The Bistrot, Seminyak, Bali

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Welcome to the second in an occasional series of guest posts from travelling friends of ours, this one courtesy of none other than DJ Will MC Campbell….

One of the UK’s most beloved chefs once quirked “Food is for eating, and to be enjoyed… I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself.” And what could be greater than the sight of a truly world-class burger arriving at your table, as others look on in envy?

Truth be told I tried to do my first burger review while in Japan – the home of Wagyu and Kobe beef, incredible cuts of meat from incredible cattle… but it wasn’t really served in true burger form, so couldn’t legitimately count it as one.

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Which is why, having left the incredible but cold shores of Japan, on arriving in Bali I headed to The Bistrot for my first evening out. An impressive wooden yet high ceilinged open space, upon entering you immediately feel reminded of a New York loft/factory space with a distinct industrial feel.

And there it was, centre of the menu, I couldn’t look away, the Bistrot Burger – 180g of beef from Australia’s finest cattle.

Burger Source

There are variations of the same burger – but the house special came with the trimmings I was looking for, onion rings (always a challenge to get right), Red Cheddar (?), Cognac Sauce, Tomato, Lettuce served in a lightly toasted sesame seed bun.

The Meat of It

I’m an absolute stickler for having the meat cooked to the way I like it – and I opt for medium rare (controversial for some I know), as it actually requires more attention than any other form of cooking a burger IMHO. It needs to be perfectly brown on the outside but I want to see the colours and juices coming through the middle.

I wasn’t disappointed. The meat was cooked to perfection. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly presented. I was excited I’d hit a home run on my first night in Bali. The Cognac sauced seemed to work really well, yet bizarrely added a somewhat BBQ flavour to the burger. Could it be a term lost in translation? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt as the combo was immediately impressive.

Next up was the red cheese and the onion rings, where my initial doubts were realised. The onion rings were solid, but not great. A little too soft from the outside and not enough texture from the onion. I want to feel like I’m biting into an actual onion rather than just a lump of fried batter. The red cheese really let it down, as it felt processed and slabbed on – a little too perfectly square.

It’s always interesting trying bread from other countries, particularly when you walk into a supermarket and aren’t exposed to the 90+ variations we have in the UK. So it wasn’t a great surprise to find the bun good but not exceptional. It was toasted well, crispy when you bite into it, but soft through the middle.

All in all, I was impressed. The meat was ideally cooked, the sauce complimented the flavour really well… and did I really expect the onion rings and cheese to be of the same quality? Well let’s say I’d have been disappointed with the experience if it had been the other way round (or I’d be posting this on the wrong blog).

Would I go again? Probably. Would I recommend to others? Absolutely.

For a total of £8, it would be hard to find many places in the UK that would serve that level of quality food in such a place that makes you feel like you’ve been transported 12,000 miles across continents.

Monkey finger rating

Bun  – 3/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste – 4/5
Sides – N/A
Value – 4/5

I think our beloved chef might have been onto something when she made that remark about food – but I’d argue just adding the word good as a prefix would be about right. And this place was certainly good.

If you’re ever in Bali, I’d highly recommend popping in  – you can find them at Jl. Kayu Aya No.117, Seminyak, Badung, Kabupaten Badun. You can reserve a table, and if you’re there Friday or Saturday night I’d recommend doing so.

Atomic Burger, Cowley Road, Oxford

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Decent burger in poor bun; amazing sides.

Burger Source

When Oxford was identified as a destination for a “lads’ weekend” away, one of the first things I did was Google ‘the best burger in Oxford’… and up came Atomic Burger. Clearly an exercise in effective SEO as much as a in burger design and innovation, the restaurant claims “the highest quality meat”, “burgers made by hand daily”, “food cooked to order”, “secret recipes” and “local suppliers”… so we were duly sold on it. As it happens, having a drink across the road at the Big Society, the staff tried to sell us on eating a less… unconventional burger in their establishment, but at this stage we were committed.

The order

The menu is extensive; dozens of standard and eccentric burger combinations. Most of us went for the fairly conventional and hard to argue with ‘Dead Elvis’ – crispy bacon, American cheese & fried onions listed as the key ingredients. We were reassured by the waiter that not only were the burgers cooked medium as standard but they’d happily do them medium rare for us. So far so exciting.

