Burgers

The Laughing Stock, Southbank


Where has this year gone people?! It literally feels like I just stumbled out of a club on New Year’s Day, arm in arm with my best friends and deliberating my resolutions for the year. Now Christmas is around the corner and I’m even more torn than usual between wanting to buy everything and anything and having zero pennies. But this time it’s for other people rather than myself.

But it is also the season for hot and heartwarming cocktails, the dream that is mulled wine, cranberry ‘pon everything, Christmas markets. Better yet because its London – Christmas street food markets. The usual Londoner’s irate attitude towards life is set aside and you almost don’t mind the freezing cold. So I was freakin’ delighted to be invited down to Southbank’s own mini winter wonderland to try The Laughing Stock’s Swedish Café.

This great little pop up has one of the most adorable start up stories I’ve ever heard, which you are just yearning for this season. The owners Amy and Jack met whilst they were living in Switzerland, hit it off and set off backpacking across the world together. In the midst of their engagement the idea of their own food truck was born, and a few years later so was their first child. So what began as a mere idea has now become a hugely successful food truck and caterer which has had a life span of 6 years and now has a staff force of 104 people. They’ve set up shop in both London and Edinburgh and catered for both Glastonbury VIP and Fringe Festival.

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So what’s up for grabs? It’s a pretty versatile menu, Hot Dogs are most popular with the kids and have the option of adding toppings which include mash, beetroot salad, Swedish cheese, prawn mayo and more. Next up, self-proclaimed most popular dish are the Meatballs – served with mashed potatoes, gravy, pickles and lingonberry. Burgers range from £7.50 to £8.50 and you’ve got the option of Stocks Burger (beef patty with cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion), the Stocks Venison Burger (with venison and caramelised onions) and the Nordic Burger which was recommended to me by the lovely manager, Kim.

The Nordic Burger was piled high with beetroot salad, cheese, bacon and pickles. Thrown alongside that were rosemary chips and a draft beer from the Rekorderlig hut opposite. Aestheitcaly, this stacked burger is so cute – small and tidy with each ingredient and topping perfectly poised and photo worthy. I am a huge fan of beetroot, and not only did the flavour suffice but it also kept the burger super moist. Which made up for the slightly overdone (in my opinion) beef patty. The bun was as it should be, brioche and the chips ridiculously addictive – lightly spiced and the perfect combo of crispy and salty.

All in all this was a good hearty meal, value and flavour for money and along with that you’re slap bang in the middle of a cheery Christmas vibe. And not to mention right in front of the London Eye. The place is full of adorable wooden huts filled with potential gifts for your loved and not so loved ones. I’d be keen to head back down there and try the meatballs which looked delish whilst they were speeding those appetisers out to a private party upstairs. Fun for both families and you cool young things, but because of location expect long lines and crowding!

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Honest Burgers, Liv St.

Honest Burgers is a name that is familiar to most across the city. My first run in with it came when I was based in Clapham South, exploring the area I caught a glimpse of a queue stretching around the corner of the high street. A queue of over 50 people stretching around a corner just before opening time – well that speaks for itself right?

Photography by Kang L

Photography by Kang L

I’ve had a lot of criticism for dubbing Bleecker St the best burger in London – people have been throwing ‘Honest Burgers are King’ at me from all sides. So, I tried it.

This famous little burger joint began it’s journey in 2010 when it’s owners, Tom and Phil, met whilst working in a restaurant in Brighton. Since meeting they have progressed from serving food from marquees at festivals to opening their first restaurant in the oasis that is Brixton Village. Being the first of its kind in Brixton, where they couldn’t even have high quality meat delivered to their door and consequently cycled to Marlyebone every morning for their ingredients, these boys established themselves not only in the borough but in the city.

First glimpse at the menu and there is just enough range to appeal to the masses. If you want a classic burger with no frills, you can have that for £8.50, stripped to basics with bun, patty, signature red onion relish and lettuce. Feening for a Cheeseburger? Choose between Mature Cheddar, Red Leicester or Blue Stilton for £9. I thought it’d only be rude to go for anything but the ‘Honest Burger’, consisting of ‘beef patty, red onion relish, bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce’ for £10. There’s also a Chicken Burger and Veggie option up for grabs. And all are served with their Rosemary Salted Chips.

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Thanks to a late night in the office and dinner on the client, I jumped at the opportunity to order from the wonder on wheels that is Deliveroo and finally try an Honest Burger. The order came within 40 minutes and compactly packaged with an array of sauces which I’m still not sure whether I ordered or not. At first glance, this burger is pretty perfect looking but I have to admit – I didn’t think it was enough. I like to eat, and I like it to last. I could tell right away this thing was going to be delicious and it was going to be over way too soon.

