Foxlow, 69-73 St John Street, Clerkenwell

Simple, great value, delicious burger from the founders of Hawksmoor.

Burger source

The founders of Hawksmoor were clearly up for another challenge, and the Foxlow chain of independent restaurants is the result. As with many modern British eateries, the focus is on high quality local produce, cooked simply but well, to serve a range of tastes – from the healthy to the indulgent. We went there after an evening of pool, so guess where we ended up on that scale?

The order

Tuesday night is ‘BYO’ night, so I ordered the menu’s sole burger (cheese and bacon, nice) (CHECK). It came with a side of french fries, and my colleague Tim furnished us with a bottle of red from a nearby Tesco (the local Sainsbury’s stops serving alcohol at 8pm due to its proximity to Fabric, which was interesting, if weird).

The meat of it

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Like Beef & Brew, the burgers here are bought in and not ground on site, so again they would serve it medium at best… fortunately, its best was pretty good – a good, broad band of pink ran through the cross section of the ~6oz burger on arrival.  Again like Beef & Brew, it is a slightly dry burger, with perhaps slightly too heavy a bread ratio… however…

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It is brilliantly seasoned, with a wonderfully crisp exterior and a soft, rich centre. The meat’s excellent quality (dry-aged rib) and melded perfectly with toppings (melty Ogleshield cheese plus salad) to give a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts. The fresh vegetables add some moisture – unusually for me, I left the tomato in – and the fresh, sour tang of the pickles added another fresh, crisp component to the bite. The salt/sweet contrast is just right, with the brioche and veg taking the edge off the salty burger, even without relish or sauce.

The fries were extraordinary – crisp on the outside, with a soft (not a hollow) centre, richly seasoned with salt and pepper. Utterly delicious.

For £12, this is extraordinary value.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste –  4.5/5
Sides – 5/5 – pepper ftw

Value – 5/5 – £12 for burger and fries! A steak frites option was also on the menu at the same price!? How are these the Hawksmoor guys, who charge £17 for a not very good burger

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – if they’d ground this on site and perhaps had a slightly higher fat ratio, this would have been princely.

The deets

There are four Foxlow’s across London, this one is a few minutes from Farringdon tube station on St John Street; it’s an excellent location for meateries, given its proximity to Smithfields Market. Find a local one and try it out, especially if you’re having an unusually large Tuesday night out.

Beef & Brew, 323 Kentish Town Road

OK burger, interesting sides.

Burger source

Beef and Brew tells you little about itself on its website (in fact, the site was down when I visited, though it has since returned). But the concept is simple; a small, cosy North London eatery featuring copious amounts of meats and beer. The burger lacks ceremony in its description but is unusual in that it is served with bearnaise rather than cheese, but also with bacon.

The order

The only burger on the menu, without the optional cheese. I was curious about the bearnaise. Sides-wise, we went for wedges and gnocchi to share. I had an old fashioned to drink, give as I’m not a beer-fan.

The meat of it

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The burgers are bought-in, not ground on site, so arrive medium well. Which is a shame, as the well-constructed burger carries a decent complement of savoury-ness, a good bite, a well-balanced ratio of meat/bread/cheese. That said, it is slightly dry (a medium rare finish might have helped that), and the fat ratio was perhaps a little light.

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The bearnaise added savouriness but not as much moisture as you’d expect, and the layer of salad was fresh and crisp. The bun was too sturdy for a dry burger and lent a bit more starchiness to it all than I’d like. The meat was good but perhaps slightly too lightly seasoned for my liking (go to TOWN with that salt and pepper, y’all); wherever they bought the burgers in from, freshness/fat ratio notwithstanding, knows their meat; it had a richness to the flavour that’s common with dry-aged beef. The tomato jam provides the right amount of sweet contrast to the rest of the burger.

The overall impression is solid, if not extraordinary. Room to improve!

