Black Bear Burger, Exmouth Market, London

Every bit worth the hype

Burger source 

It’s a lovely start-up story – from flipping burgers at the weekend to multiple restaurants and a pop-up across London, Black Bear’s popularity has been blooming over the last couple of years. My attention was drawn to it, because I’m either trendy or just a sucker for good marketing (depending on how you look at it), as I’ve noticed a wave of Tik Tok reviews for the joint, including a very complimentary one from Jon the Food Don.

Anyway, lengthy origin story on their website. Some excerpts focussed on the burgers themselves:

EACH DAY OUR BAKERY DELIVERS OUR BESPOKE BUNS FRESH IN THE MORNING AND OUR BUTCHER MAKES OUR BURGERS TO OUR SPEC. ASIDE FROM THAT, WE MAKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN HOUSE FRESH EVERY DAY.

AT BLACK BEAR BURGER WE ARE COMMITTED TO USING HIGH WELFARE, HIGH QUALITY BRITISH MEAT AND BELIEVE THIS IS WHAT MAKES OUR BURGERS TASTE SO SPECIAL. STEW’S FAMILY RUN A SMALL BEEF FARM IN DEVON AND HE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT ANIMAL WELFARE; HOW ANIMALS ARE LOOKED AFTER AND PREPARED IS SO IMPORTANT AND THIS MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE WITH HOW YOUR MEAT TASTES! THIS IS WHY WE SOURCE OUR MEAT FROM OUR AWARD WINNING BUTCHER WHO HAS THE SAME ETHOS AS US.

Black Bear website

Ok then.

The order 

Right, I went for the Miso burger (dry aged beef, cheese, smoked bacon, miso honey butter mayo, onions) and fries (hand cut, skin on). I also shared some brisket spring rolls (fried wonton with 12 hr brisket, cheese, & smoked bacon, with garlic mayo and pickles) and wings with bourbon BBQ & maple sauce. A *lot* of food, accompanied by a Maple [Syrup] Old Fashioned.

The meat of it 

Well, it’s a pretty thing, isn’t it? toasted bun, love the sesame seeds, glorious melt on the cheese, crisp bacon peeking out the edges, miso mayo coating generous but not ridiculous. How does it weigh up in cross section?

Well, it’s messy. The mayo splurges over everything, but the texture is fab, the bun soft but sturdy, the meat tender and not overly greasy despite what must be an (un)healthy fat/lean ratio.

First taste: amazing umami – crisp, crunchy bacon adds brilliant texture; the meat, coarse ground, loose packed and perfectly cooked, is juicy and rich, with the mildest dry-age funk adding complexity but without undue fuss. The miso mayo adds an edgey depth of flavour, boosting the umami even further, and the soft bun holds it all together beautifully. Mildest of criticisms; the bun: meat ratio was a little high in the bun’s favour but only marginally, and the crust on the burger was ever so slightly soft – a harder sear, or a shorter steam to melt the cheese perhaps? Don’t know. But really very little to fault; this is a burger you can inhale if you’re not careful – I had to pace myself and savour it.

As to the sides…

The fries were decent; not universally crisp, but well seasoned and full of potato flavour. The brisket spring roll tasted authentically of a cheeseburger but – despite being a savoury fiend in general – I thought it was overpowering. Too much salt – cheese, brisket, and bacon – in a crispy, salty shell, with only mayo and pickles to temper it? There’s a very credible cheeseburger flavour in there which I think I’d have mellowed out with a burger relish or something else to cut the salt just a smidge. Texture is spot on – crisp shell, melty, tender meat, gooey cheese (though I admit – other than the salt impact, I didn’t feel the crunch of the bacon with this one). The home made pickles were lush – sweet, sour and crisp. The wings – I thought were disappointing, though Simon enjoyed them – they were over fried and a little burnt around the edges, dark brown instead of a golden colour, and the BBQ sauce was a bit thin and sickly for my liking.

We were given a teeny tiny soft serve scoop to finish the meal, which was a lovely touch, and it was a welcome relief from the salt bomb of the evening.

Monkey finger rating  

Bun –  4.5/5
Build – 5/5 
Burger – 5/5 
Taste –  5/5  
Sides – 4/5 – 2.5 for the wings. Everything else was good!   
Value – 4/5 – It was pricey – £14.50 for burger and fries, then more for the sides, but so delicious  

Burger rating – 5/5 – one of the best I’ve had in London 

The deets 

Multiple locations, in Brixton, Shoreditch Box Park, Exmouth Market, Canary Wharf etc., – find your nearest here. Walking back from Exmouth Market to Farringdon, check out the views, man. Love London in the Summertime.