Usually, I’m a no frills kind of gal when it comes to burgers, but each of the toppings complimented the others and individually tasted effing divine. The red onion relish? You can see why they drop this onto every beef patty on the menu. The brioche bun, soft and sweet. The patty, I think was outshined by the delicious toppings and the bacon was slightly more chewy than I would have liked. But I’d also like to give some leeway due to the fact I had it delivered and didn’t eat in the actual restaurant. The rosemary chips were to die for, perfectly seasoned and sitting on the delightful cusp of being too crispy. Just a warning that they are pretty salty, you will be apologising to your body incessantly whilst eating them.

I can see why this burger holds the top spot for so many people. It’s significant focus on combining both sweet and salty nominate it to be the McDonalds of the gourmet burger. Not in a bad way, I mean back when McDonalds was freaking fantastic and people just couldn’t get enough. I’d definitely recommend everyone to try it, this was a great meal and I like the entrepreneurial spirit that oozes from this company.

Personally, I prefer a burger that makes me feel guilty about eating it. I mean so guilty that it is no longer a cheat meal and it becomes a full on gluttonous rampage that then unfolds into a state of ecstasy that is the food coma. So Bleecker St still reigns King in my book I’m afraid.

 

Bleecker St. Burgers

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If you see the black and white logo above, anywhere, I suggest you and who ever your with literally flock towards it. Because what this logo symbolises, is that the best burger in London is within your grasp.

Bleecker St. Burgers sets up shop in Spitalfields but can usually be found around street food markets in the city. I’ve tried them twice now, the first time was at popular London festival – Field Day, and secondly at a pop up street food event called Kerb in Kings Cross. Both experiences equally as memorable.

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At a first glance, this probably isn’t the prettiest burger you’ll ever see. No brioche bun, tomatoes, lettuce etc. But that’s because they don’t need it. The cheese burger (£6) is compiled of your standard bun sprinkled with sesame seeds, beef patty and cheese with no nonsense added. This place is all about the beef, it is hands down the most tender, succulent, melt in your mouth patty you will ever experience. Try it as they recommend, medium rare. Go for the double patty for £9 if you’re feeling up to it. They also serve a Bacon Cheeseburger (£7), the Blue Burger (£6.5) and the Bleecker Black (£10). And a Veggie burger for for £6, but, that’s irrelevant.

Let me go into a little more detail of the experiences I’ve had with Bleecker. So on Field Day, drunk and ravenous, I spotted the famous black and white logo – instantly recognising it and remembering the recommendations I’d seen scattered across the net. In pursuit of what I’d heard to be the best burger in London, I headed over to the swarm of people that surrounded the food truck. I waited a good half an hour all in all and God damn, it was worth it. I scoffed that burger down faster than I thought humanly possible, crazy happy. My good friend, Alex, asked for a bite. Hesitant I passed it over – after all I did want to share this momentous moment with someone. As the film Into The Wild tells us ‘happiness is only real when shared’.

Now this dude took the biggest mouthful of that burger he could and I hated him. I actually loathed him. Just for a split second. We’re totally good now – all has been forgiven. But see below the moment captured perfectly of me raining down on him for his faux pas – look how rattled he looks. And look how I’m cradling that burger – that’s how much food means to me.

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The second time around I knew better. I ordered a double cheeseburger when I came across the truck again at Kerb. Pushing all my friends to order one too. They did and what followed was one of those blissful moments that occur when everyone’s eating something that tastes so good – people just don’t talk to each other. Another one of my friends tried Alex’s burger as the truck had run out of burgers – yes, that’s how popular it is – and literally dropped to his knees in awe of this burger.

I don’t have a picture for that moment.

But you do have my word.

Go try the damn thing.

Patty & Bun, Liverpool St

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Here’s a restaurant that has been praised  by the masses. The restaurant that started out as a pop up and now has Liverpool Street, James Street and now London Fields to call home. Patty & Bun is one of the most talked about burger restaurants in London, renowned for its no frills style dining, with only room for up to 30 diners at a time, takeway service and a concise and creative menu which gets straight to the point. Although, when something has been held at such high par, it has so much further to fall.

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My friend and I targeted the Liverpool Street branch for ease of after work antics. We were warned about the limited seating but weren’t expecting such a small venue. I jumped onto the first table I saw and last one available, only to be politely ushered back into the queue as that’s not quite how it works here. You queue up, state whether you want to eat in or out, order a drink and then once a table is available for you then you can order your meal. The layout of the restaurant is definitely feeding off the fast food vibe but with a much more tasteful interior, high set wooden seating opposite the counter and characteristic brick interior classes up the vibe without deviating from the point that this is not a place you dine for the night, maybe half an hour then move on.