The sides… whilst I’m not a huge fan of wedges (give me fries any day), the creamy potato-ness of these, coupled with a crisp exterior and healthy seasoning, makes them a worthwhile order. The Gnocchi, however, was extraordinary – like the richest, smoothest Mac & Cheese you’ll ever have, but with a delightfully substantial bite to it. And I don’t even particularly like Mac & cheese, generally finding it a bland and bloaty accompiment to my favourite meat fests, so the fact I liked this is saying something.

The Old Fashioned was well constructed – the right balance of sweetness to bourbon with a zesty citrus finish and a hint of bitters.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 3.5/5
Taste –  4/5
Sides – 4/5 – the gnocchi is good
Value – 3.5/5 – £25 for burger and sides, including the cocktail. Even without the drink, the cost of the sides – £3.50 for wedges and £5 for the gnocchi seems a little steep.

Burger rating – 4/5 – I considered knocking it down a half point more for the low ‘value’ score, but the truth is, it’s a nice place to sit and it’s a burger I’d have again, so kudos to you, Beef & Brew.

The deets

Head left out of Kentish Town tube, and it’s across the road, a few tens of metres away. You can’t miss it. We didn’t book (it was a Monday night) but it’s probably a good idea to do so, via the website or on 020 7998 1511.

Bodean’s BBQ, 10 Poland Street, Soho

Competent, if unexceptional, burger

Burger source

Privately held Bodean’s was founded by Canadian Andre Blais, who, mysteriously, had a dream of bringing Kansas city style BBQ to London. An obvious dream for a Canadian, some might say, whilst others wonder what that’s all aboot, eh? Regardless, the arrival of Bodean’s at its first site on Poland Street in 2002 was a watershed moment for American food in London, one that I remember rejoicing in at the time. It’s where I was introduced to pulled pork, ribs and burnt ends in a more significant way, and its chipotle buttered steak was something I was very fond of. Whilst I’ve not always had a consistent experience there in the fifteen years since it launched, I was curious as to what its burger had to offer. And the burger’s description isn’t overly complicated: “100% Prime Beef Burger Topped with Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onions and Pickles on a Toasted Sesame Seed Bun. Served with Fries.”

Alrighty then.

The order

I just ordered the burger, but topped it with Monterey Jack cheese and streaky bacon.

The meat of it

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On arrival, the scale of this burger took a while to process. There’s too much salad – a thick slice of tomato and lettuce was too much for the stack, so were duly extracted and consumed (fresh, crisp, sweet). The remaining burger, an 8oz behemoth, was topped with well melted-jack, slightly underdone bacon for my taste (chewy, not crispy) and crisp red onions and pickles. The sesame bun is not a brioche, a novelty these days, and the sauces need to be applied yourself – a basket of BBQ sauces, ketchup and mustard adorns every table.

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The cross section shot shows a slightly over medium finish (they wouldn’t do it medium rare for me). As such, the burger’s a little dry and overpacked for my liking, but extremely well seasoned, which leads to umami-filled mouthfuls. Sauceless, this burger is too dry and too salty – in the absence of a relish, some appropriately applied hickory-smoked BBQ sauce took the edge off it. Ironically, a brioche would have actually served a purpose here. But the sauce wasn’t bad and balanced the burger out. The cheese and bacon may have been what took the saltiness over the edge, though despite being slightly chewy the latter was at least a welcome contrast to the meat and cheese.

The fries looked crisp but were underseasoned and undercooked, which was a bit disappointing. That was it for sides for me. To drink, I had a Maple Syrup old fashioned, which they made with Jim Beam.

I really don’t like Jim Beam. It’s a sorry excuse for a bourbon.

On balance, the overall experience was fine, if somewhat unremarkable. I think the next time I go to a smokehouse, I’ll have to accept the possibility that the ribs and the pulled pork is what I should be going for.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3.5/5 – not a bad bun, but not well suited to the burger. Possibly my fault for salty toppings
Build – 3.5/5 – too big! No sauce!
Burger – 3.5/5 – been better with a coarser grind, looser pack and slightly smaller patty
Taste –  3.5/5 – fine, not extraordinary
Sides – 2/5 – fries were unexciting
Value – 2.5/5 – £15 for burger, two toppings and fries. Honest gives you a better version of the same thing for £10.95.