A side came with each burger, and we split onion rings and regular fries between us so we’d get to try it all. We also got in an order of ‘Trailer Park Fries’ which we were assured were awesome – fries topped with pulled pork, cheese sauce and barbecue sauce. Yeah, I know. Had to be done.

The meat of it

To start with the bun of it; the bun on this burger is poor. A slightly stale, dry-looking, powdery white bun that seems simultaneously too large and too porous to hold itself up to anything. The top half was immediately discarded as dead weight.

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The patty itself; surprisingly thin, not cooked to  medium rare (a healthy medium though), a decent slice of melted-in American cheese and not quite crisp streaky bacon topped it; there was salad in but you’d have to look closely. The sides – onion rings that were breadcrumbed, but vegan (rolled in beer, flour and breadcrumbs, no egg) – were crisp and golden brown. The standard fries were reasonably thin cut from whole potatoes, partial skin on, and crisply fried. The Trailer park fries, as a separate full-sized side order, were a sight. Laden with meat and sauce, this was a side fit for a main. Drink-wise, I went for a ‘Hobo mojo’ – Bourbon, lemon & lime & maple syrup shaken over ice and served in a paper bag.

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As to how everything tasted: the sides were the star of the show. The trailer park fries were incredibly moreish; the cheese sauce somehow not as chemical-tasting as you’d expect bottle-style squeezey cheddar to be; the pork moist and savoury and the sweet barbecue sauce binding it together beautifully. The chips were crisp enough not to be soggy throughout – often a challenge for this type of dish. Delicious. The standard fries were good but a pale candle to these; not quite enough starchy bite to them. The onion rings were amazing; large, sweet slices of Spanish onion rolled in flour, Peroni and possibly a panko breadcrumb, they were crisp, sweet and savoury in one, and delicious. The Cajun ones were particularly good, with a light hint of heat underpinning them. There were some other fairly non-descript sides on the plate – middle-of-the-road pickles and bottom-of-the-road oversweet, over-mayo’d coleslaw.

The main event; the burger? Well-seasoned, loosely ground meat – but the patty was too thin and the bread too big, so the flavour was somewhat lost (even with a discarded top half). The American cheese gave savoury goo to it all and again helped mask the meat flavour, and the bacon wasn’t crisp enough for crunch, so just added a sort of stretchy chewiness. The onions seemed sparse and added little sweetness. This was one of those situations where a brioche might have done some good. We had an extensive conversation with the waiter about the buns – apparently the owner knows they need changing but hasn’t got around to it yet. Best of luck to him, and hope he prioritises it soon.

And finally, the Hobo Mojo – it’s a fancy name for bourbon with 7-up and maple syrup, but it’s a HECK of a combination and I’ll be making this one at home at some point soon. Maybe minus the paper bag. Delicious.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  1/5
Build – 3/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste –  3/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 4/5 – £20 a head for burger, sides & cocktail, & tip – valuelicious. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re not in London.

Burger rating – 3/5 – Let down by a bun that poorly complemented the fillings, sadly, and a pale shadow of things like Dip & Flip’s equivalent burger. Next time we do Oxford, we’ll have to try a Big Society burger…

The deets

247 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1XG was the branch we visited, though we gather the owner has a Pizza place elsewhere in Oxford and another burger venue in Bristol. Check them out over here and make a booking for the Trailer Park fries and the Hobo mojo alone, if needs be.

Side note: the geek kitsch around the place was phenomenal; a wall full of starships, a few intriguing sculptures and lots more. It’s a fun place.

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The Refinery, Southwark

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Uninspired Wagyu burger with raw chips.

Burger Source

My new office is a 10 minute walk from Borough market, but it being the Christmas season, finding a lunchtime venue that isn’t heaving is slightly more complicated an undertaking than it should be. So the Refinery; a cavernous, uber-local bar/restaurant that bills on its menu once again – two burgers. A standard, and a Wagyu. I was curious and had planned to have lunch with a colleague so we popped down.

Part of the Drake & Morgan group, all the insight I got into the burger’s provenance was the simple word ‘Wagyu’ and having had a good experience at the Falcon, I thought – why not?

The order

It was a working day and I was lunching with a gym buddy so the order was restricted to the burger and a portion of ‘Cowboy fries’ – fries cooked with honey, chilli and garlic somehow – to share. We were reassured the burgers were cooked medium when we ordered; water was the only drink we needed.