The menu at a first glance is exciting, but the longer you look at it the smaller it seems to get. Not necessarily in a bad way. Everything sounds delicious, and you can truly appreciate the fun and thought that has gone into each option. The ‘Ari Gold’ burger had me at hello, not only for the love of the Entourage character from which the name emerged but it also just sounded ‘perf’ (Beef patty, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickled onions, Ketchup, Smokey P&B mayo, Brioche) at £7.50 and add bacon for 50p. Other burgers included the likes of the ‘Lambshank Redemption’ (Lamb Patty with Coriander and Chilli, Lettuce, Buttermilk Baby Corguettes, Pickled Aubergine, Cumin Aioli, Feta, Brioche) at £8 which my friend chose or the ‘Hot Chic’ Chicken burger (Marinated buttermilk fried chicken, Spicy slaw, Pickled cucumbers, Lettuce, Garlic sauce, Brioche) at £8.50 which I was hesitant to order in fear of comparing it to street food champions ‘Breddos’ buttermilk chicken which is to die for. Sides included the ‘Thunder Thighs’ which came with either Smoked Jalepeno Butter Sauce  or Tamarind glaze. And some fancy chips with Roast Chicken Mayo & Chicken Skin Salt.

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The food arrived 15 minutes later, served up on a red, diner tray and the burger wrapped up in a cute fast food style package. The ‘Thunder Thighs’ I ordered with the smoked jalepeno butter sauce, we ordered were slightly more intimidating than I imagine. The portion of three come served in a small small bowl, swimming in thick, bright red sauce – which if I’m honest I imagined to be any other colour than red. Forget them, back to what matters. Once unwrapped, this burgers aesthetics made my heart jump, ironically. A burger has never looked so perfectly put together, all the ingredients piled high and peeping out from that brioche bun as they should.

Although this did actually cause some problems when it came to eating. I genuinely could not fit the damn thing in my mouth. On top of that, with every attempted bite a ridiculous amount of grease squeezed out from the other side and onto, thank god, my tray. So due to this, I had to lean so far forward to ensure it did actually fall onto my tray and not my lap that I almost fell out of my god damn seat.

Taste wise, it wasn’t until my last few bites that the quality of the beef patty was actually brought out. To my disappointment, all those fantastic ingredients that I’d been so excited about where drowned in tomato ketchup, which is great in small portions but this just ruined a burger that when cut down to basics was fantastic. The melt-melt-in-your-mouth patty and crunchy bacon were a hit, but as a whole, this burger was a disappointment. I wish I could have turned to the chicken thighs with more enthusiasm but the sauce held too many similarities to Buffalo Sauce, which I had a bad run in with a few weeks before at Bad Egg. Maybe this is just personal opinion but I strongly believe that sauce should either be served on the side or bottled for you to apply how much you want.

Overall, the experience was fun – the menu was creative and the food incredibly instagram worthy. I know a lot of people out there will disagree with me, but taste wise, it just didn’t hit the spot. So I’m going to say it’s definitely worth a try, but if you’ve eaten at Bleecker Street Burgers, don’t get too excited.

Ben’s Canteen, Battersea

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Along with the big burger restaurants we have all heard of in London, I love a local beauty just as much. I found out about this little gem on twitter, where I spend most of my days following restaurants promoting some monstrous burger or gluttonous menu. Ben’s Canteen have a great interactive feed and post some fantastic pictures of their eats and are based in Battersea and Earlsfield, with both a popular brunch, dinner and cocktail menu.

Just a ten minute walk from Clapham Junction station, giving you easy access to all parts of London – the journey back to Stoke Newington was a stretch, but hey I made it! The restaurant itself is really cute, white washed with outdoor seating and the fantastic patio doors which are opened up in the summer. This is something that gets me so excited every time I see it, it’s so childish but doesn’t it just feel like you’re on holiday somewhere beautiful in Europe? My friend and I arrived to find the restaurant in the cool state of busy that you’d expect on a Wednesday evening. The crowd was generally early to mid twenties with a very relaxed vibe. So relaxed in fact we couldn’t actually see any staff about when we first stepped in the door (pet peeve) but after a good wait I clocked the vacant table by the window with my reservation name on a chalk board. We took a seat and started to scan the cocktail menu.

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The cocktail menu is so, so great – it’s not your average joe menu featuring the ‘classic’s such as the Mojito and Pina Colada but really eclectic mixes of sparkling wine and gin. My friend and I ordered the Coconut Cove, a blend of Koko Kanu Coconut Rum, coconut water. sparkling wine, Fiorente elderflower liqueur, lemon balm and pineapple and lime juice. The description left me imagining it to be quite a heavy and sweet drink, but it was so light and refreshing – like a more exotic and classy glass of Pimms. One of the best cocktails I’ve had in London since I moved here last year.