Burger rating – 3/5 – don’t go to Bodean’s for the burger – get the ribs.

The deets

Poland Street, but in seven other spots across London.  Locations via the website. Drink at the Blind Pig and go singing at Lucky Voice after, though, it’s probably my favourite bit of street in Soho!

Byron Waterloo, 41-45 The Cut, Southwark

Byron started the gourmet burger revolution for me. Does it live up to my memory of it?

Burger source

Byron was founded by Tom Byng, who, according to its website, spent many a night in the US eating burgers he couldn’t find in the London of 2007… and so he set up. In my mind, this man, and this chain (now owned by a private equity firm with upwards of 60 locations Nationwide) kick-started the burger renaissance London is currently undergoing and showed GBK – then the only ones with a claim to the gourmet burger – that it had no idea what it was doing.*  In my memory, their ‘pure cuts of British beef’ were always cooked to a perfect medium, delivered with super-melty cheese in a soft brioche, and were just plain delicious. They even have their own cheese for extra meltiness – Freddar, a cheddar hybrid named after one of their chefs!

 

*mind you, I haven’t been to a GBK in years!

The order

We were there for a work related do, so shared a variety of starters (buffalo wings, nuggets served with BBQ sauce and nachos topped with sour cream, salsa, guac and melted cheese) and sides (fries, courgette fries). For my burger, I went for the B-Rex, medium rare (more common now than I thought it was in London!) – which is a bacon cheese burger with jalapenos, pickles, onion rings, BBQ sauce and mayonnaise. What’s there not to love?

The meat of it

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The burger looked perfect. I mean, look at it! A perfect stack, layered up as you’d expect it. The patty looked a bit tooperfect, holding together in a slightly suspicious way and I feared it might have been overcooked…

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…but look at that cross section! A perfect medium rare! Strong melt to the cheese, brioche holding up admirably against the sauces and one would assume burger juice.

Then a bite. The meat’s slightly underseasoned, or at least struggling to cope with the sweetness of BBQ sauce, onion and brioche. It’s also slightly low on the fat ratio (I’d guess an 80/20 lean/fat at best), which means it’s not as juicy as you’d hope. The grind is good, though, the texture melt-in-your-mouth perfect, the cheese glorious, the japalenos and pickles a sweet, crisp counterpoint to the crunchy onion ring. The bacon gets somewhat lost in all of this, but it’s adding salt to the hot sweet mess of this burger, so isn’t without purpose. The jalapenos are reasonably non-descript, adding the faintest hint of heat. Unfortunately… whilst all these elements are coming together well, the overall balance of this burger is a bit off – too much sweetness, not enough umami. Add to this the fact that the beef is just fine – unexceptional if good quality ground beef – and there’s no longer any specialness about this Byron burger. A serviceable output of a decent chain… but little to write home about.

As to the sides…

  • The wings are good. On the mild side of standard buffalo, suspect either they weren’t using Frank’s hot sauce but some poor imitator, or overdid the butter. Crisp and tender, though, and not bad for London.
  • The fries were fine – a small portion for the money (£3 for a portion about the same size as a small fries at McD’s), crisp french-fry style, well-seasoned.
  • The courgette fries are great – sweet, crispy and salty all in one go. Don’t even pretend they’re healthy, but they are delicious!
  • The chicken nuggets and nachos – meh. Chain fayre, nothing exceptional, except for the BBQ sauce which seems eccentric and different to standard, mostly in a good way.

Drinks-wise I was having Woodford reserve off its decent bourbon list. Burgers and bourbon – a killer combination. Or you can have craft beer if you prefer…

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 4.5/5
Burger – 3.5/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 4/5 – courgette fries bump it up half a point
Value – 3.5/5 – £9, £3 sides, expensive drinks… a little overpriced for standard fayre.

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – it’s either gone downhill to ‘average’ or I’ve been spoiled by everything else that’s cropped up since 2007!