The meat of it

When the food arrived, initial impressions were good. The brioche bun held a sizeable patty with nicely melted blue cheese, a sensible amount of salad, well stacked and well presented. The chips – well, they got the order wrong (delivering a portion each), and the honey/chilli/garlic combo resulted in a sticky mess in a tin cup. Not sure what we were expecting, I suppose… but we were expecting them to be cooked, which they weren’t. One bite was enough to dismiss the lot, and the restaurant staff were so busy we eventually sent them back rather than attempting to get a cooked batch delivered.

The burger itself… was a little disappointing. To list the things that weren’t quite right…

  1. it was swimming in a pool of mayo, making it slippery and unhandlable,
  2. the blue cheese was ok but didn’t add a huge amount to the burger
  3. the beef wasn’t cooked medium but was well-done (the photo below is slightly misleading; that pink is more lighting than meat-colour)
  4. there was nothing special about the taste of this ‘wagyu’ – nice but totally unspectacular
  5. the lean/fat ratio seemed a bit off; the burger wasn’t particularly juicy.

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On the plus side; the meat was coarse ground, loosely packed and well-seasoned. The blue cheese didn’t detract from it (if it didn’t particularly add to it), and, whilst slightly dry, the flavour profile was such that it didn’t particularly need any sauce – this was down to a good contrast between a very sweet brioche bun and an ultra savoury patty. The salad in the burger was crisp, juicy and fresh. The pickles were somewhat crisp but a little uninspiring – like they’d been sat on a plate a bit too long – and were served on the side.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3.5/5
Build – 2.5/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste –  3/5
Sides – 0/5
Value – 2/5 – £13.95 for a burger that’s just ‘meh’ at best with no sides is a lot.

Burger rating – 3/5 – Very mid-table in the rankings, the burger isn’t offensive but it definitely isn’t spectacular either.

The deets

The Refinery Bankside is in the base of the Bluefin building, about 7 minutes’ walk from Southwark tube, behind the Tate Modern. More detail here.

The Falcon, Rotherwick

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Well-cooked and assembled Wagyu beef burger for £15? In a pub? Yes please.

Burger Source

OK, it’s another pub burger. But when a pub boasts of Wagyu beef, and has it alongside a regular burger on the menu, I’m thinking this is worth a try. This is a pub that takes its burgers seriously.

In fact; it was incorrectly billed as Kobe Wagyu beef on the menu. For the uninitiated, Kobe beef is beef from a specific strain of ‘Wagyu’ cattle, raised in Hyogo prefecture in Japan. This is why it struck me as so incredibly unlikely that a pub – even a nice pub, like the Falcon, in a lovely village like Rotherwick in North Hampshire – would be selling it in burgers. It’s famed for its tenderness and marbled texture, and is not exported in vast quantities – in fact, there are only 3,000 Kobe cattle in Japan, according to Wikipedia’s (admittedly dated) version of events.

This would make the £14.95 price tag seem incredibly unlikely… and in fact, on correspondence with the manager, it transpires they have been slightly misled by a Wagyu beef supplier called ‘Kobe Cuisines’ so will be editing its menu accordingly. Still, Wagyu beef. Yum.

The order

We were celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday and arriving late to lunch after an ice-rink expedition, so were all famished. Some bread tempered appetites, and a Jim Beam on the rocks furnished me with a drink (I’m still on this bourbon kick and the pub was lacking in alternatives, though it had a wide selection of Scotch).

The main meal was the burger alone; I was offered toppings (bacon, avocado, cheddar, blue cheese etc.; blue cheese and avocado were recommended), but went for the pure burger from a desire to actually taste this highly acclaimed meat. This seemed to impress the manager.

The meat of it

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You can see from the picture that this was not an imposing burger; substantial but not enormous. The pickle was nice but eaten separately given it’s pointless positioning atop the stack; the bun was eggwashed but not a brioche as far as I could tell. It was slightly too big for the burger, and so held up to the burger’s heft… but only just. Perhaps due to wagyu beef’s lower fat melting point, the burger was not as juicy as an equivalent burger made from a different beef?