At a first glance the menu felt a little all over the place, there was no real theme and the potential of a chef’s need to be a Jack-of-all trades screaming at me. With starter options ranging from ‘Ben’s Epic Scotch Egg’ to ‘DIY Guacamole and Tortilla Chips’ and mains varying from ’38 Day Aged Shorthorn Steak with Cafe de Paris Butter’ to a ‘Spring Shoot Super Food Salad’. Although the whole thing was a little much to take in at first – it worked. We ended up choosing the ‘Spiced Duck Nuggets’ to start and ‘The BC Burger’ with sweet potato fries for mains.

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I have to admit I didn’t quite know what to expect from the meal, as usually with smaller, localised places to eat it can be quite hit and miss. But I actually felt like I’d hit the jackpot with this one. The Duck Nuggets were lightly breaded and served with thick soy sauce dusted with sesame seeds – six to one serving, so perfect for sharing. Cured for 6 days, the duck was full of flavour and so tender, none of that chewy business you get at the Chinese takeaway next to your local corner shop. One thing to note, they come piping hot – so watch out! The burger arrived shortly after we’d finished our appetiser and my God was it a huge portion. The burger itself was stacked high and the sweet potato fries well, there must have been the equivalent of two potatoes on my plate. I don’t even think ‘fries’ is the right terminology for these babies, they are full on, thick cut chips. Not that I was complaining. They were hands down, the best sweet potato chips I have ever had. Chunky, soft, lightly salted and crispy on the outside – they could not have been more perfect. The burger was also fantastic, the beef patty perfectly cooked and topped with Salt Beef, Homemade Burger Sauce & Smoked Cheese, plus the necessity of the beef tomato and salad garnish. Although, I have to say I really struggled to keep all the ingredients in the bun when I was eating – it was pretty embarrassing. I’m 23, I should know my way around a burger by now.

All in all, a great meal. I didn’t want to stop eating the sweet potato fries or the duck nuggets, they are an absolute must if you visit. The burger was enjoyable but not a main dish I’d be addicted to and keep going back for, such as Red Dog Saloon’s cheeseburgers, in all their greasy goodness. But if you’re in the area, I’d 100% recommend you head down, the food is creative and fun – they even have a DIY donut dessert where you inject the filling of your choice with a plastic syringe. They also have daily specials and happy hour cocktail offers which they promote on twitter, so follow them for updates on their menu. The cocktails are great and the staff are friendly so it makes for a perfect summer evening out.

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Street Feast, Dalston Yard 

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If you hadn’t noticed, there is an epidemic of street food sweeping through London. We all know about Camden’s food stalls which are open late into the night with staff competing to get the attention and sale of every passer-by. But I’m talking about food festivals and the gourmet food trucks which are popping up regularly now.

The evolution of food trucks and street food has progressed massively. No longer do we expect the average frankfurter wedged in a Warburton’s bun topped with over fried onions. We expect delicious, gourmet food for under a tenner, maybe even a fiver and we’ll take nothing less. Whilst street food had been delivering quick lunches since the early 1900s, the boom we are seeing started around 10 years ago. If we’re specific, Los Angeles based Korean style street food, Kogi, sparked it all. The reason behind this surge is due to weakness in the economy and unemployment being on the rise. Many people who own food trucks are those who lost their jobs and started up on their own. Amongst them are people in their mid-twenties wanting to get into the food industry and doing so with a flair of creativity. And who thought the recession could spark something so wonderful.

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We’ve seen successful food trucks progress to international restaurants as well. Shake Shack started as a food truck on Madison Square Park in New York and earlier this year raised £105m from their IPO. Street food and food trucks in London are now so popular there are places where you can try the best of the best every weekend throughout summer. Street Feast is definitely one you need to try out.

Last Saturday, a bunch of friends and I visited Street Feast’s Dalston Yard location for a birthday. I was beyond excited all week for the food on offer, just check out their website and your mouth will be watering. The stalls available are interchangeable as they shuffle them around all locations ‘Model Market’ (Lewisham), ‘Dalston Yard’ and  ‘Dinerama’  (Shoreditch Yard – opening 12th June). But you can expect the likes of Bleecker St, B.O.B.s Lobster, Yum Bun, Le Bun, Slider Bar, Grill My Cheese, Rola Wola and more. They also have a craft beer stall, gin bar and Caribbean style cocktails at Rum Shack. It’s everything you could dream of in one place.

