Burgers

BrewDog – Camden

‘Hello! How are you?’ These are that questions you should say to every beer you drink.

If it doesn’t answer you back (in a manner of speaking), you’re not having Brew Dog.

Luckily, the six beers I tasted at BrewDog’s new bar in Camden were full of words. They wouldn’t shut up, to be honest. Considering, I’m not the biggest beer drinker, this was a good thing. However, I still brought along the boyfriend (nicknamed DQ for the purposes of this blog) to give his expert one-line, beer-loving opinion along with my totally amateur one.

  1. Tokyo
    Me: This is the first beer I tasted, and it actually wasn’t part of the event, meaning that I had a half pint of an 18.5% beer that that tasted like a chocolate-covered cherry. Trust me, that gets a 5’3” girl tipsy in about 3 sips.
    DQ: A beer that tastes port. Yes.
  2. Punk IPA
    Me: A bit strong, sort of citrusy. If you don’t like beer a whole lot, I would skip it
    DQ: Nice, tastes a bit weird, but I like it (Editor’s note: we were back at Brew Dog two nights later, and he had two pints, so I think ‘like it’ is a bit of an understatement)
  3. 5am Saint
    Me: Almost like a bitter honeycomb. We’ve been told it’s been boiled for 90 minutes and hops are added after fermentation, sort of like brewing tea.
    DQ: I like this. Full of flavour.
  4. Scotch Ale
    Me: It’s dark like the Tokyo, and I’m immediately disappointed that it’s not.
    DQ: It’s like coffee and beer had a love child (Editor’s note: can you tell we were a bit far gone by this point?)
  5. Hard Core IPA
    Me: Yes, hardcore. Way too hardcore for me.
    DQ: Very hoppy, slightly acidic, overall pleasant
  6. AB08
    Me: I can’t really taste anything at this point.
    DQ: Smells like a farmyard, but in a good way. It’s a combination of hay and manure, but tastes like coffee and honey

Beer isn’t the only thing at Brew Dog, though – and that’s where I come in. There is a very small menu devised by Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, which features a rolling menu of burgers, pizza and cheese plates.

During the tasting, we tried the Santa Ana pizza – a hot little tamale of corn, onions, chilli, spicy salami and crème fresh. If you’re sensitive to spice, it’s not for you. I loved it, though.

Later on and still hungry, we bought the Milwaukee burger (£6.95), and absolutely perfect blend of pork, sauerkraut and a sauce I can’t quite remember, that is surely a contender for best burger in London. It was amazing.

Actually, the whole place was so amazing that DQ and I found ourselves back there two nights later. I’ll be honest, I’m not the hugest fan of Camden, but Brew Dog is enough to sway me. I’ll be back in a heartbeat.

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om nom nom’ing in Iceland: Cheap eats in Reykjavik

Two things about Iceland that you need to know before you read this post:

  1. It’s awesome
  2. I’ve always always always wanted to go, so regardless, I’m probably going to be a bit biased

But seriously, what an amazing, bizarrely wonderful place. In three days, I managed to hit the beach, see a glacier, trek through mountains, get up close and personal with a giant waterfall, go whale watching (though admittedly I spent the whole time below deck, violently sea sick), eat puffin and whale (perhaps in retaliation for not being able to see them on a boat), and not once see the night sky.

It’s also not as expensive as one would have you believe – at least food wise. Our proper nice meal was lobster at Fjorubordid in the slightly dodgy-looking/slightly-charming seaside village Stokkeyri, but in all honesty, it deserves its own post.

Instead, here is a quick roundup of cheap eats in Reykjavik should you find yourself there on a limited budget.

In terms of Icelandic cuisine, you must absolutely not miss what is literally the most popular restaurant in Reykjavik: Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Just your normal everyday hot dog stand.

For about £2, you get ‘the works’ a classic Icelandic mix of spicy mustard, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion, and remolaði – a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. It was amazing.

Also not to be missed, the lobster soup at Saegreifinn – The Sea Baron. Luscious and rich, with huge chunks of fresh lobster. We ate outside looking over the harbour of fish boats, and it was a total delight.

And of course, what trip to Iceland could be complete without trying those adorably cute puffin and morally-compromising whale? We tried both at Tapas Barinn, an Icelandic/Spanish small plates restaurant in the heart of the city that had a dining room darker and redder than Satan’s soul – which means none of my pictures turned out. So here’s this instead:

The verdict? I liked both. Smoked puffin tastes like smoked duck, and surprisingly Mink Whale tastes like beef. They weren’t the kind of thing I’d jump through hoops for, but both were pleasant enough!

My surprise of the trip was the hamburger at Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (“Búllan”), considered to be the best in Iceland. For about £8, you get a burger, fries and a coke. It was an absolute bargain, and truly was up there with the best I’ve ever had. It put #MEATEASY and The Meat Wagon to shame.

