rings and chocolate milkshake – some of the eateries covered here just don’t serve the latter two.
Have I missed out on your favourite London burger joint? Let me know in the Comments or drop me a line.
Without further ado, here are the burgers in alphabetical order. If you’re the impatient sort, just scroll right to the end of this page for my Verdict.
One name kept popping up whenever I told anyone that I was surveying as many independent burger joints in London as possible: the Admiral Codrington, a Chelsea gastropub. The AdCod, as it’s affectionately known, can certainly produce a competent burger but I fail to see what all the fuss is about.
The juicy patty is cooked medium rare and has quite a smooth grind. It’s mildly sweet and tangy, but this is largely obscured by the creamy cheese and the crisp, smoky bacon. The toasted, buttery brioche-like bun, while quite pleasant in its own right, further obscures the meat and can’t quite contain the shredded bits of lettuce from dribbling out which creates a mild mess.
The included chips have a soft, wrinkly exterior that gives way to a soft, fluffy interior. The relatively thick cut chips are thankfully not too dry, flaccid or oily.
Not a bad burger overall, but hardly worthy of the adulation heaped upon it and not worth seeking out unless you happen to be in the neighbourhood.
Address: 17 Mossop Street, London SW3 2LY
Opening hours: needlessly complicated
My burger quest has taken me from Soho to Kensington and Chelsea and now Knightsbridge. Set in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (which is also home to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal), Bar Boulud is one of the more aspirational places to have a burger in London. The burgers are actually all reasonably priced from £12-13, although this doesn’t include sides. I had to resist the urge to order one of the burgers topped with either pork belly confit, foie gras or pulled pork and opted for the plain Yankee burger which comes with nothing more than lettuce, tomato and a large dollop of tomato ketchup on the side.
The most striking thing about the patty, other than its immense thickness, is how incredibly soft and tender it is. The softness of the medium rare, mildly coarse patty really is quite remarkable. The actual taste isn’t quite as memorable – it’s slightly sweet and tangy but not exceptionally so. The fluffy, glazed bun stays out of the way and holds the unstable-looking burger together surprisingly well, apart from the shards of lettuce that occasionally dribble out.
Truffled mashed potatoes is almost something of a cliché, but I’m not going to complain too much since it’s a change from the usual fries and onion rings. Plus, Bar Boulud’s truffled mash is fluffy, rich and earthy. It wasn’t quite as intense as I was expecting, but that’s a good thing so that it doesn’t overwhelm the subtle flavours of the Yankee burger.
Bar Boulud’s Yankee burger isn’t bad, but it’s clearly just a delivery mechanism for some of the more interesting toppings available which I’ll have to try next time. It’s also one of the more expensive burger meals here, but then you also get a calm, air conditioned dining room and exceedingly polite, efficient service.
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday midday-23.00 and Sunday midday-22.00
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £20-25 approx.
Bleecker Burger is a stand that makes frequent appearances at the King’s Cross Eat St market among others. It’s almost certainly named after Bleecker Street in New York City and claims to serve New York-style burgers. There’s only one burger here – a cheeseburger available with either single or double patties.
I opted for the single patty version which is a bit on the small side, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at lunchtime. Despite the mildly coarse grind the patty has a surprisingly smooth texture. It’s moist and slightly tangy, but it otherwise tastes quite plain. The dominant flavours come from the burger sauce and the creamy American cheese and everything is held in place by the fluffy, slightly sweet bun.
Standard potato fries are available, but more interesting is the mixed portion of potato and sweet potato fries. It’s odd that there isn’t the option to have just sweet potato fries since they are sweet and creamy, but they’re also a little bit too salty and oily for my taste.
Overall, a competent if ultimately unremarkable burger. I’d rather have a Bleecker burger than one of the other, lesser lunchtime options in and around King’s Cross, but it’s not worth seeking out unless you’re in the area.
Location: check website to confirm
Opening Hours: check website to confirm
Average cost for one person: £10 approx.
Although the neon signage claims The Bountiful Cow is a pub, most of the small space is dominated by booths and tables so the place feels more like a diner than a pub – especially as the walls are plastered in cowboy themed posters. The Bountiful Cow claims to specialise in beef and several steak dishes are available, but I was only interested in the Bounty Burger.
It’s hard to appreciate just how big the Bounty Burger is until it waddles into view – the 400g patty is absolutely monstrous and the dinky bun may have been deliberately chosen to accentuate the mutant size of the patty. Unsurprisingly the floury bun struggled to hold everything together with onions and whole slices of tomato making a run for it.
