London Burger Bash – Final Heat

Burgers.

A burger is a burger is a burger.

A few months ago I put that to the test at Camden Breweries. Daniel Young’s burger events are a fixture for a greedy bunch of London’s carnivores and on this Sunday I was getting stuck in.

Six half burgers, a selection of the finest burger vendors (a real international flavour with Shake Shack flying blokes in from other continents, a German, an Argentinian and a Spanish pork number) and a drop or two of very good ale.

I don’t write so many words as I used to so here’s a largely illustrative account of how the afternoon went.

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For once in my life I was early – too early so we decamped to the Grafton for a pre burger pint (and a quick read of the papers). A mouthwatering selection – some intriguing menus (I’m looking at you, Hamburg Hamburger). What order to eat them in?

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First up we chose pork. It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was good – the pork dangerously pink to a man raised in England in the nineties, the pepper giving it a distinctly Spanish twist. However it didn’t have that burger taste (read: beef). Evocative of a posh pub sarnie. Good work Iberico but this is a burger bash. Next!

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The second burger was the German – Oliver Trific channelling some North German flavours with both beetroot and herring salsa. Alongside those pickly numbers was a rich quail egg in lieu of cheese. I did not expect to like this burger half as much as I did – the pairings and the cooking were absolutely first class. Delicious. Wundercrump. 

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Bustling vibes, blue skies. Lots of people walking around and queuing up for bits of burgers. The host waving a megaphone around, managing proceedings. A jolly nice vibe.

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The chain burger. Relatively recent US import Shake Shack – beloved in the States and making good first impressions here – they’d flown in chefs from two different continents and unlike any of the other competitors were dishing out full burgers.

I was starting to wonder about my stomach capacity, but pushed any concerns aside as I tucked in. Unmistakably the fast food burger, the cheese and bacon, combined with the give of the potato based bun, were all a lot more easily chewable than anything else nearby. I was surprised again – this mass produced number held it’s own with the superb Trific burger I’d just eaten. The beer flavoured frozen custard they dished up alongside also – somehow – worked. Cripes. Lush.

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This one is the offering of the Burger Bear. He likes bacon. And he likes sugar. It so happens that sweetness and bacon are rather good bedfellows. When that sweetness is Burger Bear’s own black cherry bacon jam, we’re talking next level. There was a lot going on here. Thrown in perfectly pink patties, a black bun make with bamboo charcoal powder and the liveliest set of chefs – soundtracked by their own Disco – and the Black Forrest Bear was always going to be a contender. Lots of whispers around mouthfuls of food added a sense that this was going to be at least a podium finish. Delivered on the palate too. Cracking burger.

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I could feel myself getting to the ‘full’ stage at this point, and was doubting my own decision to finish my dining partners burgers from the Shack burger onwards. Nevertheless I stroll up to Zoilo for one of their Argentinian jobs. Talk had been about how rare they were churning their burgers out, and the centre certainly had a near-tartare consistency. Little to fault with it but not in the league of the three burgers before it.

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The burger I had chosen to leave until last was a burger I’d enjoyed not more than a weak previously. The superlative street food collective Kerb – featured many times on these pages – brings Tongue & Cheek closeby my offices fairly regularly, and I’d had the HeartBreaker a few days prior. Then, I was able to enjoy it’s rich, offal-y punch, it’s spicy accompaniments. Today I wasn’t in such a position to savour it – nor, it must be said, was the end-of-the-day mass production as good as when I’d been the only chap on Kings Boulevard – though it was here on merit, but again not troubling the champion middle trio.

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At the tail end of the first of two days, Burger Bear led. It was where my vote went; just ahead of Trific and the most surprising Shake Shack. As it happened the momentum kept up and the Disco loving Burger Bear was crowned with the Golden Patty.

All that was left was for Mr. Young to hand out chewing gummi burgers on the way out, and a surreptitious loosening of the belt buckle.

But this was only the final heat, and this weekend Burger Bear faces off against Bleeker St Burger, Fred Smith and Patty & Bun in the final.

http://youngandfoodish.com/event/london-burger-bash-final/

Here we go again.