Now, my brother’s girlfriend had shown me a picture of one of the meals she had last time she went – 3 sliders including deep fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles. Instantly that was top of my list of things to try. Definitely two ingredients I wouldn’t put on one plate – let alone in the same bite. Next up, an asian style soft, steamed bun in the place of standard bread any day. So Le Bun and Yum Bun it was.

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Naturally I went for the Le Bun’s 3 sliders for £10, being the greedy bitch I am. To my pleasure, the chicken and waffle dish was still available and better than I imagined; so I ordered two, and how can you blame me when it’s titled ‘Truffle & Waffles’ and compiled of confit southern fried chicken, house waffles, truffle butter and Rosemary maple syrup. My third option was the ‘Le Duck Frites Bun’ which packed in pulled confit duck, straw frites, béarnaise spread, duck sauce and champagne slaw into a brioche bun. The flavours in the former were fantastic and totally complementary of the other. Although at times the chicken did feel quite dry, maybe due to the ratio of meat compared to the waffle bun, which obviously gets thinner and thinner as you’re taking each bite and squashing the slider. But I’d still go back for more. I have much less to say about the Duck Confit Slider, I felt there was too much béarnaise sauce one such a small burger which I felt also got cold far too quickly. Both were incredibly messy – make sure you grab a napkin.

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Yum Bun was a total winner. Since a friend of mine had shown me a picture of this burger in a steamed bun he ate in Berlin, I’ve been dying to try one! Yum Bun had three savoury menu choices and two desserts – one bun for £4 and two for £7. The three savoury choices included the ‘Pork Bun’ (slow-roasted pork belly, cucumbers, spring onions and hoisin sauce), ‘Mushroom Bun’ (Portobello mushroom, toasted walnuts and a miso glaze) and a ‘Shrimp Bun’ (crispy chilli prawns, pickles, coriander and gochujang mayo). The dessert options were either coffee ice cream, toasted coconut ice cream inside a crispy golden bun.  I chose the Pork Bun and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream desert – don’t judge me. I can eat. Both were DIVINE. The steamed bun is something I could eat on its own, all day every day and teamed with the pork and hoi sin sauce it was twice as satisfying as the hoi sin duck pancakes I get along with my Chinese take out – which is twice as expensive. The dessert bun was insane, the toasted coconut ice cream was drizzled with a caramel sauce and sprinkled with peanuts – combining all the textures of sticky, crunchy and smooth in one go. If there is anything you try this year, please try Yum Bun. For £7 there is no excuses.

The drinks from Rum Shack are worth a go if you’re not into craft beer – or equally if you are. They’re strong and extremely tasty. Although, I would look out for the rip off that is the £15 Pina Colada Pitcher which comes in an appealing hollowed out pineapple– you are paying for the pineapple people!

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Altogether, I think I spent around £30 between 7pm and 9pm, so if you’re looking to spend a longer evening there, it is going to cost you. When you’ve eaten all you can and move on to drinks that’s when it adds up. Regardless of how much you want to spend, I suggest you make your way down to Street Feast, if not for the food then for the beer and if not for the beer, for the atmosphere. It has a fantastic, lively vibe– incredibly cool decor, sporting that run down chic that east London is loving right now which also included numerous bonfires spread about the venue to keep you toasty in this British weather. You can probably expect to be eating and drinking on your feet though – despite there being seating there is not enough for everyone so don’t be disappointed. It’s free to get in before 7pm, afterwards it’s £3 and it’s open from 5pm to midnight every Friday and Saturday until 26th September.

And for all of those attending Field Day Festival this weekend, Street Feast is providing the food – you can find me at the Blecker Street truck and expect to see a review sometime next week!

Meat Mission, Hoxton

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The firm I work for has this incessant habit of disclosing a fun fact about each of their new employees to the whole company around a week before they start. Mine was the fact I have this food blog – which is a great conversation starter but I also feel a new bout of pressure for each post I write knowing it may be falling under managements eyes. On my first day I was discussing this obsession I have for unhealthy food when a team member mentioned a restaurant near by, where I ‘absolutely must try’ the Dead Hippie Burger at a place called ‘Meat Mission’. Others overheard and one lady backed him up and said she knew the owners before they got big and the restaurant was nothing more than a roaming food truck.

International food chain Meat Liquor is a American style restaurant serving burgers, chicken wings and cocktails. London locations including the West End and also smaller spin off, Meat Mission, in Hoxton. This little food joint has skyrocketed to popularity due to its informal vibe and meat centric menu. It seems that in this day and age the larger and greasier the burger and the more run down the restaurant looks, the more popular it is.