It was accompanied with a nicely savoury mayo, deliciously crisp and fresh, sweet tomato and salad, and bacon jam – which is hard to describe, but more sweet than savoury and lacking in any kind of crisp bacon texture. Nice, though, and a good counterpoint to the well-seasoned patty, which was beautifully crisp but slightly too well done for my liking; a medium-well rather than a medium verging on medium rare. I’d guess 5-6oz for the patty; well seasoned, coarsely ground and loosely packed. Definitely winning on more levels than it’s losing.

The taste. The taste confounded me. Beef that well-done shouldn’t have been this juicy; there was a slight gaminess to the flavour and tonnes of umami from the seasoning, despite no bacon or cheese actually in the stack. The mayonnaise was clearly a good accompaniment and the bun didn’t distract whatsoever. Cheese would have been unnecessary, and believe me that’s not something I say lightly. Because, y’know, I love cheese.

The fries, thin, hand-cut, skin-on fries, were very well cooked and seasoned to perfection. They went beautifully with the bacon jam, in fact, and the fresh side salad was wonderful, alongside a slightly less inspiring but mildly pleasant, light coleslaw.

In all, it was an inspiring experience. Despite the beef being Kobe-style rather than Kobe, it’s instantly made it to the top of my pub burger league table and will motivate me to head back to Rotherwick for future lunches in the not-too-distant-future.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 4/5
Taste –  4/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 4.5/5 – Wagyulicious: an outstanding burger for £15.

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – Top of my pub burger league table. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The deets

There are two pubs on Rotherwick’s main street and they both serve a burger, so make sure you make it to the Falcon if you want to try this one. You can find it here:  The Falcon, The Street, Rotherwick, Hook, Hampshire, RG27 9BL.

Hawksmoor, Knightsbridge

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Beautifully cooked, beautifully assembled, averagely seasoned.

Burger Source

For many, the notion of going to a Hawksmoor and ordering a burger is sacrilege. It’d be like making a stir fry with foie gras; the restaurant’s beef is famed for its quality and not to be minced and mashed into a burger. Yet it consistently makes the ‘top burger in London’ listicles, and I was keen to try it. The beef is made from “British grass-fed, dry-aged beef from the Ginger Pig”  and gets put into two burger variants; the Hawksmoor burger (served with your choice of cheese, pink or well done) and the Kimchi burger – which is what it sounds like. Both can be served with triple cooked chips or salad.

The order

My friend James and I both went for the Hawksmoor burger; pink (obviously), with cheddar, with triple cooked chips, served in a metal mini bucket (hipsters!) on the side.

The meat of it

This is an astonishingly beautiful burger. The 5oz patty is relatively thin yet coarsely ground, loosely packed, perfectly shaped, with a brilliant crisp finish and an evenly pink centre. I’ve no idea how they did this without drying out the burger, which remains tender and juicy and with the lovely aromatics you get with dry-aged beef. Sous vide with a grill finish? Who knows. It’s stacked on some lettuce, a crisp sweet pickle and a thin layer of mustard (spread-on, not fried-in, as far as I could tell), topped with a thick slice of well melted cheese and a large slice of beef tomato in a sizeable and airy brioche. The fries were crisp and looked inviting.

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Isn’t it beautiful?

Sounds amazing? Almost perfect, but not quite. Here’s what went wrong: the brioche is overly sweet, getting the flavour balance wrong whenever there’s too much bread in the bite. The burger itself, whilst perfectly tender, richly beefy and well cooked – was underseasoned. This turns the cheese from an umami-fest on top of a good burger into necessary seasoning; a necessary addition to make it feel like you’re eating something other than a sweet bread roll. You barely notice it as a result. Whilst the lettuce and tomato were amazing – fresh, crisp, amazingly complementary to the rest of the burger – the mustard spread is uneven. In most mouthfuls you can’t taste it, in others it’s a spike of unexpected heat. I much prefer the Dirty Burger / In&Out practice of frying mustard into the burger on the grill, which gives a richer, more even flavour IMHO. If I’m being picky – the burger wasn’t crisp enough not to need some textural contrast (from, say, a crisp piece of streaky bacon) – it’s all softness and squidge.

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Tin cup! Who needs chips in a tin cup? Give me a basket any day.

The fancy ketchup – unnecessary for the burger due to the cloyingly sweet brioche – is some strange, slightly spiced, watery version (like a hybrid ketchup / sweet chilli sauce) – and it wasn’t a great help for the chips either, sadly. We both agreed Heinz would have been preferable. The tin cup made it challenging to salt the chips evenly (they were also underseasoned). Pouring them out would have cooled them down rapidly, of course…

All that said, it was still a good burger; it just doesn’t stack [sic] up against my current top rankings; Hawksmoor chefs, please embrace salt!