As well as being huge, the patty is cooked medium by default and is very thick. It’s heavily seasoned with onion and what is probably parsley, both of which dominate the taste of the burger along with what I think is garlic mayo, leaving little room for the actual character of the beef itself. The coarse grind of the patty and a slight chewy edge partially makes up for this, but this burger isn’t about taste – it’s about macho showing off as you attempt to gobble up this beast and the small mountain of chips that accompany it.
Sadly, the chips are a bit stodgy with some that are limp and excessively soft, while others are crisp but not crisp enough.
Address: 51 Eagle Street, London WC1 4AP
Opening Hours: seven days a week 11.00-23.00
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £15 approx.
I was mightily impressed by the lobster roll at the original Burger and Lobster near Green Park, but the burger, while good, wasn’t quite as outstanding. The management of this spin-off from the Goodmans steakhouse chain have clearly gone back to the drawing board though – the burger at the new Soho Dean Street branch of Burger and Lobster is exemplary.
The smoothly ground patty, cooked medium rare, is succulent with a distinctive and addictive nutty tang as well as a slight salty edge while the vegetables add a refreshing touch. The bun not only holds everything together with no spillage, it stays out of the way and doesn’t obscure the taste of the patty. An elegantly superior burger.
Burger and Lobster’s burger costs £20, a price which also includes fries and salad. I would have preferred chips instead of fries, but at least they’re not excessively salty or oily. The salad is surprisingly pleasing with lots of earthy leaves, some sharp spring onions and creamy shaved parmesan keeping things interesting.
Branch tried: 36 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 4PS
Opening hours: seven days a week, midday to 22.30
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £25-30
The Shoreditch outpost of this two-branch mini-chain is located inside a so-called ‘pop-up mall’ composed almost entirely of disused shipping containers next to Shoreditch High Street Overground station. As a result it’s a rather snug place, but I snagged a booth and tried out the Purist, a plain beef burger served with oven dried tomatoes, gherkins, lettuce and mayonnaise.
The thick, coarsely ground patty is cooked medium rare and the tangy, moreish flavour suggests the addition of extra bone marrow or fat. Of all the extra toppings, the oven dried tomatoes stand out the most. Unsurprisingly similar to sun dried tomatoes, they added a sweet flavour and a wrinkly layer of extra texture to the patty. Sadly, it’s hard to appreciate all this since the thick, crispily-toasted bun gets in the way and the patty itself is incredibly tough and chewy. A great disappointment.
If there’s anything more disappointing the quality of the burger then it’s the triple cooked chips. Some are too soft and mushy, while some are too crunchy with only a small minority having that just-right level of crispiness on the outside and fluffiness on the inside. A seriously poor and inconsistent portion of chips.
Branch tried: Unit 61 Boxpark, 4-6 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GY London
Opening hours: Monday-Wednesday, Friday and Saturday noon-20.00. Thursday noon-22.00. Sunday noon-18.00.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £9-10
It’s easy to mistake Carnaby Burger Company for a chain outlet given its somewhat generic name and crowd-pleasing menu filled not just with burgers, but pastas and hot dogs too. I opted for the Classic burger with cheese cooked medium rare. The mildly coarse patty was moist and well-cooked, but also bland and uninteresting with most of the flavour coming from the nutty slice of emmental-like cheese. The thick, crunchy ciabatta bun not only got in the way of the meat, but was very crumbly too leaving a sizeable puddle of crumbs in its wake. Not bad overall, but you’d have to be pretty desperate to seek out this burger with some many superior alternatives available nearby.
Whole slices of onion were used in the battered onion rings which was a good start, but they lacked the gently sweated moistness and delicate just-cooked texture of the very best onion rings. The smooth batter had an odd bitterness to it which reminded of pickled onion Monster Munch. Not bad, but not great either.
I was unimpressed with the chocolate milkshake. The watery drink had an artificial, sickly sweet flavour that may appeal to children, but will leave most adults feeling short-changed.
Address: 14-16 Foubert’s Place, W1 7PH London
Opening hours: Sunday-Tuesday, noon-22.00. Wednesday-Sunday noon-22.45.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £15 approx.
A burger at a restaurant otherwise serving nothing but hot dogs could be an unmitigated disaster but Dach and Sons’ effort is actually pretty decent. The mildly coarse patty was cooked medium rare and was moist with a slight chewy edge. It’s relatively small compared to some other burgers, but at least one can eat it without getting too bloated. This means there’s also less for the fluffy bun to contain and hold together, but the bun does get in the way of tasting the meat – I’m not sure whether this is due to its slight sweetness or something else.
A respectable burger, especially for Hampstead, but not London’s best.
