I’ll own up. Part of the reason why I’ve gained ten pounds as mentioned in my last blog is that I’ve become seriously addicted to burgers. I entirely blame my boyfriend for this, since before I met him, I’d only heard whispers and anecdotes about such fabled establishments as Lucky Chip and Meat Liquor, and many of my friends seem to be vegetarian, or simply not quite so piggy. So, despite reading reviews (and dribbling a little bit) and gazing longingly at Instagrams, I’d never actually been to any of the best burger joints in town (except Byron, which is a chain and doesn’t really count…but gets an honourable mention below).
Burgers have historically only ever been an occasional treat for me – my mum made really good burgers with a hint of fennel seed and a dash of Tabasco, but they (and the knock-off ones I make with her recipe) are made simply with steak mince, sometimes with a bit of crushed Weetabix or egg to keep it bound together. Nothing like the carefully measured mix of chuck, short rib, fat and what have you that burger chefs seem to use. Burgers are MASSIVE right now – often in size and definitely in trend terms. I’ve certainly not sampled all the delights that London (and the UK) has to offer, but I’ve tried a fair few now and there are several I would recommend to anyone who is yet to try their fattening but oh so delicious offerings. It’s definitely not a ‘Top 5’ of all the burger places in town since I haven’t been to all that many! And there are technically only four anyway as two are run by the same company. But either way, if you fancy a burger, you would not go far wrong with a visit to any of these.
While I’ve never eaten from the original van at Netil Market, I’ve been to both the Slider Bar at the Player (once) and the Sebright Arms (at least three times), and while the former is very nice, the latter is exceptional.
The burgers at the Sebright Arms are all named after movie stars – The Kevin Bacon, the Tom Selleck, the Daryl Hannah (a fish burger, of course) and the Bill Murray, to name but a few. I tend to go for the Tom Selleck. It has a sesame bun, an onion ring, pineapple and spinach. The burger inside is fat, medium (of course) and tastes amazing. The burger itself is the messiest of all those I’ve tried (with the possible exception of one, below) and as you eat it, the juices WILL run down your hands, arms, and probably face. Forget looking glamorous – your Lucky Chip burger will defeat even Maybelline 24 Hour Superstay (the vintage burger eater’s lipstick of choice). Definitely do not go here on a first date.
The chips are always lovely as well, and I’ve had a hotdog here before, also delicious. Prices range from about £7.50 to about £9, I think. It’s worth noting that they have a traffic light inside that lets you know when you can order – red for when the kitchen is too busy, and green for go (obviously). It does get busy, but the light is never red for too long.
At the Slider Bar, I had a couple of minis of burgers I hadn’t tried before – the El Chappo with aioli and jalapenos, and the double cheeseburger. It’s definitely not quite as good, plus the small bottle that came with my chicken bucket starter was filled with a gravy that was the temperature of molten lava, which went on my hand and actually scalded me a bit. So BE CAREFUL.
Arrive hungry, leave drunk is their motto… pretty accurate. I’ve been here twice – once on a whim and once last weekend as it was their first birthday, with anyone who brought a balloon getting 50% off their bill. I had a Bloody Mary which was absolutely massive, so I lived up to the aforementioned motto. First time there, I stuffed my face with a bacon cheeseburger and deep-fried pickles with blue cheese dip, AKA the food of the gods. The meat is the real winner at Meat Liquor (unsurprisingly), the buns are a kind of brioche and do hold together much better than those at Lucky Chip. I can take or leave the fries though – they’re nothing exciting, even when covered with copious cheese.
The decor is quite dark, with ‘blood’ stained abattoir plastic strips, and ‘graffiti’ everywhere. The toilets say ‘Chicks’ and ‘Dicks’ on them.
At the weekend, I had a Dead Hippy burger, which is like Meat Liquor’s take on a Big Mac – two layers, cheese, lettuce and ‘special sauce’. I managed to try this one from the travelling Meatwagon at Bestival, where I queued for half an hour to do so… which brings me to the queues at the restaurant. If you go at peak time, after work, you might have to wait outside for about an hour… so try to go about about 5.30 or about 9pm if you don’t fancy lurking about in the cold! Worth it, though. Burgers are around £8, I think (why do none of these places have working menus online?).
This is a sister joint to Meat Liquor, but it’s very different – set up like a fast food chain rather than a restaurant, with a counter and high tables, plus slicker signage (albeit still with rude words on it).
This was the very first trendy burger bar burger I ever tried (OK, so the boyfriend isn’t entirely to blame… I hadn’t even met him yet), I went on my own and I’m glad… it was very nearly as messy as a Lucky Chip offering. I ate a Black Palace burger, not on the menu at the main ML. It’s full of drippy, gloopy, caramelised onions. It’s amazing. It was the first burger I Instagrammed. Sorry, world. They don’t do deep friend pickles, rather these jalapeno cheese popper things… not as good but quite nice in their own, spicy right.
These guys are normally at Brockley Market, a food extravaganza that I’ve never visited due to geographical limitations combined with a lack of desire to get up early and traipse in, out and across town. But they’re currently doing a pop-up residency at a pub in Camden called the Black Heart, which is a cool pub in itself, and one I happened to be visiting recently.
I had a bacon cheeseburger. The bun was another of these brioche-y numbers, the burger patty was delicious and cooked perfectly, and all in all, it was excellent. The man placed it at position number two, after Lucky Chip. I thought Meat Liquor’s Dead Hippy had the edge. But the Mother Flipper chips were the best I’ve had. Just look at this uninspiring photo that looks like nothing, but is obligatory for any burger-eating Instagrammer.
Last, and least as well, because they’re good but not as good as the places above, is Byron.
I’ve been to Byron loads, it’s easy and there are loads of them around. Notable experiences were the first time I went with my beloved Bethan and tasted the deliciousness that is their courgette fries. Heavenly, they are.
The standard Byron is the burger I have eaten every time I’ve been there, with the exception of the second notable experience, which was when Byron Camden ran out of buns at 9pm on a Saturday. We actually went (with permission) and bought some ciabatta rolls from Sainsbury’s and ate that way! A normal Byron burger looks like this. Unexciting, but tasty.
Plus, pickle spears are always a winner in my book! Last time I went to the Islington branch with Bethan, I broke from the norm and had a Mo Burger, which was even nicer than my usual, and it benefits Movember, too. All the male staff of Byron are participating in Movember, plus with all their other donations, you can feel virtuous as you eat your delicious, unhealthy burger.
Looking at all this, it’s a ruddy miracle that I have only put on ten pounds.
Go forth my readers and eat burgers (whilst wearing stretchy dresses and indelible lipstick) but more importantly, tell me where your favourite joints are, so I can go eat there. As a treat though. Only as a very special treat from now on. Promise!
PS. In case you were thinking this isn’t a very vintage post, burgers were invented in like 1904. So they are totally vintage, OK?