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Eagle Rare!

Drinkswise, we both opted for a very nice Eagle Rare bourbon from the menu’s extensive, expensive selection. Served with rocks on the side, it has a smooth, sweet finish and amazing aromatics.

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I resisted pudding, it would have been spoiling me too much.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 4/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 4/5
Value – 3.5/5 – £56 for two including a single shot of bourbon and service for two – the burger and chips by themselves list at £16. Hawksmoor has proven its worth its premium pricing for its steaks – not so sure about its burger.

Burger rating – 3.5/5 -It’s a good burger, but is expensive and underseasoned. Dip & Flip trounces it on many counts.

The deets

There are many Hawksmoors, but make sure the one you visit has a bar menu, as that’s the menu with the burger on it. The Knightsbridge branch is just off the Brompton road, an 8 minute walk from Knightsbridge tube. 3 Yeomans Row,

London, SW3 2AL. 020 7590 9290 for bookings and general steak chat.

Shoulder of Mutton, Hartley Wintney

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Country gastropub vs. London mainstream – a different burger experience.

Burger Source

The Shoulder of Mutton is a classic country pub, upgraded to Gastropub cuisine standard with the accompanying reviews and crowded tables you’d expect of an excellent pub. The burger seemed to feature reasonably prominently on its menu, and I thought – why not, this place has amazing reviews, the burger should be interesting.

And it was interesting, if a completely different experience from the London scene, for a number of reasons which I’ll get into in this review.

It’s also 15 minutes drive from me, so a perfect location for a night out with Amanda; thanks to Sophie for the recommendation.

The order

The ‘home made beef burger’ is billed as: “fresh minced beef infused with our blend of herbs & spices, tomato, lettuce on a grilled bun served with baby leaf salad and hand cut chips.”

The critical point here is the ‘blend of herbs’ – most burgers these days seem to emphasize salt and pepper over all other herbing and spicing, something I don’t tend to argue with. But I was interested in the treatment this pub would give it…

The meat of it

The preparation and the presentation made for an interesting display. The burger sat atop a bed of thick cut, likely double fried (and duly crispy) chunky chips. The soft white roll was warmed (possibly grilled as promised?), making for a soft yet surprisingly capable foil to the 6oz burger patty. The thick cut bacon sat on top of the meat, coated in a thick layer of cheddar which had not simply been melted on but also crisped up under a broiler, giving a good crust and crunch to the cheese, which was unexpected. The burger itself had a good crust, made of coarse ground, loosely packed beef (my fave), with a pink medium-well shade to it (I like them slightly rarer, but it wasn’t bad at all).

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Such a thing as too much cheese?

The meat was relatively lean (which explains why the standard white bun survived) and unadorned by further sauce or relish. For some reason the promised tomato and lettuce wasn’t in there and I didn’t notice at the time so didn’t make a point of it.

The taste? Well, it was definitely herby, which was an interesting change of pace. Tasty; though my palate couldn’t figure out what was involved but I suspect parsley featured centrally (it was scattered liberally around the plate too). The lean meat (or possibly the broiling?) meant the burger wasn’t as juicy as it should have been but it was still pretty tender. The cheese was somewhat overdone, and the bacon could/should have been crisper in my book, but they were all quality ingredients.

The chips were outstanding, though an excessively large portion. The salad was unnecessarily dressed with a thick squirt of salad cream, which should have been applied more sparingly.

The overall impact? Not as good as it should have been. The burger needed pickle or relish, and – for my mind – a different sort of flavouring. The herbs alone make it taste slightly medicinal (or at least, more meatloaf than burger) and the lack of sweetness in relish or salad or pickle within the burger itself made it overwhelming salty – too much cheese and bacon, a phrase I never thought I’d say, much less write. A better fat/lean ratio would have improved the taste of the burger as well.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 4/5
Value – 4/5 – £50 for two including pudding and a round of drinks, incl service. Pretty good.

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – It’s really not a bad burger, but the peculiarity of the flavouring and the slightly unsatisfactory toppings mean it’s only maybe something I’d order again. I think maybe the steak next time; the service and atmosphere is outstanding so it’s definitely worth a return visit.