Address: 68 Heath Street, Hampstead, London, NW3 1DN
Opening Hours: seven days a week 11.00-23.00 (food served noon-15.00 and 17.30-22.30).
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £20 approx.
Having a cheeseburger at a French brasserie seems odd and slightly heretical, but when it’s a brasserie from the brains behind Wild Honey and Arbutus, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt (plus it’s not the oddest burger here by any stretch).
The cheeseburger is a very traditional effort. Although the thick patty was allegedly cooked medium rare as I had requested, it was more like medium. It was far from unpleasant though with a distinct charcoal tinge giving way to a smooth grind and subtle offaly taste. It’s topped with a slice of nutty emmental/gruyere-esque cheese. Despite the thickness of the patty, the bun holds it together surprisingly well and doesn’t get in the way of the meat either.
The accompanying fries are pretty good too – crisp and oil free with a lovely golden colour which isn’t really evident in my photo.
As surprisingly decent as Les Deux Salons’ burger is, it doesn’t quite match the best of London’s other burgers. However, like Bar Boulud and Hawksmoor, it’s the burger you have when you want some polished, efficient service to go along with it, not some friendly slap dashery from some bloke with tattoos and an ironic ear ring.
Address: 40 — 42 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DD
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday noon-23.00 (brunch menu only on Sundays 10.00-20.30).
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £15-16 approx.
If you want to feel like a pauper only barely tolerated by richer relations, then try eating at Dirty Burger. Dirty Burger is part of the Soho House empire which is primarily known for its private members clubs, but Dirty Burger is a more self-consciously downmarket operation. It is housed inside a separate extension behind one of the group’s Pizza East branches – a corrugated iron shack of an extension with uncomfortable seats. If only they could’ve fitted the shack underneath the fire escape stairs too, then the effect would be complete. The service at this small eatery is actually very friendly though and there’s even free coffee.
There’s only one burger on the menu, a cheeseburger with a relatively dry patty cooked medium. It’s by no means bad though – the smoothly ground patty is almost as dense as a steak which gives it a satisfying bite. It’s peppery in places and is served with some crispy, lightly smoked bacon and some American cheese too. The soft, squishy bun somehow manages to hold it all together. A surprisingly decent burger, although it’s hardly as ‘dirty’ as the deliberately decadent dishes at Meatmarket/Meatliqour.
Sadly, the ‘onion fries’ were off on the day of my visit, so I had to settle for the standard potato variety. The crinkle cut fries were surprisingly thick. They weren’t crisp by any measure of the word, but they were soft, fluffy and reasonably free of excess oil.
The highlight of my meal at Dirty Burger has to be the chocolate milkshake. Instead of using tepid, insipid milk chocolate as the base, the kitchen used dark chocolate so this shake is rich but not excessively sweet. There’s a slight hint of bitterness and the whole thing isn’t too thick so you can actually slurp it through a straw unlike the regurgitated, fortified slurry served up at some of the chains. A superior shake.
Address: round the back of 79 Highgate Road, London NW5 1TL
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday 07:00–00:30. Friday 07.00-01.30. Saturday 09.00-01.30. Sunday 09.00-midnight. Burgers served from 11.00 each day.
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £12 approx.
I was intrigued by the presence of a burger on the menu of a barbecue restaurant, but it’s hard to tell if the patty has been barbecued or not. It seems unlikely though as the patty is surprisingly crumbly. The moist meat has been coarsely ground and possibly seasoned with chopped onion. There’s subtle herby heat reminiscent of ginger or garlic that I couldn’t account for. This sounds odd, but it’s actually quite pleasing as well as tantalising.
Sadly, the soft, floury bun struggles to keep the crumbly patty from spilling out, a task made all the harder by the copious amounts of tart gherkins and very sharp red onions which almost overwhelm the taste of the meat, the moderately hot mustard and the subtle sweetness of the barbecue sauce. The accompanying fries are just fries, but sprinkled with paprika (or something similar) to give the carbs a very slight spicy kick.
There’s the makings of a good burger here, but the consistency of both the bun and the patty need a rethink.
Address: 33 Downham Road, De Beauvoir Town, Hackney, London N1 5AA
Opening hours: needlessly long-winded.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £16 approx.
Fattburger (residency at the Sun & 13 Cantons)
Fattburger isn’t a permanent restaurant but a pop-up inside the Sun & 13 Cantons pub in Soho. It will only be there until the end of September-ish and it’s well worth making the effort to try the menu before it’s time is up.