It is more than possible to eat well on a budget in one of the most expensive countries in the world. Reykjavik isn’t huge – only about 180,000 live there – so you really can see and do (and eat!) quite a lot in a few days. It was one of the best trips I’ve had, and for about two weeks I’ve been telling everyone to go. If you get the opportunity, take it.

 

The Lukin – Fitzrovia

I eat out a lot in Fitzrovia, mainly because it’s where my office is located. So on the Thursday before the Easter bank holidays, and just having finished a huge presentation at work, some colleagues and I decided to treat ourselves to a lazy lunch. But after a while, Busaba and Amaretto get a bit old, and you – just once – want to try somewhere you all haven’t been before. That’s how we found The Lukin.

Tucked away on a quiet leafy street, far enough away from the craziness of Tottenham Court Road, The Lukin is a tiny pub, with the normal ‘pub on the ground floor, dining room on the first floor’ layout. The decor is nothing to shout about (I’ve read it used to be an O’Neil’s, which would explain it), but there’s a very ‘local’ feel to it, despite the fact it’s not really in a massively residential area.

We booked for 7 people about an hour before we wanted to dine (a long shot), but luckily it worked out. We were seated on time, and immediately I was impressed with friendliness of the staff. We started with a couple orders of Scotch Eggs (£4.50):

I do like a good scotch egg – these were commendable, but not Earth-shattering. They were served slightly chilled (I tend to prefer warm ones hough) and came with a lovely mustard sauce. Still, they were a hit with the table…

For my main, I was having trouble deciding. Nothing was jumping out at me except the 8 oz Homemade Cheddar Burger with Chips (£10.70) , but with my recent couple posts, I started to get The Fear that om nom London was turning into om nom Burger. So, even though I did order it – I promise: no more burger posts for a while. Even I’m a bit sick of them…

It was a bit… weird. I like that it was homemade (as was the weird runny, but tasty ketchup), I like that it was gigantic (for the price it should be!), but the spices they used in the mince were totally wrong – cinnamon being the worst offender. I imagine that with an incredibly skilled chef and the right balance, cinnamon and beef not being really really wrong in every sense, but not here.

On the plus side, it was juicy, the cheese and other toppings were lovely, and the chips were a thumbs up.

Despite the cinnamon disaster, I would try The Lukin again. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a cheerful pub oasis in the middle of one of the most cramped areas of London.

The Lukin on Urbanspoon

#MEATEASY – New Cross Gate

For those not living in London, let me tell you a little story…

Once there was a man who had a van that he parked outside the pubs of South London to sell burgers. But these weren’t just any burgers, these were special – and it wasn’t just any van, it was ‘The Meatwagon’. People from far and wide, lauded the man and his van as producing the best burger in the city. And then, tragedy struck before Christmas – The Meatwagon was stolen.

But the man, Yianni Papoutsis, had an idea. Why not make the burgers a bit more stationary by setting up a temporary ‘Meatwagon’ in a pub to raise money for a new van? And that’s exactly what he did. He called it #MEATEASY, and the foodies rejoiced.

With all the fanfare surrounding the place, I’m surprised I didn’t make it down to #MEATEASY till a couple weeks ago. I’d wish that I’d have been able to go before, but New Cross Gate is about 40 minutes from my office and well over an hour from my flat. That’s a long way to go for a £6 burger – even if it is ‘the best’.

I love the idea of it all though. Up the back staircase of The Goldsmiths Tavern, #MEATEASY is a small, crowded and boho-chic room. It’s busy and it’s fun. When you arrive (we did, on recommendation just as they opened at 6), you’re given a ticket and asked to find a seat. Even by this point, the place was rammed:

The menu is chalked on the walls and is filled with mostly American diner treats like Chilli Dogs and Macaroni and Cheese (in addition to the famous burger). Although they looked tasty, it had to be the cheeseburger and onion rings for me:

While the onion rings were ab-so-lut-ley amazing (perfect batter, not too greasy, onion that stayed in place when you took a bite instead of slurping out of its husk and getting onion slime on your chin), the burger was ‘just ok’. I know that’s pretty much blasphemy, but hey, I’m going to play my ‘American burger-lover’ card. It was cooked fine, the toppings were fresh and it had a nice slab of cheese that reminded me of home, but it didn’t live up to expectations.

I still like my Five Guys burger better – pity it’s thousands of miles away.

Unfortunately, if you wanted to give this a go, you will have to wait until the new Meatwagon is back on the roads, as #MEATEASY closed its temporary doors on 16 April

#Meateasy on Urbanspoon

Byron – Soho

London has been obsessed with burgers for probably a couple years now. I guess the trend continues over in the States as well, or so my Michigan and New York friends tell me. But no matter what, I always seem to like the burgers over there better. Despite the enthusiasm and availability, I just haven’t quite found the right one in London. Granted, I’ve not yet been to
#MEATEASY/The Meatwagon yet (soon, I promise), but London burgers on the whole are not floating my boat.