The deets

Whilst the Shoulder of Mutton claims to be part of Hartley Wintney, it’s clearly far closer to Heckfield, just off the A33 between Basingstoke and Reading. Full details: Hazeley Heath, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Hampshire RG27 8NB. Phone: 01189 326 272. Recommend booking – it was busy on a Saturday night.

Dip & Flip, Battersea Rise

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Surprise contender for best burger in London?

Burger Source

I can find surprisingly little on the web on the genesis of this small, seemingly independent chain of burger restaurants. I can tell you what they say about their beef: “West country beef, forerib, chuck, and a little added fat make our 180g patties. They are then smashed onto our imported chrome griddle, which is super hot, sealing in the flavour and creating a wonderful crust, so no flavour is lost on our grill. Served in a soft brioche bun with French’s mustard, ketchup, American cheese, cabbage slaw and pickles.” And, crucially, given it’s a signature feature, what they say about their gravy: “We roast a selection of carefully sourced beef bones to a rich golden brown. Then we simmer them, with organic vegetables and herbs, for a long time. This bone broth is the heart and soul of our gravy. Roasting juices from the bottom of the pan are added to the broth along with a few other little secrets (All beef related) to make our delicious gravy which we serve with almost everything for dipping.”

It’s all pretty delicious.

A little bit of web investigation reveals that “Bob Francis Double Dip Limited”, the company that has registered the dipandflip.co.uk domain name, was founded in February 2013 (as far as Companies House knows), and has one director – presumably company founder – Timothy John Lees, whose past ventures include “Lees Library Consultancy Services Ltd” of Dundee, a company which was wound up in 2014.  Oddly, I was ignored on Twitter when I asked for someone to email some questions to about the company’s history…

Regardless, nothing to see here, so let’s get to the beef.

The order

I went for the bacon double cheeseburger, which was just greedy really. F&D’s 6oz patties are plenty for a single, so you probably don’t need more – I certainly didn’t, but that didn’t stop me finishing it.

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I wasn’t keen to try the actual dip & flip specials, which feature sliced roasted lamb or beef soaked in gravy on top of a burger bun – and felt validated by the choice. Whilst I’m sure it would have been good, I wanted the textural contrast the crispy bacon promised, and didn’t feel that I needed that much gravy. Sides featured regular fries and chilli, gravy, cheese and bacon fries.

The meat of it

Holy moley, this was totally unexpected. The beef patties had a rich, crispy  crust, which surprisingly held a deliciously juicy, perfectly medium patty. The coarsely ground, loosely packed beef was incredibly well seasoned and topped with gooey, delicious cheese. The bacon strips were curled and crispy and packed with salty flavour. Two crisp, large but thin pickle slices, supported by the promised cabbage slaw, protected the underside of the thick, sturdy brioche bun from the intensely beefy juices which dropped out of the burger with each bite, a gift of the burger’s sensibly high fat/lean ratio (I suspect 25%:75%). On initial cross bite, I was worried the burger might be overcooked, but it was just edge factor – the middle of the burger was a perfect medium pink. The (fairly) sweet brioche provided a necessary counterpoint to the umami fest that the rest of the burger represented. Wow. Just wow.

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The fries were crispy but slightly overseasoned. The chilli/gravy/bacon/cheese fries were, on the other hand, perfect. Not soggy till the very end, delicious cheese, a light kick from the chillis and a delicious crunch from the same bacon that topped the burger.

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Almost everything about this meal screamed ‘outstanding’.

But wait, I hear you ask, what about the dip, the gravy? Even the normal burgers come with the gravy which is, admittedly, excellent. Just not wholly necessary; I enjoyed it more with the fries than I did when dipping the burger in it; the burger just didn’t need any further savoury-ness. If anything, something beyond the salt and sweet of meat and bun – perhaps a little more mustard, in the fry (in the style of Dirty Burger) would have sorted it.

Drinks wise, friends had a couple of hard shakes (I had a taste – outstanding) but I stuck with bourbon – a nicely bitter taste to clear the palate in and amongst huge meaty mouthfuls.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  5/5 – even if you don’t normally like Brioche, it’s the perfect companion for this burger
Build – 5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste –  5/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 5/5 – £18 a head including tip between six of us, with drinks, felt reasonable

Burger rating – 5/5 – This is now in joint first place for best burger in London for me, alongside Bleecker Street and Lucky Chip (which may get a re-visit during its ‘Stranger Things’ month). Amazing.