The Original can be had with either one or two patties and I’d recommend the single patty version simply because the small glazed bun has a lot of trouble holding everything together even with just a single patty, never mind two. The patty has a very smooth grind, yet it’s also very dense and hearty. Cooked medium rare, it has a surprisingly soy sauce-like saltiness that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I found it very addictive even though the thick cheese and creamy, garlicky mayo can get in the way.
Templeton Peck opted for the double patty ‘Dragged Through The Garden Backwards’ Burger which has the addition of creamy avocado and pickles which I thought were unnecessary and detracted from the meat.
The fries are very salty – I could almost feel my blood pressure rising with every mouthful. At least they’re not too oily.
Fattburger’s onion rings are peculiar. Whole slice of onions are encased in a very thin and dry batter that’s also incredibly salty. Rather unpleasant, but at least they’re not too oily.
If those burgers are a little too big for your stomach, then the alternative miniature versions may suit you better and I sampled two of them. The kimchi burger is a disappointment though – the spicy fermented cabbage is so tame that it might as well not be there.
The mini bacon and avocado burger is more successful. While the crisp saltiness of the bacon and the creaminess of the avocado contrast and compliment each other nicely, they can also obscure the meat. The mini burgers are even sloppier and more prone to spillage than the bigger burgers.
Overall, Fattburger’s creations are worth seeking out despite their flaws but even better burgers are available elsewhere in Soho.
Address: Sun & 13 Cantons pub, 21 Great Pulteney Street, London W1F 9NG
Opening hours: tweet to confirm.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £12-20 approx.
Much virtual ink has already been spilt about Hawksmoor on this blog and it’s hard to enthuse further without sounding like a paid stooge. I paid yet another visit to the Seven Dials Covent Garden branch and ordered a standard burger cooked medium rare. The mildly coarse patty is nutty and intensely beefy with a charred tinge to it. Despite the size of the patty and the lashings of refreshing veg, the perfectly toasted bun holds it all together without breaking a sweat. The only disappointment is that it’s drier than before, especially when compared to especially succulent burgers such as those from Burger and Lobster.
There’s no faulting the beef dripping chips though. Unlike the standard triple cooked chips, which are cooked in vegetable oil, these little puppies are cooked in beef fat and it’s an indulgence well worth partaking in. All of the thick cut chips of solid potato are perfectly crisp and golden on the outside with a fluffy softness on the inside. This perfect consistency is all the more remarkable given the slightly variable quality of the standard triple cooked chips. Sheer chip heaven.
If I could marry an inanimate object then the cornflake milkshake would be a definite candidate. Cold and refreshing, this milkshake uncannily captures the taste of cornflakes, especially that puddle at the bottom of the bowl, consistently well, time after time. If only more bars came up with interesting non-alcholic drinks like this one.
Address: 11 Langley Street, London, WC2H 9JG
Opening Hours: Lunch Monday – Saturday noon-15:00 and Sunday noon – 16:30
Dinner Monday – Saturday 17:00-23:00
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £20-25 approx.
My occasional attempts to grab a burger from Honest’s original Brixton location all failed due to the place’s devoted following and correspondingly long queues. Thankfully Honest’s newest Soho branch is within spitting distance of one of my safe houses so I easily managed to nab a perch for lunch.
The plain beef burger is cooked medium rare and plainly seasoned. It’s far from boring though – the moist, coarsely ground patty is tangy and has a slightly chewy edge to it. The sweet and sharp taste of the onion relish compliments rather than overwhelms the beef, while the crisp bun holds everything together and stays out of the way. A simple, but very well put-together burger.
Chips are included in the price with every burger, which is a pleasant surprise, but they’re not an afterthought. Some have a crisp exterior, while others are more wrinkly and soft, but all have a fluffy interior and an addictive herby flavour.
A great burger at a great price.
Branch tried: 4A Meard Street, London, W1F 0EF
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday noon-16:00 and 17.30-23.00. Friday-Saturday noon-23.00. Sunday noon-22.00.
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £10 approx.
You could easily walk past this thespian hangout and miss it. A small street-level entrance leads to a surprisingly large underground dining room festooned with Broadway and West End posters and memorabilia. The off-the-menu burger at this dimly lit eatery has acquired an epic reputation which, like the burger at the Admiral Codrington, it could never really live up to and doesn’t really deserve.
I had the smoothly ground patty cooked medium rare and apart from a slight tang, it’s very plain with little to be said about it. Amusingly the onions and pickles are served on the side so you can apply them as you wish. Less welcome was the stodgy, cardboard-like buns.
The huge portion of thick cut chips goes some way to making up for the rather average burger. They’re very soft and fluffy with a slightly crisp exterior and some still have their skins on which won’t suit some chip purists.