The deets

Everywhere in London (and some beyond), but this particular one was on the Cut, which runs from Southwark to Waterloo. Nearer the Southwark end. Find your own here.

Marks Bar @ Hixter Bankside, Great Guildford Street, London SE1

Sumptuous, meaty glory

Burger source

The “rib steak” burger (it’s rib-eye cut, according to Wikipedia, unless Mr Hix puts ground up bone in there) and fries announces itself with little ceremony on the menu. Mark Hix’s reputation as a chef and restaurateur promised an ‘upscale’ experience, but I really didn’t know what to expect.

The order

So, eating with the effervescent Mr Sullivan is an experience as, whilst we were offered blue cheese and bacon as toppings, once he established that customisation was possible, a world of opportunity was unlocked. Namely; the option of mushrooms and of regular cheddar. I went for the latter and bacon, and we ordered some sides to top up the table – onion rings, chicken popcorn and chicken skins. Just to see! And of course the burger came with fries. As a surprising bonus, our waiter allowed us to order the burgers medium rare (often disallowed in London, presumably for food safety reasons), so that was exciting.

The meat of it

So this burger doesn’t look that special on arrival. I mean, it looked good, but not extraordinary.

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A single slice of back bacon (surprising in itself – usually streaky’s the choice for burgers) resting on well melted cheese, resting on the 6oz patty… whilst all veg and burger sauce lies deconstructed around it… some assembly required. In some ways I can understand this – I immediately dispensed with the tomato, it has no place in my burgers – whilst Craig left the red onion to one side, a judgement call I understand but don’t agree with.

Anyway, some light assembly later, tomato-based burger relish, onion and pickles manually inserted and bun topped, I went for the cross section.

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Wow. Look at that pinkness. The meat was practically melting just after the cut. The bun – which looked somewhat dry from a distance – is necessarily sturdy to withstand the juicyness of the meat.

And then the taste. Funky, meaty, juicy… melty texture… the crunch of the bacon was totally unexpected from back bacon, the crisp sweetness of the pickle a delightful contrast and even the tomato relish added to the overall gestalt. The bun withstood the onslaught of flavour and provided the necessary starchy contrast and you tasted the high quality beef with every mouthful as there was clearly some restraint in the burger’s seasoning – no doubt for this very reason. This is one of the best burgers in London, without a shadow of a doubt.

The sides – well, the fries were outstanding if conventional french fries. The dipping sauces – some kind of parsley aioli, a rich curry sauce and ketchup – helped cut the edge of the generous salting they’d had. The chicken skins – like ‘healthy’ pork scratchings, provided a delightful savoury crunch. The onion rings were a revelation; seasoned, crispy, spicy, flecked with pepper and running spicy and sweet as the seasonings contrasted with the natural flavour of the onion. The only disappointment is that “chicken popcorn” was, in fact, chicken flavoured popcorn… not popcorn-shaped chicken, as we’d mistakenly assumed. I didn’t even try it in protest at my own folly.

Oh and Craig and The Bond wanted mushrooms… they were special; garlicky, buttery, sweet and savoury.

Drinks wise – was mostly consuming Hixter’s Old Fashioneds. They were outstanding, and served with a hefty single block of ice to help them linger.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste –  5/5
Sides – 4.5/5
Value – 4/5 – £14.95 for the burger and fries, £10 for three sides  for the burger plus a share of delivery.  So it’s not a cheap burger.

Burger rating – 5/5 – the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts at Hixter. This is a very special burger indeed.

The deets

Marks Bar is in the basement of Hixter Bankside, tucked away on Great Guildford street just by Southwark Street. Lovely ambiance and home to a rather eccentric bar billiards game we utterly failed to understand despite quite clear instructions on how to play. Find it here.

Roast to Go, Borough Market, London

Amazing crust, juicy middle, delicious burger sauce. Simple burger well executed.