The deets

There are a couple of Dips & flips around Southwest London, find the locations here. We ate at Battersea rise, 5 minutes walk from Clapham Junction station, by the Northcote pub.

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The Salusbury, Salisbury Road, Queens Park

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Gastropub tries to do good burger, doesn’t quite manage it.

Burger Source

If you read my appeal to publicans, you’ll know that I don’t generally review pub burgers. I made an exception for the Salusbury as the pub clearly makes a feature of its ‘aged short rib burger,’ so I thought I’d give it a try.

An independent pub under the same ownership for 15 years, the Salusbury boasts the talents of Andrew Fila, former head chef at the Medcalf, Exmouth Market. The aim to deliver the best food, drink and service. The service is excellent, and I can’t talk to the drink… and the food is generally OK.

But how did they fayre with that pub kryptonite, a genuinely good burger?

The order

Just one burger on the menu, the ‘aged short rib’ burger served with chips. I was asked how I’d like it done and opted for medium, which was a good sign. I was eating with family, who ordered fish and chips, amongst other things, which looked excellent.

The meat of it

This burger should have been good. It was clearly good meat; it was cooked perfectly – look at the cross section shot. But a few crucial things went wrong, sadly.

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The meat was underseasoned; so didn’t taste of much. The toppings didn’t add enough to counter it (not even that substantial pickle), and the (very, very) firm eggwashed roll just added too much chewiness. I abandoned half of it immediately.

The burger wasn’t juicy enough; I put this down to too high a lean/fat ratio. It was slightly too tightly compacted too, despite being coarsely ground, which means it was a dense thing to eat your way through.

This sounds incredibly nitpicky, but the end result was a substantial burger that tasted of very little. Not bad… but not good either. And it’s frustrating because the ingredients were clearly top quality.

The chips, however, were crisp, fluffy and delicious with the provided mayonnaise. Which, to be fair, also helped bring the burger together somewhat , packed as it was with salty goodness.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  1/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 2/5
Taste –  2/5
Sides – 4/5
Value – 1/5. This thing is not worth £14.50.

Burger rating – 2/5 – A few things for the Salusbury to fix; they clearly have the technical skills but some of the core ingredients – in particular the bun and the beef – need some thought.

The deets

If you’re keen to stop by, the Salusbury is near Queen’s Park tube station in North London; 50-52 Salusbury Road, NW6 6NN. I’d have the fish and chips.

Bleecker Street Burgers, Pop-Up until Sept 30th 2016, South Bank

BleeckerDoubleandfries

The best burger in London? Very possibly.

Burger Source

Zan Kaufman, American founder of Bleecker Street burgers, came to London in 2011 and launched Bleecker Street with a van and a mission to serve the best American style burgers on the streets of London. Having learnt everything she could from an East Village burger joint called Zaitzeff, she wanted to bring the same experience to London. As to the beef itself, and the burgers? She puts it better than I could: “There is zero compromise with our ingredients. Burgers are about the beef. We use rare-breed, pasture-fed beef from small farms in the UK. It comes to us from the geniuses at The Butchery in Bermondsey, where it is dry-aged for about forty to fifty days, giving it an intense, beefy flavour. The finishing touches: a sesame seed bun, scratch burger sauce and good old American cheese. We like to keep things simple.” Does the Bleecker Street reality live up to the promise?

The order

The menu is simplicity itself, especially at the South Bank pop-up where the Blue-Cheese special is not available – single, double, bacon and the Bleecker Black – a black pudding slice sandwiched between two substantial burger patties. Having seen people being served singles, which looked like 4.5oz patties at most, my hunger conquered me and I went for a double – and, because I’m greedy – added bacon, alongside the skin-on fries. The South Bank pop up does a good trade in  American beer, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The meat of it:

BleeckerDoubleClose-up
Now for my close-up

The burger doesn’t look that extraordinary there’s little to the presentation, the sesame seeded bun is toasted and looks very standard fayre… and the patties look surprisingly small. The camera adds a few ounces of flattery in the picture above. Even a double doesn’t have the heft of a P&B burger, for example. And mine, surprisingly, was cooked medium well rather than the medium rare a friends’ Bleecker Black came with. I suspect the guys struggle with consistency in the small confines of the pop-up kitchen as other friends’ doubles were also rarer than mine. The fries come in a generous sized cardboard cup and are crisp, well-seasoned and delicious dipped in the plentiful ketchup, mayo or mustard that adorns the few small tables outside the Bleecker Street Shack.

