Refuel @ Soho Hotel, Soho, London

Tasty but messy beef and chicken burgers

Burger source

A seasonal special, the Soho Hotel has let its chefs go wild and create their burgery delights for the Summer. Only available until 30th September! Here’s the blurb:

This August, the talented chefs at Refuel Bar & Restaurant have each created their own ultimate burger inspired by flavours from around the world.

Try Renaldo’s ‘Greek Island Paradise Burger’, a lamb burger with rosemary, lemon, oregano, feta, tomato and grilled onion with pickle and cucumber tzatziki or ‘Shannon’s Dirty Burger’, a twist on the classic created with a double beef patty, Applewood smoked cheese, golden onions, smoked bacon and topped with a blue cheese dip.  Each of the specially created summer burgers are paired with a refreshing Asahi beer.

More at the website.

We were curious and needed a new burger place to try in Soho, so thought, why not?

The order

Jimjamjebobo and I shared SAM’S EIFFEL TOWER BURGER (Buttermilk chicken, streaky bacon, caramelised onion with smoked paprika mayonnaise and crispy onion rings) and SHANNON’S DIRTY BURGER

(Double beef patty, Applewood smoked cheese, golden onions, smoked bacon, blue cheese dip). Sides of truffle Parmesan polenta chips, french fries and ‘hand cut chips’ were shared. Asahi came bundled with the burger.

The meat of it

To each burger in turn, then the sides.

Shannon, let’s talk.

I mean, what do you even call this stack? The double burgers are SIDE BY SIDe instead of on top of each other, bottoming (tomato, salad) cause the burger to slide around further, the toppings are literally falling out the side – it’s presentationally a mess. But… that bacon, onion, melty cheese, fresh salad – all looks good. What lies within?

A reasonably coarse grind but very little pink (oddly, Jimbo’s half looked better). It’s still sliding all over the place but we’re ready to taste now…

And gosh, it comes together. The meat is uncomplex but well seasoned and with a good crust. The moisture from the sweet bun, the cheese and the fresh salad makes up for the slightly overcooked burger. The cheese is extremely gooey and adds a lovely mouthfeel. The bacon is ultra-crisp streaky and adds a delightful crunch to each bite. Shannon, it may have looked a mess and been difficult to eat (at one point, I just flung the tomato out), but it was delicious. That said, I could do nothing with the blue cheese sauce. It was too thick to dip, too solid to spread, and it added nothing to the burger. It came on the side and was left on the side.

Now, for Sam’s turn.

In contrast, Sam’s stack is rather more elegant. Look at that cheese! Look at that bacon! Plated beautifully, well done. Look at that crisp breaded chicken, topped with crispy bacon… mmm…

So, to the tasting:

The chicken has a crisp, if somewhat uninspired breading – buttermilk chicken in my head has associations of the Deep South of America, but instead this is (as the name would suggest) a rather more elegant, continental breading. The meat is unbelievably moist, perfectly cooked. The cheese is a delight, gooey and luscious, binding the flavours rather beautifully. The bacon is hard to detect; it’s sparse and can’t compete with the other flavours, so was probably surplus to requirements. The burger did need the paprika mayonnaise that came on the side (it was just a bit too much salt without it) but I found that rather strong flavoured and so went without. Really a very credible effort.

As to the sides… A few to mention.

The coleslaw – which came with the burgers – was a bit too mayo-heavy for me and didn’t really add to the experience.

The pickle (aka Pickle Rick, because it was enormous and we like Rick and Morty): was great; fresh, crisp, and, well, big. Eaten on the side, I would have preferred pickle slices in the Dirty burger, I think. But I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The polenta fries… were grim. But that’s because I don’t like polenta fries. They were crisp, the Parmesan topping added a salty tang, but I don’t like truffle and I don’t like polenta. They are just a poor imitation of a thick cut chip and they should stop making them.

The regular fries… were just ok. Well seasoned but not universally crisp, and some of them were a little overcooked.

The hand cut fries… were too significant fractions of a potato for me to enjoy. Hand cut just a little bit thinner next time, I didn’t want roast potato size wedges with a burger then, and I never will.

And last, but definitely not least – the onion rings. Possibly the best onion rings I’ve ever had. A thick round of sweet onion encased in a crisp, extremely well seasoned batter. A lovely contrast of freshness and decadence. It came with Sam’s Eiffel Tower burger, so wasn’t an orderable side, but it should be.