I arrived at prime time and avoided the dreaded queues mentioned in Time Out’s review. My friend and I stood by the door whilst several floor staff rushed past without even a glance in our direction. I know just how busy and stressful it can get as a waitress having worked at Las Iguanas for 6 months in 2013, but one rule our manager drummed into us was ‘watch the door!’ – you have no idea how mad people can get in those seconds that tick by when they’re waiting at the door. Eventually a waitress stops and simply just stares at us…after what feels like a lifetime of discomfort I blurt out ‘table for two?!’. We follow her to a distressed wooden table with chairs along one side and a low bench along the other. The restaurant was fairly busy with a variation in the crowd, from family parties to couples.

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Throughout dining, the service significantly improved and we were not left too long or too briefly to make our decisions. We ordered our drinks and received in good time although, I don’t think I will ever get used to drinking wine from a tumbler glass in public. My university days of drinking alcohol from anything but the appropriate glass are well and truly behind me.

The menu, to me, felt quite sparse. I expected much more choice from such a big chain and remember feeling quite reserved on all varieties of burger. The description of each of the 9 burgers on offer – only 5 of them with a beef patty, sounded exactly the same. Ranging from a classic Cheeseburger to the famous Dead Hippie Burger, each one held the ingredients –  cheese, pickles, lettuce, mustard and onions. Which yes, does compile a delicious sounding burger but leaves little to the imagination for someone feeling adventurous. I went with my team mate’s recommendation – the 2x mustard fried beef patties, dead hippie sauce, pickles, minced white onions, lettuce and cheese – which makes up the Dead Hippie Burger. And threw in a batch of fries, for good sport.

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Moments later, my friend and I’s order arrived. Now, I’m all for a funky replacement for a plate, but I enjoy having my own of whatever that replacement might be. In true American fashion, our order arrived on a red plastic tray, covered only in a white sheet of grease proof paper and some serviettes  – my issue, is that our orders arrived on the same tray. I looked up expectantly at our vanishing waitress at a sign more plates would be coming. But no. One tray for the both of us. Like animals.

The meal itself was good but nothing memorable. It always hurts when the fries are more tasty than the burger. The Dead Hippie did not impress, it looked more like a slider than a full size meal – and I felt my heart drop a little at the absence of a brioche bun. FYI the only way to do burgers in 2015. Honestly, I have no more to say on the meal other than it left me hungry and a little disheartened after all the hype. Although, my friend did say that they were a bad batch – so I feel inclined to try it once more. But in no way will I be rushing back.

Shake Shack, Covent Garden

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You will have seen this little number all over the press recently in recognition of its booming sales and impressive IPO which has outperformed the rest of the industry. This modern burger joint started out as a humble food stand in Madison Square Park, New York around 11 years ago and has now expanded to 63 locations around the world, due to popular demand. It’s first day of trading alone valued the company at around $1.6 billion.

So, I thought I’d better get myself in gear and see what the fuss is about.

This burger experience is similar to that of your regular fast food restaurant, you stand in line with your menu which is handed to you at the door and order at the counter. It’s pretty hectic as you can see that behind the counter of the friendly cashiers the kitchen is mayhem. Which doesn’t surprise me as each burger is compiled to perfection, dissimilar to the likes of McDonalds who would probably forget the ‘beef’ patties if they tried hard enough. I ordered a single ShackBurger (Cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce), regular fries (other option, cheesy fries) and a Caramel Shake. In true sugar addict fashion I couldn’t not get a Shake, particularly as this wasn’t a regular milkshake, it’s made with frozen custard – and custard is one of my favourite things.

ShakeShack is located in Covent Garden’s covered market on the first floor, which is ideal for them as they’re hitting a tourist hotspot but not so ideal for the customers – well in winter anyway. The layout kind of killed the excitement for me as all the indoor seats were taken so we were left to face the freezing temperatures either inside or outside the covered market. First we tried the outside seating as the electric heaters held some appeal only to find they did as much good as fingerless gloves – sounds like a good idea, do not do their job. So we went for the ones inside the covered market, which blocked the breeze a little.

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Back to the food. It was so, so great. The burger itself, perfection, it just melts in your mouth – the patty cooked medium and paired with the softest brioche bun. One thing that really impressed me, is as I mentioned earlier, every burger does look perfect and exactly how they advertise. The crinkly chips were light and crispy – fairly addictive. Then there was the Shake. I want one everyday of my life for the rest of my life but my inner nutritionist tells me no. Frozen custard is the way forward and much less sickly than your regular milkshake packed out with ice cream and chocolate bars and God knows what else.

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So yes, I strongly recommend visiting Shake Shack. It is worth the hype. Although, it’s unlikely to replace your other fast food chain favourites as you are paying around double the price for essentially ‘a burger in a bag’ as my friend cynically put. The average meal of a burger, fries and shake is around £13 and the menu does have a good variety, with the option to double up on patties in each one. They also serve wine and beer, which is a change for a takeout setup. I’ve heard good things about their ‘Shroom Burger (Crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce) and I will slowly be working my way through all of their Shakes on offer.