The closest so far (apart from the excellent Hawksmoor, which I’m not counting because no one should have a £15 burger as their default meat patty) though has been Byron. I went to the Soho location on a crisp Friday evening with a few friends before Christmas, eager to see if it lived up to the hype.

I like the vibe of Byron. It’s busy, but not rushed. The menu and look of the place is very simple. Classic, almost. I also love that they have a ton of condiments already on the table, including Cholula – one of my favourite hot sauces ever.

I ordered a Burger (medium rare) with Gruyère and Fries
:

The burger came out pretty quickly. Nice and pink in the middle, fresh bun, a little sloppy, but definitely good. The fries everyone ordered, however, were nowhere to be seen, and trying to get the attention of our server was quite the task. Eventually, we all received our side dishes, but it did put a damper on the experience – most people were done with their burgers by the time the fries came.

So good marks on the burger, not so much on the service. Still, it’s the best burger I’ve had in London for under a tenner, and with 11 locations around the city, if I ever have a craving, I won’t be far away from one!

Byron on Urbanspoon

Hawksmoor – Shoreditch

There’s not a whole lot more that can be said about the Hawksmoor. From when they graciously donated the restaurant as the scene of the Blaggers Banquet to the 1,600-ish mentions of the Hawksmoor Burger online right now, they’ve been the darlings of the food blogging scene for quite some time.

I’d been wanting to see what all the fuss was about their infamous burger ever since I heard about them. Being American, I look at the current burger obsession in London with a bit of a raised eyebrow. To me, a burger is  something I’ll go out of my way for if I have a craving. The idea of the ‘perfect burger’ doesn’t exist. A good burger is a good burger, and it’s going to taste even better if I’m in the mood for it.

Luckily I was in the mood for one, the day I went to Hawksmoor.

We arrived a bit early for our 1:30 lunch, so a drink at the bar was in order. Despite the pissing down rain outside, I decided on a summery Mint Julep:

Hawksmoor

Now, I generally don’t write about drinks, but I have to rave about this one. The bartender clearly knew his stuff.  This was an excellent julep that anyone at the Kentucky Derby would have been proud to have.

After we finished our drinks, it was burger time. We ordered two with bacon and triple cooked chips:

Hawksmoor Burger

The beef, flecked with little bits of marrow, was of obvious quality. The homemade catchup, just chopped lettuce and melty cheese was a gorgeous combination – one that certainly lives up to its reputation.  And the chips… wow.  Turns out when you bake and fry the crap out of potato, it tastes really really good. Figures.

My only complaint is that the mayo was served on the burger automatically.  I don’t really like mayo, and I had to scrape it all off.  Usually, places put it on the side like they do catchup, and unfortunately I forgot to ask if they did that at the Hawksmoor. I know I’m not the only one in the world who isn’t keen on the fatty condiment – I wonder if they get that complaint often…

So, yes – just as everyone has said before – Hawksmoor is overall worth it.  I’ll be back.

Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon

Haché Burgers – Camden

Technically, I’ve been to Haché (pronounced ashay) before. It was nearly four years ago when I was just visiting London. I don’t remember much, but I do remember not being very impressed (despite the fact that a friend said it was one of the best burgers he’s ever had). I have a much fresher opinion now, and I’m sad to say that my disappointment still stands.

Their burger menu is immense, and there is certainly something for everyone. There are some really interesting combinations like Steak Louisiana – scotch beef burger topped with crunchy peanut butter and cheddar cheese – or the many varieties of falafel burgers, which look lovely. The night we went, I was on a beef overload from the Hawksmoor just a few days earlier, and wanted to opt for something slightly healthier. I went with the Jerk Chicken flavoured with Jerk Spices and topped with Caribbean Mango Chutney:

Hache

Dry, overcooked chicken with about as much jerk seasoning as the contents of a pepper grinder. A messy mango chutney that wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but more just like chopped up mango instead of a sauce. The ciabatta it was served on was cold and dry. Not impressed in the slightest, and at £8.95, I thought it was quite the rip-off.

Trying to remain healthy, I didn’t get a whole side to myself, but was able to steal an onion ring from someone else. A nice batter, but way too greasy. The kind of greasy that when you bite down, you can feel it seep down the back of your throat.

Hache

The problem is Haché has all the parts for a really pleasant dining experience. Eclectic burgers, nice decor, cozy surrounding, cool location – but the execution is all wrong. Quite simply, poor food and poor service. We waited for a good 20 minutes before someone came to the table. I don’t eat in Camden often, but I’m convinced there are far better places to go than here.

UPDATE:

I completely forgot to mention – if for some reason you do find yourself at Hache, stay clear of the house wine – it’s vile. Best, shell out another 20p to get something at least palatable.

Hache Burgers on Urbanspoon