Harrild & Sons, Farringdon, London

Good burger spoiled by overcooking

Burger source

Harrild & Sons is a bar and restaurant (really a pub that serves food and cocktails) on Farrindgon Street, sometimes known as the ‘dullest street in the Square Mile.’ It’s a lovely space with a high-end but down to earth feel, lots of exposed wood and interesting design touches, tonnes of real-ale and beer options, an extensive cocktail menu and… a burger. One that looked like it took itself seriously on the menu.

The place is named for a manufacturer of printing presses that had facilities in the area. Nice design touches signal this everywhere.

The order

The Harrild Burger, natch. The meat is from London’s famed Ginger Pig butcher, the burger itself is topped with melty Swiss cheese, bacon, relish, lettuce , red onion & served with fries – all for £13.50. I was drinking one of my favourite beers – a Kona Big Wave Hawaiian ale. On tap.

The meat of it

It looks good, doesn’t it.

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Lovely melt on the cheese. Fresh looking vegetables. Sturdy bun – not a brioche, I think, despite its shiny appearance. Or at least, not a sweetened one.

Let’s check the cross.

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Lovely coarse grind. Flecks of pink in the meat. The bun is holding up, the salad is bright and fresh. Crisp bacon lies temptingly on top of the melty cheese.

First taste. Crunch – excellent crus- wait, no. It’s burnt. It’s definitely burnt. Not just-a-good-char burnt, but fully-taste-the-ashes burnt. Whoops. Also a little underseasoned – although possibly the bitterness of the char is just masking the taste of salt. Either way, it’s not the best first impression.

But it grows on you. It’s not completely charred and the unburned meat contrasts well with a tangy relish, and the crisp vegetables. Some sweet pickles make and appearance and the bacon – thin, round slices of back bacon – are crisp, crunchy and delicious. The textural contrast and overall umami make up somewhat for the burnt taste. A little mayo takes the edge off and it’s enjoyable, on the whole. Such a shame – this burger was maybe a minute or two from greatness.

As to the fries:

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Crisp and grease free. But underseasoned and low on flavour – with mayo these are alright. But I actually left some, which I never do, so they were empirically proven to be less than compelling.

The beer was great. It’s Kona Big Wave. Always reliable.

Overall, not bad for a £13.50 pub burger on a busy Friday night.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  4/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste –  3.5/5
Sides – 3.5/5

Value – 4/5 – £13.50 – for burger and fries is OK in this part of town.

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – has it been less overdone, this would have been an easy 4. Lots of potential here.

The deets

Just a few minutes up Farringdon Street, you can’t miss it. And apparently you can book tables! Website here.

Hawksmoor, Knightsbridge

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.