BRGR.CO, Soho

brgrco I had high hopes for BRGR.co as it features on Time Out London’s Top Burgers and it did not disappoint. With dim lighting, buzzing atmosphere and alternative music playing, this makes a good date location, whether you’re on your 1st or 50th. The staff were so welcoming, even the chef and this didn’t waver throughout our meal. At first look I felt the menu was a little sparse, the burgers really just varied in size and meat used and not really in toppings which I am used to expecting after visiting places like Red Dog Saloon and BOBO Social. But what I did notice was great prices, a 6oz burger was £7.25, known as the ‘Tender Blend’ and toppings and sauces at the additional price of .99p. After spying on another tables order and saw those fries, all doubt left my mind. Ranging from cheese to chilli fries and our choice – parmesan truffle fries. They were something else.BRGR.CO Soho - Butchers Cut Burger (8 Oz) comes with salad on the side. So in the end I went for the ‘Tender Blend’ Burger with vintage cheddar and BRGR sauce. And I tell you they got this burger thing down to a science.  Putting the salad and sauces on the side leaving you to build your burger one step at a time everything just enhances the dining experience and it honestly just makes you appreciate each flavour more. The brioche bun was the best that I have had so far, perfect bun to patty ratio – there was no bite shy of beef. And the burger sauce was incredible. I would eat here everyday if I could and if my metabolism hadn’t slowed down to a ridiculous pace – long gone are the days when I can eat whatever I want with no consequence. The Parmesan Truffle Fries were thin and crispy and the flavours really complemented each other although maybe just a tad too much cheese for me to finish the portion. All in all, excellent dining experience. All burgers served on a tin tray with red and white checkered paper really gives you the feel of informality to your meal which I am such a fan of at the moment. Our waitress was so great and friendly but at the same time not too invasive. The food was to die for and definitely sits rightly as one of Time Out’s top burger restaurants in London.

BOBO Social, Fitzrovia

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Once a week at my work place we have a ‘treat yourself’ day. A few of us have strict diets, with allergies to gluten and lactose included but some foods are just worth the pain they bring afterwards, right?

So in search of burgers and more sweet potato fries we headed down to BOBO Social. The place is gorgeous, the interior is all warm beiges and nudes with fairy lights scattered around, chandeliers and a beautiful engraved silver bar. And really just looks like the insides of someones house, someone who lives in Kensington. As there were 9 of us we’d booked a table in advance and they led us downstairs and to this little cove, so we were totally enclosed surrounded by said fairy lights and to be honest kind of squished as the table could only really seat 6. It would have been great for them to have set up the table before we arrived so we didn’t have to pass chairs down to the end of the table with them.

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Anyway, forget the service. The menu. Most of my colleagues went for the BOBO burger option as it simply came with salad and sauce and you had the option to add toppings, such as bacon, guacamole, shitake mushrooms and so on. Another went for the lobster and crab burger, which I was so tempted to get but the peanut butter burger was just calling me. I’m a sucker for mixing both savoury and sweet (I love the restaurant Duck and Waffle, whose menu is dedicated to that) and this burger consisted of a patty, bacon and crunchy peanut butter. I swear to God it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life. I didn’t want it to end. The peanut butter and bacon complemented each other so well and added moisture to the patty which I can sometimes feel is too dry. So I highly recommend.

Although, the burgers took 45 minutes to come out, probably spending a hefty number of minutes burning that ‘B’ into the bun, and the service had already told us we have the table for an hour and 15 minutes. So we felt fairly rushed, particularly when they ended up kicking us out early. Giving us those 15 minutes you promised would probably have saved you your 12.5% service charge.

All in all, the food was great, everyone was happy and the table had that satisfied silence you hear when people are enjoying their meal. Sweet potato fries could have been a little crispier, they were not so impressive in comparison to Bubbledogs’. The peanut butter burger was everything I’d dreamed of and more, thank you for not using sunpat and giving a healthy dollop of the stuff – it exceeded expectations. But the atmosphere of the restaurant was really quite stuck up and I don’t appreciate getting kicked off a table I had pre booked and they were aware of. I think I’d only return if I could get take out.

BURGER & LOBSTER, Bank

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A place with only 3 things on the menu makes an effortlessly cool eating experience. I find that half the hassle when going out to eat at popular places is that everything on the menu just sounds so delicious it’s impossible to choose. So Burger & Lobster was instantly refreshing.