Unless you really want to hang out with a bunch of actors or you find yourself in Theatreland late at night with a meat hankering, head to the nearby Meat Market instead.
Address: 13 Exeter Street, London, WC2E 7DT
Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 08.00-00.45. Saturday 11.30-00.45 and Sunday 11.30-23.45.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £15 approx.
A Hawaiian burger joint sounds like a joke out of a Quentin Tarantino film, but Kua’aina is very real with branches in Hawaii, Tokyo and London. The London branch, just off Carnaby Street, is a tiny place – order at the counter and grab a table where your food is brought to you.
While I was tempted to try out the avocado or pineapple burgers, I stuck to a plain Classic burger. Available in both 1/3 pound and 1/2 pound varieties, I opted for the smaller version which was cooked well-done by default. Despite this, the patty is quite succulent and has a slightly sweet aftertaste. Apart from the onions, the limp and pale vegetables are risible. Another problem is the dense poppy seed bun which almost overwhelms the taste of the meat.
Although Kua’aina does serve fries, I opted for the sweet potato wedges which turned out to be better than the burger itself. Their soft, fluffy, sweetness is complimented surprisingly well by the liberal lashings of salt.
Not awful, but it’s telling that I return to Kua’aina far more often for its mahi mahi sandwiches than for its burgers.
Address: 26 Foubert’s Place, London, W1F 7PP
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 08.00-22.00. Friday 08.00-22.30. Saturday 10.00-22.30 and Sunday 11.00-19.00.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £12-15 approx.
Foodie pop-ups and residencies at pubs is something of a trend and Lucky Chip has been based out of The Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green for some time now. The Sebright Arms is a rather musty estate pub that wouldn’t hold much attraction for a non-drinker like me if it wasn’t for the burgers.
The cheeseburger is almost too succulent as the glazed bun struggles to hold it all together. The patty, cooked medium, has a smooth grind and tastes mildly tangy although this is often obscured by the hearty dollop of American cheese, sweet tomato ketchup and the sharp, tart pickles.
The Kentucky fries are surprisingly chunky and are almost more like chips. They’re reasonably fluffy and heavily seasoned with onion salt and bourbon-smoked salt which gives them a flavour strongly and strangely reminiscent of chip shop curry sauce. Some may find that idea repellent, but I enjoyed them as a guilty pleasure.
While the Kentucky fries are strangely addictive, the cheeseburger is underwhelming. Although there’s a half-decent patty, it’s hindered by the toppings and the bun, both of which need to be dramatically rethought. Unless you happen to find yourself in Bethnal Green, go somewhere else.
Address: The Sebright Arms, 31-35 Coate Street, London, E2 9AG
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday, 18.00-22.00. Friday-Saturday 18.00-23.00. Sunday 13.00-18.00.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £15 approx.
Given my less-than-superlative experience at the Lucky Chip’s original location at The Sebright Arms, I was reluctant to try out their new venture, The Slider Bar, which exclusively serves mini burgers (or sliders as the Americans insist on calling them). Nonetheless, a need to grab a quick bite with Baron Greenback one evening meant that we quickly found ourselves at the Slider Bar which is located inside The Player, an underground private member’s club in Soho.
The street-level entrance, wedged in between a Thai takeaway and a lingerie shop, leads to a rather retro-looking lounge. Apart from being miniaturised, the patties at The Slider Bar are very similar to the ones at The Sebright Arms – mildly tangy with a smooth grind. £12.50 gets you two mini burgers along with some bog standard fries and a tart lemon sorbet-esque palate cleanser.
The bacon cheeseburger, available in either single or double patty varieties, has the addition of crisp, lightly smoked bacon which, along with the American cheese, provides most of the flavour whether you opt for the single or double patty versions.
The El Chappo uses a different patty which has apparently been aged, but it’s not that different from the standard patty apart from a slightly chewier edge and a modest increase in tanginess. The real flavour in this mini burger comes from the mildly strong blue cheese, a hint of garlic and the smoked bacon.
The Club is essentially a two patty version of the El Chappo, but without the additions of blue cheese, garlic or smoked bacon so its flavour is a lot more muted since it depends on the modest tasting patties.
Baron Greenback couldn’t quite wrap his cold-blooded brain around The Ice Cream burger, a dessert that’s whimsically shaped like a burger. The buns are actually tiny little sponge cakes, the ketchup is a raspberry compote, the cheese is actually a citrus jelly while the meat is actually a chocolate-covered slab of vanilla ice cream. Sadly none of the individual components actually taste that bold or interesting, with the supermarket-quality ice cream ‘patty’ a particular disappointment. It is at least a fun little dessert served in its own mini takeout carton, but it’s not quite as ambitious as the similar dessert burger at The Burger Bar in Las Vegas.
