A good burger, let down by its seasoning and outshone by amazing sides.
Next in the series of Monday-burger-meet-ups I’ve been doing was Meat Liquor N1, the latest location in a fast-expanding network of high-end, highly stylized craft burger eateries. The N1 venue is new, not busy on a Monday, and confusing in the extreme; tucked away in a back-alley, made to look like a converted auto-garage from the outside (maybe it is?), and very easily confused with some kind of dystopian post-apocalyptic meeting spot. The décor and atmosphere instilled excitement, but perhaps it was just literally years of hype on how great Meat Liquor was that got me worked up about it.
Founded by Yianni Papoutis in a street food truck in 2009, the “Meat” brand has grown from strength to strength; starting with a residency in a pub, moving into pop-ups and, since 2011, with real locations in London and beyond. The N1 site is the newest in the family, and carries an amazing atmosphere; something like an ‘end of the world’ party being hosted by a bunch of people who have a dastaradly apocalypse escape plan, drinking cocktails and eating dead cattle even as the zombies horded down through the alleys of Islington, in search of human prey. A kind of ‘restaurant at the end of the universe’, but with stylings of 90’s video game Resident Evil (not the 2000s movie franchise). Anyway, I loved that aspect of it.
Determined to keep trying the ‘specials’ and excited at the prospect of the mustard-based sauce in MeatLiquor’s ‘Dead Hippie’ burger (I’m a big fan of In-n-Out’s ‘Animal Style’ burgers), it was the obvious choice. Meat Liquor’s menu describes it as: “2x French’s mustard-fried beef patties, Dead Hippie sauce™, lettuce, cheese, pickles, minced white onions).” Apparently French’s sponsors it.
I’d also heard beyond-mad ravings about Meat Liquor’s Monkey Fingers – fried chicken breast strips in a crispy batter, rolled in a good amount of buffalo sauce. And of course, fried pickles, onion rings and chilli fries were hard to resist.
Not being a beer fan, I washed it down with a ‘Space Gin Smash’ – perfect for a Monday night – Bombay sapphire gin, fresh lemon juice, apple juice, elderflower cordial, mint & grapes. Suffice it to say that for a man of my (sweet, sweet) tastes, it was delicious.
The meat of it:
The two patties weighed in about 3-4oz each, were fried to a perfect medium, and made from a fairly lush meat blend that melted in your mouth. The bun, a muscular white roll, has the perfect combination of softness and bite. The pickles – a good amount of tartness but managing that elegant balance between crisp and pliant.
And that’s where it went wrong.
I *LOVE* the In & Out Double Double Animal Style, on which I have read this burger is styled. However, whether I had a poor experience on the night or there’s something gone wrong with the recipe, I could not say. A repeat experience may be called for to provide a more scientific basis for my assessment. The ‘Dead Hippie’ sauce lacked for flavour, the minced onions were barely evident, the cheese relatively flavourless. A perfect textural experience was let down by inadequate seasoning and flavour combinations. The ineffable Mr Knock tells me that the French’s sponsorship may have let the side down, but again – I am not qualified to comment.
It felt like the American cheese let it down; like some crisp bacon was needed to umami-up the experience and make it something more than it was. As it was – after all the hype (Meat Liquor in many ways has defined the burger renaissance London is experiencing today) – it was a disappointment. I had food envy for Damo’s bacon cheeseburger, and I almost never envy Damo anything. So this was, indeed, a shame. Don’t get me wrong, the burger wasn’t bad – perfect meat, perfectly cooked, excellent bun, good pickle. But the overall burger flavour was disappointing.
However… the sides told a different story, on the whole. The monkey fingers – delicious. Buttery and slick with buffalo sauce yet somehow incredibly crisp, they had an excellent balance of heat and crunch whilst maintaining perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breast strips within. The blue cheese sauce was a thick, delicious moderating influence on the mild heat.
The onion rings arrived with a satisfying crunch covering a thick circlet of sweet white onion. The chilli fries were less impressive, a bowl of likely once-proud, once-crisp fries drowned somewhat in a (respectably) spicy, somewhat gungey chilli. I suspect it was an excellent example for what it was, but didn’t add a great deal to the meal for me.
I feel I need to return to Meat Liquor, to try a different burger or perhaps even resample the Dead hippie and establish if this one-off experience was an anomaly; after all, there are many who continue to rave about the burger as the best they’ve ever had. To me, it’s a distant runner-up to Lucky Chip, Dirty Burger, and even the White Ferry House’s fayre. But those are reviews for another day…
Monkey finger rating
Bun – 5/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 4/5
Taste – 2.5/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 4/5. £20 a head with a cocktail felt reasonable.
Burger rating – 3/5 I’m going back. But it’ll be hard to order the Dead Hippie again; I may have to chance the Bacon Cheeseburger or even the Buffalo Chicken Burger next time around.