For those who haven’t yet visited this funky restaurant with a buzzing environment, here is a run through of what’s up for grabs. No appetisers. 3 mains. All £20. Main 1: A whole lobster served with chips, salad and garlic butter – which can be either grilled or steamed. Main 2: Lobster Brioche Roll – also served with salad and chips – shredded lobster with a Japanese Mayo if I recall rightly. Main 3: 10 Oz Beef Burger with bacon and cheese – also served with chips & salad. You get the idea.

Now for me, anyone who goes here to get a burger is just simply wrong. If you wanted to go out to eat a burger – go to Byron, Gourmet Burger or one of my personal favourites, Red Dog Saloon. That’s their specialty, so go splash out on a burger there. Not doubting that Burger & Lobster serve up a good burger but you know it just doesn’t feel right. I assume they just threw that option on the menu for those of you with THAT friend in your circle who doesn’t eat seafood – or has strong feelings about Lobsters being boiled alive.

The restaurant itself has a great ambience and suprisingly laid back for a place who’s main dish is lobster, which usually presents a more sophisticated atmosphere. It’s interior heavily influenced from American culture with some booths and lots of deep reds and browns. Attracting a mixed crowd but I’d say a majority of customers age ranges mid to late twenties. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this place as a first date seeing as the volume gets pretty high which could be fairly awkward whilst trying to develop an opinion on this stranger sitting opposite you. Also Lobster is the most ungraceful thing to eat – challenging spaghetti.

The food is delicious, I chose the Steamed Lobster – as I’m absolute seafood lover who couldn’t even risk the smoky aftertaste of the grilled option. Portion size was fantastic and the staff are really helpful in informing you of the easiest ways to get to the good stuff. Whilst the pincers are already cracked for your ease you can request pliers. The chips are skinny and light so extremely moreish – and the salad (mixed leaf with red onion and light portion of parmesan cheese) really complements the lobster.

Whilst our waiter was extremely friendly and helpful, it felt difficult at times to get their attention  and service when needed, it’s disappointing when the hospitality diminishes once you’ve ordered and been served your food. But in terms of time, it’s a speedy a process, we’d sat down, got our drinks and food within 15 minutes – which only adds to the restaurant’s very present ‘in-n-out’ vibe, as all tables are yours for the set time of 2 hours. Which is reasonable as they only take a small number of bookings – so there is usually a queue out the door.

Burger & Lobster a fast and fun dining experience which does not disappoint. I suggest you head down  with your (sea)foodie friends – restaurants based in Mayfair, Soho, Farringdon, City, Fitzrovia and Knightsbridge.  www.burgerandlobster.com

RED IRON BURGER, UXBRIDGE

RED IRON BURGER, Uxbridge

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As I mentioned in my post about Burger & Lobster, to get a good burger, go to a specialist burger restaurant. Whilst I was out to meet a few close friends from Uni, in a town far, far away (Uxbridge – Zone 6), I did not expect to find this little treasure.

I love restaurants which present an alternative dining experience and Red Iron Burger really delivers with it’s hybrid, fast food set up. Stepping in the front door was like stepping into your regular chippy down the road – but this isn’t a menu to take away. The dining area is towards the back, not a huge space but big enough to fulfil a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Table ready with mustard, tomato ketchup (Heinz of course) and a box of napkins. The menu is clear and presents a range of options – covering beef, chicken, veggie and lamb burgers…& salads. But I’d question your diet if you’re turning up to this kind of restaurant for a salad – don’t kid yourself.

They also do those awesome milkshakes which cost about a fiver but taste like paradise – I recommend the Oreo flavour. If you turn to the back of the menu, they also do the Man VS Food challenges, which I tried to force my friends into unsuccessfully. Choices are – The End of the World Burger (30oz Beef Patty, 4 cheeses, bacon, chips & onion rings), The 40oz Steak (Served with Chips) or The Super Spicy Hot Wings with choice of flavours. One of the main reasons my friends wouldn’t try the challenge as the benefits were not good enough – simply getting your picture on the wall of fame and ‘Bragging Rights’ does not suffice. Maybe making it a free meal might give it more appeal guys.

The burger in my picture was my partner’s. He’s such a pig. Having the Red Iron Burger Classic was not enough, he asked for a lamb patty on top of that. To his dismay the Lamb was a disappointment, too tough and salty. Whilst the beef patty was cooked to perfection – real melt in your mouth experience  – how burgers should be!

Here there is no cutlery, no plates, no alcohol. Just your hands, a red tray and an overpriced soft drink of your choice. But I’ve gotta say, the portions are massive, none of us could finish our meal, but we left satisfied. I’d have no hesitation in going back here, but only when I’m feeling really, really hungry – and maybe when I feel I’ve had a good healthy week and can balance my self out with a meal which is probably leading me down a dark route to cardiac arrest.