HungryHungryHumpo 

A Rueben from Kiosk

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Earlier in the week I was walking through kings cross, pondering upon my lunch. It was about half past one. I’d decided I was fasting. Sort-of.

I’m not not-eating. There’s some big meals on the horizon. Dinner with Charlotte at the Bull & Last was scheduled for tomorrow. The Seahorse next week. But Monday I was skipping lunch.

The food I was pondering was from an intriguing and delightfully style place. A veritable hole in the wall, tucked into the outer perimeter of the newish station.

The exterior is visually appealing, styled identically to it’s website.

Sensing my interest, one of the employees, doing PR out from the titular kiosk, thrust a half price voucher in my hand. It worked.

It stayed in my pocket until today. I redeemed it against a large Rueben sandwich. Salt beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and emmental on black rye bread.

The ingredients looked superb in preparation, the loads of bread and variety of meats hugely visually appealing. Special mention must go to the large black rye loaf. Centre stage it informed my choice.

Celine had popped up to see me for the last time in her current job. She chose the same, but not large, and paid for both.

I ate it by the canal. There’s a bizarrely turfed set of stone steps outside Central St Martins. An area that is becoming more delightful by the day, one resplendent in the July sunshine.

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I thought the beef was sliced thickly when it was put together, and so it proved in the eating. One of only two criticisms; the inclusion of gherkin the other. This comes on the standard salt beef and rye, and whilst not a strict component of a Rueben sandwich should be included here.

That said, the ingredients were of a high standard. The appearance of the the beef on the counter delivered on the tongue. The beef was tender and a deep rouge inside, with decent quantities (despite the thick slices). I thought it was underdressed initially but the last bites were just right.

After the building of the sandwich, it was finished in the over. This ensured the Swiss cheese was just the right amount of melty. In all, a very satisfying sarnie.

However. Full price for this would have been over 8 quid. For a sarnie. I understand this place is at the heart of a huge transport interchange. Yes a BK in a station is quids more than one just outside (exhibit a – Paddington). Yes you have to pay for quality.

But it makes it a less viable option for a local office worker. Especially with the always superb KERB in very close proximity.

I’ll eat here again – but as a treat, not a go-to.

I’m also now using the WordPress app. Just wrote this on my phone. In bed.

HungryHungryHumpo

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Hype is a funny old thing. You sometimes go to a restaurant so full of expectation almost nothing would match the fantastical standards you’ve built up in your mind. On other occasions, such is the hubbub around a place that you’ve become almost numb to it – in fact you swing the other way and begin to fear the worst. People are idiots; surely if something has been so widely praised it’s a load of rubbish? ‘Look at the pop charts!’, ‘Don’t Panic!’. My visit today was erring toward the latter of these two emotions.

In the company of Andy (signs his emails Andrew) and Lindsey, today I lunched at Dinner. I’ve never eaten at any of Heston’s places, not even the Popham Little Chef, but I’ve been interested in the man for some years – around the time I got serious about food I had a crack at his Spag Bol from ‘Perfection’ (Very good but worth the 12 hour cooking time and fiddly preparations vs the standard Humpage family recipe? Debatable). Since then and my move to London, the appeal has lessened somewhat. Whilst the Fat Duck tasting menu is right up amongst my dream dinners, the chef’s move to Channel 4 and Waitrose-based ubiquity has altered my once reverent opinion of the man.

Fig Martini Aperitif
Fig Martini Aperitif

The dining room was certainly up to the task of dissuading doubts – raised up and overlooking Hyde Park, surprisingly light and spacious. It was classy. My Fig Martini was a lovely drink and the opening salvo of brown bread faultless, with butter almost the colour of egg yolk.

Hype reared it’s two-faced head again at menu time. In the relatively short time this place has been open, several of the dishes have already passed into gasto-folklore. The Meat Fruit. The Tipsy Cake. Your hero at this juncture brace himself, staring right over the precipice of disappointment, and ordered them both.

