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BRGR.CO: Going back to basics

BRGR.CO: Going back to basics

A bacon cheeseburger from BRGR.CO in Soho, London

BRGR.CO IS…REFRESHINGLY ORDINARY

Have we reached peak burger? Is that even possible? I don’t know about you but I’m starting to get a little weary of it all. Once upon a time, when your fast food options were McDonalds or Burger King or a greasy van on a roadside, the likes of Meat Liquor and even Byron seemed daring and exciting. But now those trendy burger joints are as ubiquitous as the fast food chains that they once stuck two fingers up at. So where now for the once humble burger? In the case of BRGR.CO you go back to basics. You make it all about the meat.

BRGR.CO isn’t pretentious. There’s no loud music or graffiti. The decor isn’t “distressed” or “shabby chic”. There are no quirky names or gimmicks attributed to their burgers. It’s the Ronseal of burger bars – it does what it says on the tin. You want a cheeseburger? You get a cheeseburger. You want to wash it down with a milkshake? You can choose from all the classic milkshake flavours. However, at BRGR.CO you also get to choose your burger as if you were in a steakhouse. That’s right – you can choose which cut of meat that you would like. There are three options available: Blade, Hanger and Rump. Blade is their entry level burger; a mixture of bavette (blade) steak and brisket. Hanger is exactly that – 100% hanger steak, and Rump is a blend of juicy rump (obvs) and prime rib.

A bacon cheeseburger from BRGR.CO in Soho, London

The burger toppings are all pretty straightforward, although there are two slightly more unusual options: the chilli burger, made with red chillis and chipotle mayo, and the bacon and guacamole burger. We played it safe and ordered a couple of solid bacon cheeseburgers. The burgers were presented, deconstructed, on a tray with the salad (lettuce, tomato, gherkins, red onion) and top half of the bun off to one side. I wasn’t sure about this at first but actually it’s a pretty good idea, as it allows you to pile on your preferred choice of dressings and add any salad-y bits as you see fit – rather than dig around in a pre-assembled and invariably messy burger to extricate elements you don’t like (such as gherkins…).

The burgers were refreshingly ordinary. The meat was juicy; a couple of rashers of bacon were unceremoniously slung over the top of the burger, like a pair of discarded trousers, but that was fine because…you know…bacon. The menu promised a choice of cheese but no-one asked us what our preference was so I’m guessing we ended up with cheddar. Which is no bad thing, although the greedy little cheese beast in me would have liked a bit more. But what I liked most of all is the fact that they BRGR.CO use a demi-brioche bun. I’m kind of over brioche buns. They once seemed a bit posh but in reality all they add is an increased risk of indigestion. So a demi-brioche bun was a welcome change; being neither too rich nor too plain it was, like the porridge of littlest bear in Goldilocks, just right.

Parmesan truffle fries from BRGR.CO in Soho, London

Burgers aside, there were two other items on the menu that made my heart skip a beat – Oreo milkshakes and parmesan truffle fries. We were told that there was no vanilla milkshake available, for which read “there was no vanilla ice cream” (more on that later) so my Oreo milkshake was made using chocolate ice cream instead. Oh the humanity…(*sarcasm*) As for the fries….I’m just so grateful that I live in a time where parmesan truffle fries are a thing. I mean, I thought cheesy chips were the bomb when I was younger but now they seem hopelessly quaint and old fashioned. Unlike the burgers, the cheese here was gooey and plentiful – almost like a ridiculously decadent cheese sauce.

The dessert menu at BRGR.CO is limited and – like the main menu – is made up of fairly ordinary dishes, like warm chocolate brownie or ice cream sundae. The crumble on offer was apple and banana, which I considered to be a slightly odd combination but perhaps that’s just me. It was supposed to have been served with vanilla ice cream but, as they didn’t have any, it came with chocolate instead – which made the whole mix of flavours even weirder! Nonetheless my friend seemed to like it. The baked vanilla cheesecake that I ordered was less of a success. It was a dry, dense door stop of a cake; unsalvageable even by the strawberry sauce that artfully decorated the plate. The fact that the word “cheesecake” is spelled incorrectly on their website probably says it all. It’s a dish that no-one cares about, including the person who made it.

