Burger blogger puts his money where his mouth is
I usually try to avoid knowing too much about the people behind the restaurants I review. I find it’s more difficult to be critically honest when thinking about the deeply personal hopes, dreams, blood and sweat that go into opening and running a restaurant. It’s impossible, though, to ignore the background of the dude behind the Burgerac Burgershack residency at The Social bar in Fitzrovia. Burgerac was a seasoned burger reviewer and while I might not always have agreed with his opinions, I always respected them.
Burgerac’s Burgershack at The Social is actually his second residency, following the still-running occupation of The Royal Oak pub in Marylebone. Although the menu at The Social is noticeably shorter than the one at The Royal Oak, I think this is a good thing – shorter menus force kitchens to focus on what they do best and leave less room for duff dishes to hide.
Burgershack would have no good reason for existing if it couldn’t knock out a good, no-frills hamburger. Thankfully, Burgerac has nothing to be ashamed of with its plain jane burger. The soft, pliable bun stays out of the way (making repeat appearances across almost all the burgers here) and the entire thing was small enough that there was little risk of it falling apart. This lets the patty take centre stage – coarsely ground with a chewy bite. Although only just about cooked medium rare, it was pleasingly moist and meaty with a mildly sweet tang from the ketchup and an occasional stray slice of pickle. Although a tad small, if all burgers were this good then I’d have no reason to write about them.
Sadly, the fries were definitely fries and not proper chips. Still, at least they were crisp and not at all oily.
The chicken burger and mushroom burger
I’ve never had much love for chicken burgers and I’m not really convinced by Burgerac’s Korean-inspired Southern Seoul Chickenshack. The soft crumbed batter wasn’t at all crispy, which is usually what most Korean-style fried chicken aspires to, but this arguably makes it better suited for consumption in a burger. The whole chunk of breast underneath the batter was a success though – moist, meaty and hearty. There was little of the promised spring onions though, while the tame and lifeless Sriracha mayo was seriously misjudged.
While neither the spicy, nutty, funky taste of Korean gochujang-style sauce or the punchy, spicy tart tang of kimchi is to everyone’s taste, some version of either would’ve helped elevate this chicken burger above the level of merely satisfactory. It’s not worthy enough a successor to the litany of other Korean-inspired burgers that I’ve had before.
Far better was the mushroom burger. It’s a compact creation unlikely to come apart. A hearty, slippery, stemless portobello mushroom lay at the centre. The burger doesn’t just rely on its earthy charms though – tart pickled onions were neatly counterbalanced by wispy but unmistakably earthy goat’s cheese for a surprisingly multilayered effect. Vegetarian burgers don’t have to be crap. In fact, they can be rather good as Burgerac shows.
The double cheeseburger
I usually skip cheeseburgers as the horrid American cheese tends to smother everything else. That’s not the case with the Hubba Hubba double cheeseburger, where the cheese faded into the background along with the bun. The vaunted ‘chipotle burger sauce’ was nothing of the sort – I’ve had gravy which tasted more like chipotle. That hardly matters though as the two patties were splendid – dense, coarsely ground and chewy despite both their slenderness and wandering onto the wrong side of medium rare. Even more remarkable was the subtle yet distinctive and addictive taste of mustard to the patties. I don’t want to overstate its effect, as it was gentle rather than strident or overpowering, but it’s so compelling that it may well have ruined all other burgers for me.
The coleslaw was surprisingly crisp, firm and tart. Pleasingly, it avoided the usual cloying, sickly dressing most coleslaws come mummified in. Instead, it came speckled with nutty sesame seeds and admittedly tame parsley for a nonetheless refreshingly different effect.
All the desserts are bussed in. I could have plumped for the reliably good Gelupo gelato, but I took a chance on the Sweet Cheesus cheesecake and you should too. Overpriced, given its small size, but nonetheless well formed, it progressed from the tangy caramelish topping to a fluffy and creamy middle layer, finishing with a dense biscuit bottom. Sweet.
Burgerac’s Burgershack makes exceedingly good beef and veggie burgers – and I’m not just saying that because he used to be a fellow reviewer. The plain hamburger and the mustard-infused double cheeseburger are fine exemplars of what can be done with ground beef and rocket to the top of my hard-to-please burger affections. If there’s one systemic flaw, it’s that portion sizes are a bit on the small side – especially the bite sized and therefore overpriced cheesecake. That’s easily fixed in most cases though – just order more. You won’t regret it.
What to order: Double cheeseburger; Hamburger; Coleslaw
What to skip: Possibly the Korean chicken burger
Name: Burgerac’s Burgershack at The Social
Address: The Social, 5 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JD
Phone: 020 7636 4992
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 12.30 – 15.00 and 18.00-21.00.
Reservations: probably a good idea on and around weekends; otherwise not necessary
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £18-25 approx.