'Meat Fruit'
‘Meat Fruit’

Haha. Hahahahaha. It’s amazing when a plate of food makes you laugh. Not because it’s clever. Not because it looks EXACTLY like an orange, but it isn’t. But because it’s really bloody tasty. Because you know, in the world right at that moment, you’re in the top 1% – top fractions of a percent – of people who are eating the nicest thing going. And I don’t even really like chicken liver parfait that much. So yeah, by this point, about 1 mouthful into Dinner, all that bollocks waffle about hype above completed smashed to pieces. A plate of food like a good book, as you see you’re nearing the end you’re genuinely sad. 3 of the four of us had this (the other was a veggie) and the sighs of delight, and board scraping for tit-bits was universal.

Pigeon
Pigeon

To my knowledge there isn’t really a signature main in the same way there are starters and desserts, and the dish I was most drawn to (after the obligatory discussion with the restaurant staff) was the spiced pigeon. Served with ‘Ale & artichokes’, it was not a million miles from the divine duck I enjoyed on Tuesday. Big on taste, there was no fault I could pick with it. Fries, obscenely good slow-butter cooked carrots with caraway and green beans with shallots formed sides for the table. In all dishes the standards of my starter were maintained.

Tipsy Cake
Tipsy Cake

You have to order this when you arrive. Quite a big deal for me that, picking dessert before even nibbling on your first course. We agreed a sort of quadruple swapping session, but I was very much ‘Tipsy Cake’ owner. All the same emotions as the meat fruit, repeated (and I feel the same about pineapple as I do chicken liver parfait). The fruit is spit roast, giving it a wonderful caramelized element and what is basically a really fancy iced bun is easily one of the best desserts I’ve eaten. As we roated around variously Brown Bread Ice Cream, Taffety Tart and Bohemian Cake I longed to be back with my iron pot of sponge swimming in boozy syrup goodness. You can see all four desserts – as they are eaten – at the bottom of the blog.

I popped of to go to the toilet (I didn’t want anyone to see my tears of joy/anger at having to share the Tipsy Cake – which was thoroughly my initiative) and upon my return found yet more treats. A mini pot of earl grey chocolate granache, with a caraway shortbread stick alongside. Don’t need no more descriptions. ‘Was really good’ covers it.

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Hang on a moment, what’s this?

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

Oh sure. Why doesn’t some delightfully mannered chap push round a cart and turn vanilla custard into ice cream – using liquid nitrogen – at the table. This was the element one would most associate with the chef who gives his name to the restaurant. A choice of four toppings on your cone – I went apple popping candy and freeze dried raspberry. Yes yes. Ridiculously good. Move along.

Marvellous Scotch - at £34 a dram
Marvellous Scotch – at £34 a dram

Then to finish we took a digestif. I must say that even though I was being treated to lunch, the prices on this after dinner drinks menu made me flinch. My hosts gave the OK and I finished one of the finest meals of my life – almost certainly the best dinner I’ve had this year – with a simply sublime single malt. Seriously smooth but with loads of depth and the good type of craziness on the palate. Mega. I’ve been saying mega quite a lot recently.

I’ve also not mentioned the wine – two French bottles, a floral white to start and a spicy red with mains. Both were exquisite but my memory is too full of weird meaty oranges and five spongey segments to recall the regions, let alone the labels.

So Dinner. Like everyone else has said, do yourself a favour and go. I’m still deliriously happy just typing up all this nonsense now, five days later.

HungryHungryHumpo

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

https://twitter.com/LindseyNicole/status/345549621604528128

Galvin La Chapelle

Today was something special.

A longstanding lunch engagement, had with the company of the charming lady who had previously treated me to two meals recounted on these pages – firstly, the South Devon crustacean at Fishworks, and much more recently a veggie bonanza at Vanilla Black.

I had previously inquired if we could go to one of the Galvin group of restaurants – and as we had recently done some successful business together, it was agreed we would try their ‘La Chapelle’ – in the City, and located handily close to my offices.

The dining room was very classy – clean, bright and classic. The ceiling is 30 ft high and the building is Grade II listed – and it shows. The menus are unashamedly French. The service is very well judged (at least our main waitress – more on that later).