Burger source

The takeaway service of the very famous Borough Market institution, Roast, has a lot to live up to. I’ve not heard anyone experience Roast without singing its praises, though I’m yet to sample its wares in person… I will need to add it to the list. But, thanks to Uber Eats, it was an extremely efficient delivery option for a work burger lunch. The menu’s extremely limited, but Roast’s conceit is fine meat, finely prepared, finely cooked.

The order

The ‘Borough burger’ features a 30% fat 6oz meat patty, melted cheese, thick sliced pickle, tomato, lettuce and red onion on a semi-brioche bun.

The meat of it

Even delivered, this is a solid burger. Robust, yet somehow soft and inviting – a set of adjectives that only really makes sense when you’ve spent as much time thinking about burgers as I have.

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And on first bite – wow. A crisp shell on the patty gives way to a juicy, perfectly medium patty; still inviting after the journey over on the bike, but not threatening the bun at all with dripping – this is not a messy burger.

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The seasoning is savoury and inviting, the pickle sharp, sweet and a marvellous textural contrast. The salad accoutrements are a perfect, fresh complement to the savoury sensation the rest of the burger, and the semi-brioche adds a pliant hint of sweetness, not overwhelming, but holding the stack together perfectly. The burger sauce, largely mayonnaise, though clearly heavily accentuated, was sweet/salty perfection. It took an act of will not to eat this faster.

My only criticism – and it is hunting for flaws – is that the burger could possibly have been even juicier. But I suspect this is a factor of it being a takeaway rather than a flaw in the preparation.

I spotted that the recipe for this burger was in the wild as part of the promo for the Roast cookbook, so try to make it at home if you’re so inclined.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 4.5/5
Taste –  4.5/5
Sides – n/a
Value – 4.5/5 – £8.50  for the burger plus a share of delivery.

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – there’s really very little to fault in this marvellous burger specimen. I want to have it again in the restaurant!

The deets

Roast 2 Go is available via Uber Eats and Deliveroo in SE1, or pop down to Borough Market – The Floral Hall, Stoney Street,  London SE1 1TL.

All Star Lanes, Brick Lane, London

An underwhelming, overpriced burger

Burger source

The premise of the All Star Lanes experience is high-end bowling and American food & drink. It delivers on the bowling, and of course the drink side – its bourbon and US beer selection is pretty good for London. How does it fare on the food side of things? Well, the burger section of the menu at least is reasonably extensive. Not only do “bun” options include pulled pork, sliders and hot dogs, but the main burger options are interesting and the topping options are plentiful – everything from Monterey Jack cheese and treacle-cured bacon to chargrilled lobster tail, fried buttermilk chicken, kimchikraut, duck fried egg and many more. Including (for £6), a Wagyu beef patty being swapped in for the regular one.

The burger itself involves a patty made of “6oz steak and rib cap patty”, toasted brioche, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, smoked tomato and mayo relish. So far, so good, right?

The order

I was rather excited about the food, so I went for the “King Pin” – a Classic burger with Monterey Jack and treacle cured bacon… but swapped out the regular patty for a Wagyu one! The burger came with fries… and naturally for a drink, it was an old fashioned – made with Woodford Reserve. I started with popcorn squid…

The meat of it

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The popcorn squid was served in an American style Chinese takeaway box with chopsticks and some tangy mayo. It was deep fried, and – with a squeeze of lemon and the mayo – utterly delicious. Crisp and tasty.

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The burger looked and smelled amazing – the classic funk of dry-aged Wagyu on a perfect stack; crisp lettuce, sweet tomato, perfectly melty jack on the patty and topped with stiff bacon with the promise of crisp crunch. Even the brioche was perfect.

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But the cross section began to reveal some flaws. The burger was overcooked -well done instead of the medium necessary for a juicy mouthfeel. The meat was overpacked – and, on tasting, slightly chewy in texture. It was also – to my palate – slightly underseasoned, and the Jack was mild to the point of flavourlessness. The bacon was chewy rather than crispy, and the relish and bun together were too sweet – a mustard mayo or garlic aioli would have been a better contrast.  Don’t get me wrong, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts (thankfully) and the burger was fine on the whole. But it was not worth the premium cost (£18!), nor one of the better examples of a gourmet burger in London.

