London’s best burger…
TL;DR – I love eating burgers and eat them with fair frequency. If you’re in London and looking for a good one, you can skip to my current favourites.
It’s not exactly a secret amongst those that know me that I like a good burger. For a good few years my cousin Greg and I have been working our way through a long (and ever growing) list of the places in London that sell ground meat in a bun. As a result, I’ve eaten a whole lot of them. I wish I’d photographed them all (I didn’t), but just to get us going, here are 49 pics taken over the last 18 months (mostly from London) grabbed from my Instagram feed…
This post is my attempt to cover the questions I get asked with fair frequency. Excusing the bits my appalling memory (or alcohol) has made me forget, it’s relatively correct as of the date of posting – all opinions are my own, of course, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been to any of these places. Diving right in -
This is a ridiculously tough question and my answer to this has switched a good few times over the last couple of years. That said, currently, if you were forcing me to pick just one – I’m pretty sure it’d be Patty & Bun.
Why? The burger is great. The meat is good, the combinations are good, and it has that drippy wonderful dirtiness I love in a burger. The consistency is great and the price is relatively reasonable. It’s a proper burger joint, and it’s 5 minutes from Bond Street station – so easy to get to if you’re in the centre of town. They also do these wonderful chicken wings in a hot BBQ sauce that just fall off the bone. On the negative side of things, it’s usually pretty busy and you can queue for ages, which sucks. A lot. But luckily for them, and us, it’s usually worth it. Plus you can always get a couple of ‘standing in a queue’ beers from the newsagent down the road.
Have you been to…? / Where else is good? / Top ten London burgers?
Between Greg and me (although often together), we’ve been to a pretty decent number of places. I’m loathe to do a top ten (sorry), so P&B aside and in no particular order, here are some of my current favourites:
Elliot’s Cafe – find them in Borough market. They do a marvellous burger. It’s *beautifully* made, the meat is amazing and the venue is great (definitely date-night friendly). Plus all the staff are really nice. I’m pretty sure they don’t do the burger at the weekend, so check before you go.
Honest Burgers – with three venues in London (the original in Brixton, an incredibly conveniently located one in Soho, and the lock in Camden) with a fourth venue coming soon on Portobello Road, Honest has been taking London by storm. With good reason too – the signature ‘Honest Burger’ is absolutely fantastic. Plus they’ll take your name and let you go for a pint elsewhere if they’re busy. Honest is often my ‘go to’ place.
Yianni Papoutsis’s ’MEAT’ restaurants – after wowing London with the MEATwagon and subsequent popup MEATeasy, they now have 3 restaurants across town. The amazing MEATLiquor, 2 minutes from Bond Street station, the more fast-food style MEATMarket in Covent Garden, and the fantastic MEATMission off Hoxton Square. The burgers are dirty, and really, really good. So good I feel like my heart is going to give up every time I have one (my burger of choice is usually the magnificent ‘Dead Hippie’). They’ve just opened a new one in Brighton, for those living that way…
Lucky Chip – Often have popups across town, but I think their Sebright Arms and Netil Market places are relatively permanent (definitely check their site or Twitter feed). Another dirty burger in a similar vein to the ‘MEAT’ burgers. Freaking brilliant – and lovely to have a burger in a sesame seed bun.
Hawksmoor – As well as doing my favourite steak in London, the Hawksmoor do an incredible burger – the patty is fantastic. The two ‘regular’ burgers (ask for the bar menu) – the Hawksmoor and a Kimchi burger (the original Hawksmoor burger is better, IMO) are joined each month by a third special. I’ve had some great ones, but the recent one with The Rib Man‘s ‘Christ on a Bike‘ sauce – a hotter version of his amazing ‘Holy Fuck‘ sauce – was a total treat. It gets busy, so definitely book (at one of their four venues) in advance.
Bread Street Kitchen – Ramsay’s place in St. Paul’s is pretty damn great. I found the burger incredibly similar to the old ‘Fred Smith‘ era Admiral Codrington one – which is a good, if not great thing. Apparently, since it’s introduction the burger has been through a few tweaks making it even better – and meaning I can’t wait to give it another go.
I could go on for an age here, but…
Bar Boulud – Greg and I loved this place when we first went. Owned by chef Daniel Boulud, and located underneath the Mandarin Oriental, the restaurant is lovely. The burgers, particularly the one with pulled pork (The Piggie), were delightful. But they were also small – almost like sliders. From what I’ve heard recently, they now do a bigger burger – not sure if that’s true though. Let me know?!
Goodman – again, there’s a few (3?) of these dotted across the city. Much like the Hawksmoor they’re a steak place primarily, so the quality of the patty is marvellous.