Lasagne of Dorset crab, beurre Nantais & pea shoots
Lasagne of Dorset crab, beurre Nantais & pea shoots

I, as ever, was drawn to the crab. Dorset crab, served in a lasagne with buerre Nantais and pea shoots. This looked superb and tasted ok – I’ve no idea if Dorset crab and Devon crab are any different, so closely located as they are, but maybe in a psychological reaction every time I’ve had Dorset on a menu it has slightly underwhelmed. Such are the travails of those who overthink their food. This dish – a restaurant signature I was informed – had finish but for me came up slightly short in taste.

Superb duck main course at Galvin La Chapelle
Superb duck main course at Galvin La Chapelle

The main was a different story altogether. I was very indecisive in the choosing (nothing unusual here) and was recommended the Magret of Goosnargh duck served with a tarte fine of endive, beetroot (in pureed, almost gel form) & violet artichokes. Bloody hell, as Sir Alex Ferguson might say. The duck was fantastic – genuinely crispy skin, and rich, fatty, ruby red meat underneath, served in wonderful three bite portions. The central pasty and endive construction and the various artichoke segs and blobs of beet combined to make harmony on the tongue. Cracking.

Macerated gariguette strawberries with shortbread and lemon verbena ice cream
Macerated gariguette strawberries with shortbread and lemon verbena ice cream

Last up was again a tough choice – light fruit or rich chocolate? A Tuesday, and a desire to go as light as possible in what is a bumper week of food meant I opted for the Stawberry dish. Specifically macerated gariguette strawbs with shortbread, lemon verbena ice cream and baby basil. There were also marshmallow like cubes, which I think were rose scented. Anyway – a strong finish to a lovely meal. The thin slices of shortbread in particular were light but had enough about them to offer a bit of crunch.

Liz chose a wine I’d previously picked at Vanilla Black, a picpoul from Languedoc. We also had sparkling water – that a seemingly unaware waiter insisted on filling with still when in my glass, despite my protestations. The bread was of note too – I had a single slice of the brown and it was befitting a restaurant of this calibre. A final grudge though, further to the sparkling water fiasco, was that my colleague requested his candied walnuts be removed from his starter. The restaurant complied, but I asked if they could be bought along in a side pot (I mean candied walnuts – sounds banging, non?) but of them, there was no sign.

These are minor gripes and this is a restaurant well deserving of it’s Michelin star. Modern French cooking, skillfully executed. A lovely way to spend Tuesday lunch.

HungryHungryHumpo

 
Galvin La Chapelle on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

I eat Nando’s. Often.

Since my last Lunch Club Nando’s post – a February the 7th effort prior to the WordPress migration, I’ve been to this restaurant more than a few times. It has become the media ‘quick bite’ place of choice – better than many of the local pubs (I’m looking at you Thornhill Arms & Canal 125) and cheaper than the better options (The Fellow & The Driver).

At least 6 times in fact – an (un)healthy average of a fortnightly trip to the popular chicken emporium.

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HungryHungryHumpo

 

My Yearly Lunch Club Post by Katie Potter

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Today is the day I write my yearly lunch club post.  A year on and a lot has changed.  No longer am I solely a lover of beige food (although if you think you can beat a meal of mash and chips you are most definitely off your rocker).  A year of sampling the food delights of London, I have expanded my food tastes.  Being vegetarian in the city does have its limits but today’s lunch choice catered for all food needs.

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Neal’s Yard’s newest restaurant Homeslice has offered our little yard with amazing street food.  With pizza options from artichoke and courgette with fresh lemon and parsley to bone marrow, fire roasted spring onion and watercress this place has something for everyone. We opted for the ‘half and half’ option of margarita and artichoke and courgette.    I cannot sing this place’s praises enough – it gets the KP stamp of approval which is a big achievement considering that I am the fussiest person I know. 

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The cheese was cheesy and the vegetables were cooked to perfection – full of colour and flavour!  The pizza was cooked in the woodfire oven in true Italian style – thin and crispy with amazing dough.

Oh and not forgetting the highlight of the meal – eating from paper plates.  You just can’t beat it.the lunch club homeslice katie potter 2