The fries were straight out disappointing – cold at point of delivery, slightly underfried. Well-seasoned, and good quality potato, but not really worth the eating. They were mostly abandoned, a rarity for me.

To be fair – we were a party of 18 people , so it’s possible it was just too much to handle, and the food is better at its best.

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The drink… whilst my main tipple for the evening was a very fine, unfussy Old Fashioned – whilst we ate, as we were having a set meal – I had a rather more eccentric cocktail with the meal. The “Apple-ation” – “Jack Daniel’s No.7, Jack Daniel’s Honey, Maraschino liqueur, honey, apple juice and orange bitters. Served smoked for a BBQ taste.” This taught me a number of things – 1) I’m unimpressed by drinks turning up in a smoking jar, ready for self assembly, 2) Jack Daniel’s honey is horrific 3) this cocktail shouldn’t be drunk by anyone. It really tasted *bad*.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 4.5/5
Burger – 2.5/5
Taste –  3/5
Sides – 3.5/5 – boosted by squid, hit by fries
Value – 2/5 – £18  for the burger and fries! – plus the squid! Too much money.

Burger rating – 2.5/5 – for what sounded and looked like such a GREAT burger, I’m sadly not in a hurry to sample another All Star Lanes burger. Don’t get me wrong – I probably will, especially if I go as part of a smaller group – but it was disappointing to say the least.

The deets

There are All Star Lanes around London and in Manchester now too… this one was at 95 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL, or on 020 7426 9200 if you prefer that sort of thing. Definitely book for bowling.

Kua Aina, Carnaby Street, London

Juicy, lava-stone grilled deliciousness.

Burger source

“Legendary lava-grilled juicy hand-pressed 100% premium beef burgers since 1975,” and “a favourite of President Barack Obama.” They literally had to say no more, but they did:

“Our burgers are 100% beef, fresh from our butcher in Devon, made to our recipe from premium cuts of rib and hand-pressed in two sizes.  They contain no fillers, rusk or preservatives. We season our burgers and sandwich fillings with our homemade marinades and seasonings and cook everything to your order on our hot lava grills. Our semi-brioche seeded buns and artisan breads are freshly baked for us by a Michelin-starred chef seven days a week.”

And the story is fascinating: “Kua ‘Aina, or “Koo-a eye-na”, means “back country”, but is more often used to describe a country bumpkin in Hawaii. For native Hawaiians it can mean those who actively live Hawaiian culture and keep the spirit of the land alive.”

I was excited, and glad that it’s round the corner from Tom & Chris’ office, which made it convenient for a lunchtime burger.

The order

There was a lot on offer; I went for a near-standard cheese and bacon burger, unusual in that it  was served with a thick slice of grilled onion alongside the lettuce, tomato, burger, cheese and mayo, served on a seeded demi-brioche roll. It was offered in 1/3rd and 1/2 lb sizes; I went for the former – it was lunchtime – with a side of fries. In retrospect (next time!) I will try the huli-huli burger – a spice blend that sounded interesting and perhaps a little more distinctive (Tom had the huli-huli chicken sandwich.)

I was asked how I wanted it, and duly informed they weren’t allowed to serve it less than medium (I opt for medium rare where legal to do so!).

The meat of it

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Before I get into the food – the atmosphere in this place was fantastic. It helped that it was a warm day but there was an instant ‘tropical-ness’ (tropicality?) to the place; the staff seemed well-trained in whatever this version of the Hawaiian way looks like (open, friendly, engaging), the aromas from the lava-stone grill were amazing and the décor and vibe was ludicrously chilled for a spot 3 minutes’ walk from Oxford street in Central London. We didn’t even have to wait for a table! I hope that doesn’t bode poorly for the owners, but it was good for us.

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The food arrived promptly enough; the brioche clearly serves both the 1/3rd lb and the 1/2 lb burger and so was somewhat oversized for the smaller patty; however the flavour balance was excellent. A well-seasoned, coarse ground, medium packed patty was cooked perfectly to medium.