As to the burger… OMG. The aged beef delivers a gamey taste and, despite being cooked medium well, the coarse ground meat is unbelievably juicy – literally spilling onto the cardboard plate as I took my first bite. It’s really well-seasoned too; though simply – no unusual flavours, spices or herbs. The American cheese singles are completely melted in to create wonderful mouthfeel, and whilst I had initially feared that the sesame seeded bun was dry and overtoasted, in this world of soft brioche, in the end it proved necessary for it to stand up to the juicy intensity of the burger. There was some onion in there, but it didn’t really factor in the taste behind the beef. The bacon – thinly sliced, not-entirely-crispy streaky bacon – was somewhat lost in the beef-fest, which is probably why they don’t do a double bacon cheeseburger as standard. Occasionally the burger got dipped in mustard or ketchup (wow), but it was fine on its own too. I suspect a fat/lean ratio of 75/25, and the result on the taste and the texture… well, wow. I want to go back. This, Honest Burgers, and Lucky Chip are currently in top contention for my personal best burgers in London, but there’s still far to go on this burger gastronomic adventure.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste –  5/5
Sides – 5/5
Value – 4.5/5 – I missed out on the ‘deal’ by ordering a custom burger. You save a quid or two otherwise.

Burger rating – 5/5 – very possibly the best burger in London. I want to go back for lunch.

The deets

The pop up supposedly runs until 30th September. You can find it under the Hungerford bridge, by the Royal Festival Hall on the Queen’s Walk, right by the river. A straight walk over the bridge from Embankment tube. From 11.30am to 11pm daily.

White Ferry House, Sutherland Street, Victoria

White Ferry House cheese burger and fries

Well-seasoned, surprisingly juicy, very brioched burger. Soggy fries.

Burger source:

White Ferry House is part of the small pub chain ‘Pub Love,’ which seems to own a few erstwhile independent pubs across London.  As well as an extensive gin menu, it gains admission to the Burger Source staple as it does many of the things I asked of publicans in my recent missive in its ‘Burger Craft’ kitchen, and more. Specifically; fresh, locally sourced beef, fresh burgers handmade daily, course ground, well-seasoned meat etc… but I’m getting ahead of myself. You can be reassured that the burger’s heritage here is of quality.

It’s a regular fixture of my company’s ‘night out’ schedule and always features great, speedy service.

The order

I went for a basic cheeseburger with bacon (and fries), weighing in at about £9.50, which, given its location less than ten minutes’ walk from Victoria station, is pretty remarkable. Skin-on fries came as standard. The menu also features a double burger – the Juicy Bastard – that may be cause for a return visit at some stage.

The meat of it:

The ~5oz, course ground patty is well seasoned and delivered sandwiched between a very melty American cheese, topped with tasty, salty, chewy thick cut bacon, sat on a bed of  wilted salad… all of which is sandwiched in a sweet brioche – which is a good counterbalance to its salt-tastic contents. Like many of its kin at the moment, it’s an ‘add your own sauce’ burger (ketchup helped even out the savoury explosion further), and it was surprisingly juicy, given it was cooked medium well, if not well done.

White Ferry House burger cross section
Look at the melt on that! Surprisingly juicy for a medium well burger.

I’d have to be hunting to criticize, and – as such – I’d probably only be able to improve on this burger with some thought  on the sauce situation. Perhaps some mustard cooked into the beef and/or relish for the burger. But I suppose then it would be a different burger!

The fries, sadly, were undercooked – they look lovely but were a bit greasy and soggy, so were donated to the colleagues I was out with. The overall presentation was a bit flat as – essentially – it was just a burger and chips on a plate. Only so much you can do with that, but it was – at least – a very nice plate.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste –  4/5
Sides – 2/5
Value – 4/5

Burger rating – 4/5 – A very solid burger outing which would probably get a 4.5 overall had it not been for the mediocre fries. Worth a stop.

The deets

The White Ferry House Victoria is to be found at 1a Sutherland Street, London, UK SW1V 4LD. Map etc., here.