Bukowski Grill – I’m yet to try Bukowski down in Brixton, but I’ve been to their original place in Boxpark a handful of times. They’ve made my honourable mentions list for their candied bacon, found in the ‘Fat Gringo’ burger – it’s up and away some of the best bacon I’ve ever had, and probably my favourite in London.
Byron – restaurants in Tom Byng‘s wildly successful Byron chain have sprung up all over London (and beyond). For consistency alone, Byron is amazing – the burger is always good, and some of their specials have been wonderful. The restaurants are always great, and with plenty of them across London, you can usually get a table somewhere. Without a doubt my favourite chain. They also get a whole bunch of plus points for hiring Fred Smith away from The Admiral Codrington and putting him in charge of Food Development. That guy makes a *great* burger.
Lastly, I’ve got to mention the popups that appear with increasing regularity all across town. Some of them make it into permanent places, some of them don’t. But there are some rather delectable treats to be found if you’re prepared to seek them out.
What do I think of McDonald’s/Burger King/etc.?
I get asked this or something similar pretty often. Eating lots of (mostly) decent burgers has certainly taken the sheen off a from-the-packet-frozen-pub-kitchen burger. But I still think The Big Mac / Quarter Pounder / etc. are pretty great. I mean – excluding the (‘forgive me, I was shitfaced’) post-consumption-shame, you can’t argue they taste pretty great. They’ve sold billions for a reason, after all.
What do I think of Five Guys?
I’ve been asked this a lot over the last few months. Last year the question was about Burger & Lobster, which I thought was pretty good, but I guess this summer Five Guys has been getting all the press attention.
From what I hear, if you get a Five Guys in the States, it’s second to none. Alas I thought exactly the opposite here. For burger and fries, served in a fast food scenario, costing me approximately £12 – it was pretty fucking crappy. I thought the meat was bland and the bacon over salty and over crisped. And as much as I like a dirty burger, this was just, well, poor. Poor enough for me to call my girlfriend and rant down the phone about it.
Long and short – there are at least 5 burger places within a short walk where £12 could be better spent. Do that instead.
What makes a good burger?
It’s subjective, right? A good burger for me might not be a good burger for you. But for me, burgers usually fit into one of two categories – bear with me here – ‘gourmet’ burgers and ‘dirty’ burgers. Burgers of the ‘gourmet’ kind are usually served in a proper restaurant. They seem well put together, the bun properly holds everything in place, and whilst the meat may be moist and drippy, you can generally get away without everything ending in a mess over your face and hands. They also tend to cost more and are probably served on a proper plate. With a knife and fork – which, gasp, you might actually use to eat it… Burgers of the ‘dirty’ kind tend to make a whole lot of mess – grease on your fingers, on your face, bits falling out, sauce dripping, etc. They tend to cost a little less, and you get them in paper, or in a box or basket. Occasionally you’ll get something that straddles the two, but mostly my classification seems to work.
How do I like my burgers?
As for what’s inside, my personal favourite is a cheeseburger with bacon – particularly if it has some kind of BBQ sauce. And I’m definitely more of a fan of a dirty burger. Greg usually goes for a straight cheeseburger. It’s not uncommon for us to go halves – and even order a third burger and go halves on that as well. Fatties, right?!
I like a medium rare patty – a little pink in the middle, brown around the edges. The meat should be moist, the quality good and certainly not over seasoned (or mixed with other junk). I prefer American style bacon and I love my cheese in American slices. Buns should be fresh. I’ve eaten a lot of brioche over the last couple of years, so I think I’m currently more into a soft potato bun (or similar). That said, I had some of the most amazing brioche I’ve ever had at Blend in Paris earlier this year. I’d thoroughly recommend visiting them if you’re having a cheeky jaunt over (or under) the Channel.
What makes a good burger place?
Taking the actual burger out the picture, there’s another few things I consider. The place itself is usually pretty irrelevant (although a good location helps) – sometimes you just want to go for that fast food experience, sometimes you’re looking for a date-night place – but as long as it’s not a complete hole and as long as the staff are nice, it’s fine by me. I suppose some places have a better ambiance than others, and that definitely helps. The queue makes a difference – it’d better be amazing if you’re going to make me queue, and price is obviously a factor – especially when you take the restaurant into consideration (see Five Guys – £12 for a burger in a restaurant resembling a Burger King is a no-no). Lastly and possibly most importantly, there has to be some consistency. If I have a burger decent enough to come back, and then on return I get a shit one, something’s not right…
Can I read more?!
You’ve read this far? Brilliant, haha! And absolutely, you can read more – *most* of the decent burgers Greg and I eat are reviewed on Cheeseburgerboy.com. You can also follow my Twitter or Instagram for pictures and stuff about burgers (and other irreverent opinion), and follow Greg’s Cheeseburgerb0y account for more burger news.
I have no idea. But all suggestions are welcome and encouraged! Leave me a note in the comments or drop me a message on Twitter. And let me know your favourite place!