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The melt-on cheese added savoury gooeyness contasted marvelously with thick, slightly chewy, slightly crisp streaky bacon. The tomato, I ate separately (believing firmly it has no place in a burger).  The onion added a charred, satisfying crunch, the saltyness of the burger/cheese/bacon combo was countered by the semi-sweetness of the bun and the onion, the overall effect was really good. Splitting hairs – as I find myself having to – the slightly oversized bun wasn’t right for the smaller patty and so the ratio was just a tiny bit off. But that wouldn’t stop me from ordering it again.

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The fries were of the thin-cut, skin-on variety, a relative of those you might find in McDonald’s on its best day – paler than I’d expect but crisp and well-seasoned (perhaps even slightly over-seasoned, but again – hairsplitting). The portion was slightly small for the price, though.

Just had a water (lunchtime, working day, natch) – but would like to go back to try the hard shakes at some stage!

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste –  4.5/5
Sides – 4/5
Value – 4/5 – £14  for the burger and sides plus service – which would be fine if the side wasn’t so teeny. Not that you needed more… but it should perhaps have cost less!

Burger rating – 4.5/5 – really a wonderful experience;  delightful atmosphere, lovely food, great service, reasonably priced. If I’d manned up and ordered the 1/2 lb burger, doubtless it would have been perfect.

The deets

If you’re not going to Hawaii, you can find Kua Aina on Goodge Street and Carnaby Street. Details here.

25 degrees, 7000 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

 

Damp. Sloppy. Messy. But more good than bad in his Hollywood burger…

Burger source

Here’s the name, explaining the point of difference for the burger chefs at 25 degrees:

“Named after the precise temperature difference between a raw and well-done hamburger, 25 Degrees introduces a sophisticated twist on the traditional American burger bar. At 25 Degrees, we not only emphasize the importance of quality hamburgers, but we also serve up an unrivaled experience- complete with chic décor, playful servers and a stream of funky tunes.”

The beef burger meat is apparently ground sirloin, though turkey, tuna and veggie burgers were also on offer alongside a variety of other bits of SoCal Americana, including Grilled Cheese and Kale salads.

The order

There are only four ‘pre-assembled’ beef burgers on the menu – names one through four – though you can have any combination of toppings you want custom assembled.

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That is one big burger

I went for number 1 – gorgonzola cheese, thousand island sauce, grilled onions and crispy bacon, as it was the closest to my more or less reviewer’s standard of a bacon cheeseburger, and I figured it’d give an authentic experience of how the chefs here like to see their burgers assembled. I was asked how I wanted it done, and opted for medium rare as that seems to be the going standard in this part of the world.

The meat of it

The 8oz behemoth makes an impression. This is a BIG BURGER. It has to be coaxed out of the wrapping, and then it flopped onto the plate, trailing juice and thousand island sauce that had come away with moisture from the resting meat. The bottom half of the brioche bun was completely sodden and the burger was practically unhandlable. The thousand island sauce also made the burgery slippery, and it fought for freedom as I sliced it in half.

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Juicy

The cross section cut showed the problem. Whilst the loosely packed, coarse ground patty (with what must have been at least a 25% fat ratio) had been cooked to perfection, the meat/bread ratio was far off sensible. And the saucey toppings took things further out of control; a surfeit of gorgonzola cheese bled onto the plate and grilled onions were flying out with every bite. The bacon, not as generously delivered as the onions or cheese, fails to deliver textural contrast throughout the burger – it just doesn’t have enough coverage. And the arugula (rocket for the uninitiated) adds very little to the overall impact of the burger.

That said, the burger taste itself was not bad – the meat was well seasoned and had a dry-aged funkiness to it that only high quality meat does. The bacon – when it was present – added a delicious salty crunch. The bun and onions contributed a sweetish undertone to what would otherwise have been a very salty burger. The burger’s moistness played really well for mouthfeel. It would just have been better a couple of ounces lighter and the toppings could have been better thought through.