Once again I found myself underwhelmed by Lucky Chip’s efforts. The mini burgers don’t taste bad, but they can’t compete with the nearby Soho competition, they’re not filling and it’s not cheap either at around £20-25 per person including soft drinks and service. If you want some overpriced burger tapas to go along with your afterwork drinks, then this is the place for you.
Address: The Player, 8 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 8HN
Opening hours: call 020 7065 6841 or tweet to confirm
Total cost for one person inc soft drinks when shared between two: £20-25 approx.
Meatmarket is the Covent Garden-based spinoff of Meatliqour, which I found to be overrated and inconsistent. Located on the mezzanine level of Jubilee Market Hall, Meatmarket’s stairwell appears designed to dissuade tourists from entering with fake takeaway menus advertising treats like fried rice and fried chicken. Once you’ve ascended the stairwell, place your order at the counter and snatch a seat to admire the tongue-in-cheek decor while waiting for your order to be called out.
Meatmarket’s flagship Black Palace burger is a disappointment. The dual patties are apparently cooked medium rare, but it’s hard to tell as they’re smothered under a blanket of thick American cheese and sweet, tart grilled onions which all but obliterate the taste of the beef. The whole thing is a sloppy mess, but that’s a trademark of Meatmarket/Meatliqour which the place appears to revel in.
The menu at Meatmarket is much shorter than the one at Meatliqour, but the one burger that appears on both menus is the Dead Hippy which dates all the way back to Meateasy, the pop-up predecessor to Meatliqour. Although it’s still a sloppy mess of a burger, at least the sweet pickles, burger sauce and lashings of American cheese don’t get in the way of the mildly coarse patty. It’s cooked medium rare, is very moist and has an intense meatiness to it.
The corn puppies make up for the disappointment of the Black Palace to some extent – fatty French Andouille sausage wrapped in a hot, fluffy, buttery batter. They’re not the strongest tasting Andouille sausages ever made, but they’re still very addictive.
Another addictive side dish are the poppaz – battered jalapeno pepper shreds and cheese. Although the jalapenos aren’t that spicy, the combination of flesh pepper, creamy cheese and fluffy batter is crave inducing.
Vanilla shakes are sometimes available, but the vanilla taste is weak at best and the shake looks and tastes more like a whipped, melted mass of supermarket-quality ice cream. At least it’s refreshingly icy.
The side dishes make up for a lot, but they can’t disguise the disaster that is the Black Palace burger or that the Dead Hippy coasts along purely on the quality of its patties.
Address: The Deck, Jubilee Market Hall, Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8BE
Opening hours: seven days a week, noon-23.00.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £15 approx.
Mishkin’s is owned by the same group behind Spuntino, but whereas Spuntino serves up small Italian-American plates, Mishkin’s is a non-kosher Jewish restaurant. Situated in Covent Garden, this small diner serves up a burger that is apparently steamed rather than grilled and is available either as a single or double patty version.
The moderately coarse patties are cooked almost to the point of being well-done and are seasoned with onion and a bit of pepper. They’re moist and mildly tangy and the overall effect is reminiscent of a giant meatball which isn’t a bad thing – it’s still quite tasty even though most of the flavour comes from the melted nutty cheese and the sweet caramelised onions. The sweet, doughy, chewy buns struggle to hold everything together with beef bits and slithers of onion slipping out.
I don’t know if onion rings are a Jewish dish or not, but here thin slices of mildly sharp onions are encased in a thin, crisp but rather oily batter that’s also a bit buttery and occasionally peppery too. The moist onions are close to being sweated, but they’re not quite there so they just miss out on the delicate texture and distinctive taste of Byron’s expertly sweated onion rings.
Mishkin’s malted chocolate milkshake isn’t a patch on the one available at Dirty Burger, but it’s still a lot better than some of the frozen-over slop served elsewhere. Here, it’s not too thick or sickly sweet but it doesn’t have the same depth of flavour or smooth consistency as the Dirty Burger shake. The shake is rather thin and bland at the top, but thicker and more chocolatey towards the bottom where there were still a lot of coarse chocolate bits and chips still unprocessed and relatively intact.
Address: 25 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JS
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 11.00-23.30 and Sunday noon-22.30.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £20 approx.
