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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here we go again.