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Magic onion rings, oh yeah.

As for the sides… we ordered a half-n-half onion-ring / fries combo for $7.50. The onion rings were extraordinary. Well seasoned with a light heat, the first bite delivered a wonderful savory crunch… soon followed by a sweet aftertaste as you chewed the onion. The fries were just OK – rosemary and salt on thin cut McDonald’s style fried that weren’t all as fully cooked as they should have been.

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Chipotle sauce vs. Spicy Aioli – spot the difference

$2 bought a selection of sauces; we chose BBQ (American BBQ is sweeter than its British counterpart, and this lacked any other personality to speak of), Chipotle and spicy Aioli.  We honestly couldn’t tell the last two apart, both tasted like mildly spicy mayonnaise. But they were good.

FYI – my brother had a grilled cheese  ((over-thick brad and under-melted cheese) and soup, and his wife had a salad. We did a good amount of sharing to get through it all.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3/5
Build – 3/5
Burger – 3.5/5
Taste –  4/5
Sides – 4/5
Value – 3/5 – $17 for a burger with no fries is excessive, even for the standards of the West Coast..

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – Like many here, this burger is more than the sum of its parts.

The deets

This restaurant is in the base of the Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. You can’t miss it -we walked in on a busy Saturday afternoon and got a booth to ourselves.

Wesburger N’ More, Mission Street, San Francisco

 

An outstanding burger; hefty and delicious.

Burger source

Wesburger was tipped as one of the better burgers in SFO, and whilst they make little fuss about the origins of its burger meat, it’s all clearly of the highest order and promoted under the marketing tagline “because burgers are fun.” I literally couldn’t agree more.

The destination following a drinks evening with my company’s US team; this place was a treat.

The order

We encountered Ramon as we walked in and he recommended the ‘Hot Wes’ to us, a 6oz patty topped with jalapenos, onion rings and queso. I naturally added bacon. Was medium rare ok? Hells yeah!

Because I was feeling greedy post a stop off at Branch and Bourbon, I threw in an order for a couple of rounds of tater tots and some fried chicken. A colleague wanted the Mac & Cheese so that was added to the pile too.

We also popped in to the Den next door (‘the smallest bar in SFO’) and got some ‘punch’ (Vodka, coconut, and stuff on this occasion).

The meat of it

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The burger was delicious. Whilst it looks like a hot mess, it held really well; the bun slipped on top and the queso helped it together. The meat was course ground, loosely packed and perfectly pink. The queso bound the onion rings and bacon into the burger and the bun held up against the juices admirably. The salty hit was contrasted with sweet and crunchy onion rings and a slightly sweet bun, all complimented by the tart crispness and light spice of the pickled jalapeno. I’d say this is possibly one of the best burgers I’ve ever had – up there with Dip & Flip and Bleecker Street (though less refined, more raw than either – and that’s not a bad thing). Such a shame it’s such a long way from home!

The sides: the tater tots were crisp and savory on the outside, squidgy in the middle. Delicious with a little sriracha, and the portion served with cheese was outstanding. The fried chicken was billed as ‘extra crispy’ and it didn’t disappoint, but was a little dry (the order got confused and it arrived plain in a bun instead of with sides – I forgot to fuss). I tried a little of the Mac & Cheese and whilst I’m generally not a fan, this is clearly a whole order of magnitude better than the varieties I’ve sampled across the Atlantic.

The punch was fine; an sweet side to complement a salt-tastic feast.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  5/5
Build – 4.5/5
Burger – 5/5
Taste –  5/5
Sides – 5/5
Value – 4.5/5 – $40 per head including drinks and slightly too many sides, in San Francisco, is actually pretty amazing.

Burger rating – 5/5 – This really is one of the best burgers I’ve ever had; the service was excellent, and there was little to fault. I’d head back in a heartbeat, if only it didn’t require a transatlantic flight.

The deets

2240 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-745-9371. Find them at http://www.wesburgernmore.com/, or, y’know, just get an Uber.