The search for London's best burger continued, and took me to the South. To Brixton, where a Victorian arcade has seen a new lease of life after years of decline. A community management company has started looking after the arcade, and leasing out the dinky units to small, independenty food outlets.
Over the last year or so, a number of them have had the Jay Rayner treatment – a glowing review from their locally residing national restaurant critic at large. Walking around the arcade on a chilly winter Friday evening, it was clear that his is the golden touch. Kaosan thai restaurant, and Honest Burger, where we were headed, both reviewed by Jay, were completely packed, with clusters of young urbanites gathered outside, waiting for a table to come up. Many of the other restaurants were empty or had just a few diners - but this may rectified now that Jay has done his greatest hits!
The early bird catches the worm, and my friend turning up at 6.20 was enough to bag us a table at Honest Burger. We kept our coats on and didn't drink too much to allow for the lack of heating and toilets. The menu was simple and limited – a couple of regular burger combinations, a special, and a small selection of sides. We both opted for the special – that week, a burger with chorizo and manchego and a spicy salsa of chili, garlic and parsley. They came with a side of rosemary salt hand cut fries, and we ordered a red cabbage and apple slaw to accompany.
The burgers were small, but perfectly formed. They came in a fantastic brioche bun, a good, thick slab of top quality manchego and a thick piece of meaty, smoky chorizo. The patty itself was small compared to the likes of Lucky Chip and MeatLiquor, and not as greasy – a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. It tasted more wholesome, and the references on the walls were about the sourcing of the beef. Quality and er...honesty dominate.
I think I was most impressed by the fries – the rosemary worked brilliantly, and you could tell that the potatoes were good'uns. The slaw was tasty, but again, more on the wholesome side than the badass greasy diner side. So it's a question of what you want fom yout burger. If you're looking for an honest, wholesome, fancy burger, this is as good as it gets. If you are after the greasy American experience, you're better off with Lucky Chip, Meat Liquor and possibly Byron.
While we're on the subject of burgers, I've blogged about Meat Liquor before, but went again with a big group of friends recently. We went off peak, knowing that a table for ten in such a popular eaterie could be hard to come by. We didn't have to wait long for a table, and were well accommodated, and went all out on sides and starters.
The chili cheese fries were beyond amazing, in their entirety, although the regular fries we had as a side didn't compare with those from Honest Burger. The slaw was closer to my ideal – creamier and fattier, and deep fried pickles were a revelation – I even managed to eat blue cheese in the form of the dip that came with them.
I need to square the circle again and visit Lucky Chip before too long. Burgers or bust.