The Phoenix was recommended to me by a reader who swore blind that this pub served up great burgers, but I remain unconvinced. The cheeseburger was one of the worst I’ve had the displeasure of tasting in a very long time. The patty had a smooth grind, but it was very salty and bone dry which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was cooked well-done – I wasn’t asked for my preference. The bun holds it all together, but then it should since it’s stodgy, excessively toasted cardboard.
Included with every burger, whether you want them or not, are some incredibly salty fries. It’s almost as if the saltiness is a ploy to get you to buy more drinks.
I also opted for a portion of onion rings but ended up regretting my choice. Although sweet and sharp tasting rings of onion are used, rather than reconstituted mash, they’re coated in a soggy, oily sludge of a batter that probably oozed out of the Exxon Valdez.
It’s depressing to think how many other shit pub burgers are floating around out there. Avoid.
Address: 37 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PP
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, noon-midnight. Friday noon-02.00. Saturday 11.00-02.00 and Sunday noon-22.30.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £15-16 approx.
I had mixed feelings about my first visit to Spuntino, but I was eager to try their burger after learning that it had previously been an off-the-menu item until popular demand make it a permanent fixture.
The five ounce patty looks more like bloated meatball, but it compresses nicely when held and doesn’t leak excess meat juices when squeezed. It has a mildly tangy flavour and a chewy edge with a pink core since it’s cooked medium rare. The cheese is nothing to write home about and the bun is stodgy, but the jalapeño peppers and chipolte sauce add a mild, tingly heat that’s very pleasing. The mild spiciness does obscure the taste of the meat to a certain extent, but the overall effect is still pretty tasty.
Spuntino serves up a couple of sliders, or mini burgers, but only one uses beef. The ground beef and bone marrow mini patty is ridiculously delicious with a rich, deep layers of tanginess – it’s even better than it was the first time I had it. Pink, tender and seasoned with onions, it really hits the spot. The bun is a smaller version of the stodgy carb fest used in the bigger cheeseburger. I really wish a bigger version of this burger was available – it easily outclasses Spuntino’s main cheeseburger and indeed many of the other burgers here. If Spuntino can maintain this level of meaty goodness, I might just camp at the bar. It’s that good.
Spuntino’s menu changes periodically, but it didn’t have fries or onion rings during my visit. There were other, more interesting battered, deep fried vegetable dishes to keep me amused though. Deep fried olives sounds perverse, but the crisp and buttery oil-free batter went surprisingly well with the juicy saltiness of the green olives used here although I couldn’t quite identify the stuffing.
The eggplant chips weren’t quite as pleasing. Looking more like fish fingers or bread sticks, some of the chips were whole slices of aubergine while others seemed a little reconstituted. They didn’t taste quite as buttery and distinctive as I expected and the crisp batter is already heavily flavoured with fennel which is then magnified by the creamy fennel-infused dipping yoghurt. Not a success, but at least it’s inventive.
If the ground beef and bone marrow mini burger was the main burger here, then it would be well worth visiting Spuntino regularly, but as it is this Polpo outpost is an interesting, but not essential Soho burger pitstop.
Address: 61 Rupert Street, London, W1D 7PW
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 11.00-midnight and Sunday noon-23.00.
Total cost for one person inc soft drinks: £27 approx.
Tommi’s is an Icelandic burger chain, but this Marylebone outpost is its first UK branch and is just around the corner from Meatliqour. It doesn’t feel like a chain though with its student union-style decor, hand-scrawled menu, free coffee and even some Scrabble action going on.
Sadly Tommi’s milkshakes weren’t available on either of my two visits, but they should be available by the time you read this. I did have the chance to try out both the steak burger and the standard burger. The steak burger uses a medium rare patty smoothly ground from rump, rib eye and fillet mince. It’s juicy with a chewy edge and a subtle nutty, woody taste to it but it’s almost too subtle for its own good. The glazed, buttery, brioche-like bun holds everything together very well and it doesn’t get too soggy either despite the moistness of the meat.
There’s little to say about the standard burger as it’s effectively identical to the steak burger, but it lacks the subtle flavours and the chewy edge of the steak burger. It’s still a moist, medium rare, smoothly ground burger. You can have cheese, bacon or bearnaise sauce for a few extra bob if you really want.
The standard burger is available with fries and a soft drink for just £9. The fries aren’t worth writing home about, but least they’re not too oily or too salty.
Overall Tommi’s produces a very respectable pair of burgers but the passion they arouse in others is a little mystifying.
Address: 58 Marlyebone Lane, London, W1U 2NX
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday, 11.30-21.30.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks: £9-14 approx.
This market stall stand can be found at Berwick Street Market on Wednesdays and Thursdays and less predictably at the Kings Cross Eat St market as well. Although the main dish here is a pork sub, the stand also serves up three burgers and I couldn’t resist trying out all of them (not all at once of course).