Monkey finger rating

To each in turn…

Shannon:

Bun – 4/5
Build – 1/5
Burger – 3/5
Taste – 4/5

And Sam:

Bun – 4/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 4/5
Taste – 4/5

Sides – 3.5/5 – even the delightful onion rings can’t redeem the other chips
Value – 3.5/5 – £22.50 for burger, sides, and an Asahi.

Burger rating – 4/5 – overall, really a good experience. The Soho Hotel is a nice place to eat, there was a good vibe (even on a Tuesday), the service was great and the burgers were interesting. Try it out whilst the offer is on, and you will walk away happy and (very) full.

The deets

Just off Dean Street in Soho, look for Richmond Mews. You can book online.

Patty & Bun, Old Compton Street, Soho

Huge, tasty, juicy burger; a little rare and a lot caramelised oniony. Eccentric sides.

Burger source:

Another one from the stable of ‘pop-up done good’, founder and chef Joe Grossman reportedly fell in love with the burger scene in NYC and, when he met business partner Mark Jankel and started the P&B story over here, decided he wanted to build on the craze here. More on the origins of P&B here. The hype for P&B I heard was stupendous, possibly second only to how people rave about Honest Burger, so I was both curious and excited as my Burger Crew friends and I gathered for a semi-spontaneous mid-week visit.

The order

I went for the ‘Smokey Robinson’ – largely by mistake and, for my tastebuds – it did prove to be something of an error. It’s loaded with ‘mounds’ of caremelised onions – which I love – but seriously, MOUNDS.

P&B burger

They are not exaggerating. We also had the much-vaunted chicken-skin fries, confit chicken wings (“Winger winger chicken dinner”), Rosemary fries, and some rather eccentric chicken thighs – possibly the ‘Thunder thighs’ – which seem different in my memory from those on the current menu at the Soho branch, but I suspect my memory is playing tricks. Also confit’d I think, and coated with a strong flavoured marinade, apparently Urfa chilli.

The meat of it:

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The meat is coarsely ground, loosely packed and cooked very medium – verging on rare. So much so there was almost that smell of raw meat as you bit into it. A bit too rare for my liking, to be honest. But it is an immense burger – easily 8 oz of meat and fat that’s otherwise well seasoned and luscious for anyone whose tastebuds are that way inclined. The caramelised onions, for me, overpowered the gentle juiciness of the beef; the sweetness took over and I was waiting for a salty bite to recover it. I should have had the Ari Gold burger with bacon, I think, for my tastebuds, but if you like a sweeter burger, it’s a good choice. The demi-brioche bun really struggled under the weight and juiciness of the meat (unlike TomTom Mess Hall, these guys have an excellent meat/fat ratio) and added further (unnecessary to my mind) sweetness to the experience. That said, the overall impact wasn’t bad at all – just not to my slightly more savoury tastes. A bad choice on my part.

P&B fries.jpg

The chicken skin fries were an interesting novelty and reminded me of the Orange Walkers’ Crisps packets from the mid-90s (I know you can still get them, but… who does?). Nothing extraordinary but well fried, crisp, and a good counterpoint to the burger; despite doubtless being natural flavouring, the flavour can’t help but feel slightly artificial as your only other frame of reference is a 60p bag of crisps! The confit nature of both the thighs and the wings added a satisfying crunch but, for me the flavours were too strong – you could barely taste the chicken for the marinade. The fact that the sauce on the wings was cloyingly sweet (and I was having a sweet burger!) and the sourness of the chilli of the thighs was slightly odd (I guessed the spice was tamarind before double checking the menu). On their own, I can understand why everyone raves about the Rosemary fries; but in the context of this mess of a tasting meal, they were lost. Next time; Ari Gold burger with bacon, Rosemary fries, and I’m done.

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I also had a very delicious cocktail – the Would I Lychee You (Kudos, Bob’s Burgers) – which was refreshingly sweet and punchy. And this time, sweet was what I wanted.

Monkey finger rating

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

Burger rating – 4/5 – I blame my poor taste experience entirely on my own error of judgement in ordering the wrong burger. I think everything about P&B is good that should be, even if I haven’t acquired a taste for the more eccentric sides yet.

The deets

P&B is seemingly everywhere, with branches in Liverpool Street, Old Compton Street, James’ Street and beyond. Check out the list of locations here for your most convenient stopover.

Bonus pic with the decor:

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