Gordon Ramsay Plane Food Restaurant, Terminal 5, Heathrow

Confusing, overpriced, under-seasoned, overcooked burger that doesn’t deliver

Burger source

Gordon Ramsay is, by every objective measure, a spectacular chef. Restaurants around the world, TV series and Masterclasses; even a burger specialty restaurant in Vegas.  I’ve watched both his Masterclasses and really enjoyed them. And it turns out his airport restaurant has a short-rib cheeseburger on the menu, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The order

It’s the only burger on the menu; short-rib Monterey Jack cheeseburger with chimchurri mayo, served on a brioche bun with fresh salad and pickles.

The meat of it

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The burger looks good. There seems to be a good crust on the exterior, the Jack cheese is gloriously melted, the whole thing is perfectly assembled and presented on a piece of wax paper, enclosed in a toasted, shiny brioche bun.

Things aren’t dramatically wrong in cross section, either. Yes, the burger is overcooked – not a glimmer of pink anywhere – but the salad is protecting the bun, the tomato looks bright and fresh, the pickle is fragrant and the chimcurri mayo and beef fat are oozing delightfully out the edges of the burger. The beef is coarse ground and loosely packed, so I’m holding on to hope.

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On the first bite, however, things start to go wrong.

First, despite the overcooked centre, the char on the crust isn’t as crisp and satisfying as it looked. Worse, it’s under seasoned. Even with the cheese, the salty taste barely comes through.

Then, there’s the confusion of the chimchurri. It’s a sharp, fragrant flavour – made from parsley, vinegar, olive oil and other bits. It works well in butter on a steak – but in a burger, the flavours are confusing. There’s the salt of the cheese, possibly some salt from the seasoning on the burger (but this is lost), the sugary brioche, the bright crisp sweetness of the pickle and salad… well, it’s totally confounded by the sharp, tart, creaminess – ?? – of the chimchurri mayonnaise. In breadier bites, the bun was too sweet. When eaten with a mouthful of burger and mayo and salad – you have no idea what you’re tasting. It’s utterly perplexing, and not really in a good way.

The overcooked meat starts to wear, too. The burger feels relentless – and to be fair, whilst I finished it, I just very rarely leave food. That’s my bad. I should have left it. It wasn’t good. Unlike many of my burger experiences, the combination of the good individual parts somehow lessened the total experience. I can only explain this by guessing that….

  1. I was victim of an overzealous grill chef, and it would have worked better with a juicier medium patty
  2. I think more likely, someone who doesn’t have the same view of what a good burger should taste like was responsible for creating what, for me, was a Frankenstein’s monster of a burger

It’s a shame. There was definite potential. Swap out the chimchurri mayo for garlic aioli (or maybe red onion aioli – is that a thing?), get the burger cooked to medium, a tad more salt and a tad more heat on the grill – and this would have been a fine burger indeed. As it was, I had to dose the burger with over sweet ketchup to give it some kind of flavour coherence.

Sides wise, I wasn’t hungry enough (or feeling wealthy enough) to order a portion of £5 triple cooked fries to myself, so I relied on the ages-old tradition of eating leftover food off my kids plates. Zoe and Emily both had fish and “chips” – the same triple cooked fries on the menu as a side.  So I had a couple of theirs.

And whilst they’re not bad – they have the standard thick, crisp crust of anything that’s been triple cooked, and an appropriately floury centre – they’re not chips. They’re between a quarter and a sixth of a large potato EACH. So they’re alright (if you like triple cooked potatoes), but calling them chips doesn’t make sense.

Monkey finger rating

Bun –  3/5 – sweet? Not sweet enough?
Build – 5/5
Burger – 2/5
Taste –  1.5/5
Sides – 3/5 – calling them triple cooked fries is misrepresentation
Value – 1/5 – £14 for the burger, a ludicrous £4.50 if I wanted to add bacon, and £5 if I’d wanted a portion of fries. Daylight robbery, even with kids eating free.

Burger rating – 1.5/5 – everything else everyone else was eating looked like it tasted better. Mind you, mine LOOKED like it should have tasted better. Maybe the whole restaurant is an exercise in form over function? Style over substance? Chimchurri over common sense?

The deets

It’s one of the main restaurants in T5. I’m sure there are others dotted around. If you go, don’t have the burger.

The Table Café, 83 Southwark Street, London

An extremely well put together burger let down by the meat

Burger source

The Table Café is characteristic of the Southwark neighbourhood; independent, owner-managed, distinctive, generally innovative and relatively unconventional. It’s not a burger house but does feature an interesting one on the lunch menu which I thought I’d sample, given the reputed quality of the rest of the cooking. More of the backstory of the restaurant here; worth a read.

The order

I went for the Cheeseburger, red onion relish & triple cooked chips, resisting the urge to add bacon for £2.50!

The meat of it

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The burger is well if simply presented. The bun has some gloss but is not a brioche; there’s a light dripping of unidentifiable burger sauce spilling out the side, the stack looks well assembled. The triple cooked chips on the side are golden with crunch evident before you even pick one up, much less bite into it. So far, so promising.

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The cross section improves and detracts in equal measure. It’s a perfect stack; a thick layer of the red onion relish, a good melt on the cheese, a good amount of pickle, a sturdy but pliant bun, and a good ratio of everything involved. BUT you can see the meat is overdone – it’s grey in the middle and soft the whole way through, no real juiciness at all.

On tasting it – the red onion relish brings a wonderful sourness to every bite, contrasted by the crisp sweetness of the pickle and the savoury nature of the rest of it. The burger meat is well seasoned but the lack of a distinctive crust and the dryness of the overcooked meat detracts from the overall experience, despite the best efforts of the mildly spicy mustard-filled burger sauce elsewhere in the stack. The meat isn’t terrible, but it is far less special than the rest of the burger, which really pulls together very well.

The fries -whilst underseasoned – live up to the first impression. Crisp crunch, but cut thick enough for a fluffy interior despite the triple cooking. The ketchup that was on the table – a brand I didn’t recognise – was somewhat eccentric. I suspect the consequence of buying posh, locally sourced, organic stuff. I’d have preferred Heinz, tbh!

Monkey finger rating

Bun – 4/5
Build – 4/5
Burger – 2.5/5
Taste – 3/5 – let down by meat despite how good everything else is
Sides – 4/5 – good chips
Value – 3.5/5 – £12.75 for burger and fries, which is pretty reasonable for the restaraunt. The bacon was too much extra though!

Burger rating – 3.5/5 – could have been better had it been better cooked.

The deets

This is one of our locals on Southwark Street, near the Tate Modern and five minutes’ walk from Blackfriars. If I go back I’ll ask them to cook it medium explicitly and see what happens.

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.