Over successive visits I couldn’t help but notice the rather odd dynamic between the two folks who run this little stand. The complete lack of conversation. No eye-contact. The stiff, reserved body language. My favourite pet theory is that the two of them were once best mates but had a drunken, fumbled night of ill-begotton, salty passion and now can’t look each other in the eye. Or it could just be that they’re really busy taking money and making burgers. Ahem, anyway.
The burgers at Tongue ‘N Cheek are unconventional. The patties are apparently made from 60 day aged beef and ox hearts, although I was a little underwhelmed by the Original which is topped with chimichurri sauce, cheddar cheese, watercress and sour cream. The small patty here was moist and smoothly ground with a subtle woodiness to it that was enhanced by the watercress. The chimichurri added a touch of heat which was balanced out by the sour cream. Despite the small size of the patty, the nutty seeded bun was constantly at risk of spillage. Not bad, but there was too much going on and the patty’s small size was disappointing.
Any reservations I had about the Original didn’t apply to the Cheesy which was a wonder to behold. The two patties here were incredibly succulent with a tangy sweetness that had a surprising amount of depth to it. Topping it all off was pickles, mustard, tomato ketchup, lettuce and cheddar. The seeded bun still needs to be bigger to hold it all together though. Like Meatmarket/Meatliqour’s Dead Hippy, the Cheesy appears to be a take on the Big Mac but it’s a far more accomplished reimagining.
Even more astonishing than the Cheesy was the Belly Connection. So far I’ve eschewed bacon and other cheaty ways of juicing up a burger where I can, but this burger is simply wonderful. It uses a thick patty that tastes just like the ones used in the Cheesy, but here it’s topped with a chunk of pork belly. It’s not the best pork belly I’ve ever had with not quite enough fat and what there is could be melted a little more. Having said that it adds a juicy, fatty, woody richness to the beef that outclasses bacon any day of the week and twice on Sundays. The rocket outweighs the gorgonzola, pickled onions and lightly spiced mayo, but there’s still enough of all of these to add an extra layer of taste to the burger without getting in the way of the beef and pork. This burger may be cheating, but it does it to sensational effect.
Locations: Berwick Street Market; Kings Cross Eat St market
Opening Hours: tweet to confirm
Average cost for one burger: £5-6 approx.
I’ve deliberately stayed away from the more gimmicky burgers available in London for the purposes of this round up, but there was one comedy burger that I just had to try. Umai is a small series of takeaway food outlets from The Japan Centre, the Piccadilly-based purveyor of Japanese foodstuffs and meals, and serves up a Japanese burger. Yes, a Japanese burger.
The ‘patty’ is really a mass of shreds and slices of teriyaki beef – you can have a single or double portion. Sadly there’s precious little teriyaki flavour making it just a bland heap of protein. Although you can have a traditional sesame-topped flour bun, the more quixotic option is the white or brown rice bun which is effectively a pair of toasted rice cakes that are made to order. They’re light, fluffy and stay out of the way, but they struggle to hold everything together with bits of beef, lettuce, onions and tomato flying everywhere.
The mayonnaise also dribbles out, but at least it’s not bog standard mayo – there’s a bit of heat courtesy of wasabi. The most interesting part of this burger is the seaweed nori wrap which tastes very distinctive and is the most Japanese thing about this mess of a burger.
Branch tried: 19 Air Street, London W1B 5AG
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 08.00-19.00
Average cost for one burger: £6 approx.
The competition in this burger round-up was fierce and only a few were truly awful. If anything this is a sign of just how good London’s burger scene is, so please don’t get huffy if your favourite burger place hasn’t been rated that highly.
Having said that, I found that some burger eateries were definitely and markedly better than others. Honest Burger Soho makes a simple but satisfying burger that’s as cheap as chips – it’s well worth queuing for, especially if you’re on a budget.
If you have more to spend, then Burger and Lobster Soho gets my wholehearted recommendation. The burger at this otherwise seafood-dominated joint is perfect in every way. It’s an elegantly superior burger.
For bold, punchy flavours however it’s hard to beat Tongue ‘N Cheek. This market stall serves up some of the most intriguingly flavoured and addictive burgers I’ve had in a long time. If they can keep up this level of consistently good execution and if you can find them, then
maybe you can hire the A-Team you’ll have an excellent burger for very little money.
After all of that I’m taking a break from burgers for at least a month, but if you’re still not satisfied and want even more burger reviews then check out the insatiable burger lovers at Burger Me, Burgerac and Burger Anarchy.