Baked vanilla cheesecake with strawberries from BRGR.CO in Soho, London

You can’t really go wrong when it comes to burgers. Actually, no, you can potentially go very wrong; however, the burgers from BRGR.CO are a safe pair of hands. The meat is good quality; you can save or splurge, depending on your choice of meat; they’re generously proportioned; and the toppings err on the safe side. In a city that’s overflowing with gimmicks, a no-nonsense burger joint is a breath of fresh air.

BRGR.CO, 187 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZB or 127 King’s Road, SW3 4PW

I was advised that BRGR.CO will soon be making some exciting changes to their menu and venues so watch this space!

Many thanks to Lioneye Media and BRGR.CO for inviting me to dine at their Soho branch. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Jackdaw and Star/We Serve Humans

Jackdaw and Star/We Serve Humans

I have a theory regarding burgers which goes a little something like this.  If you need to eat it with a knife and fork then it’s a good burger.  Of course, that theory does fall down from time to time.  I’m sure there are plenty of burgers that are stacked high and stuffed full and still taste rank.  But in general, a good burger is one that you most definitely can’t pick up in your hands.  Case in point: McDonalds and their teeny, shrivelled “burgers”.  I can easily eat a Big Mac one-handed and my hands are positively Donald Trump-esque in their dimensions.  So I don’t care if I look silly or genteel or “posh” with my knife and fork; I want to eat a burger that I can’t pick up.  I want a burger that is so full of meat and cheese and…stuff that it’s in danger of collapsing.  If that’s the sort of burger that you want too, then I recommend checking out the We Serve Humans residency at the Jackdaw and Star.

The Jackdaw and Star in Homerton is one of those hipster pubs that look unedifying from the outside, but turn into something achingly cool as you step through the doors.  It clearly used to be a scruffy old boozer but has been pimped up with a few licks of paint, crazy patterned wallpaper and squishy antique armchairs.  I particularly liked the fact that they’ve kept the beautiful Victorian tiles in situ, as well as the large central bar, retaining some of that lovely old fashioned pub vibe.

Staying very much on trend, the Jackdaw and Star doesn’t have its own in-house chef.  Instead, they invite various street food vendors and pop-up chefs to take up residency for a few months.  I’m a big fan of this approach.  I think it keeps things fresh and gives people a reason to keep coming back, as well as providing a platform for up-and-coming chefs.  Currently, the Jackdaw and Star is playing host to We Serve Humans; burger-flipping purveyors of happiness.  And their food really does make you happy.  Just one look at the menu brought a smile to my face – an “angry” burger named after everyone’s least favourite orange American…  They also do hot dogs, sliders, wings and the dirtiest chips in town.  So yeah, food that will definitely make you feel happy, although probably not healthy.

Image supplied by the Jackdaw and Star

We ordered “The Frank” and the Donald Trump burger, the latter now renamed as “The End of Democracy”.  It’s still “angry” though, heaving with jalapeños and a generous dollop of beef chilli.  The Frank was an altogether classier affair.  This burger came with the addition of blue cheese and truffled aioli for those people who like their rich food to be served extra rich.  Both burgers were made with We Serve Human’s signature brisket and short rib patty.  The meat was just the right side of medium rare and had that gorgeous griddled flavour that denotes a good burger.  “But could you pick it up?”, I hear you yell.  Not a chance in hell.  These were like The Shard in burger form.  Even my friend, with his big man hands, had to use a knife and fork.  There was no skimping on ingredients here.

Because we’re greedy and incapable of making a decision, we ordered two different portions of chips: the “standard” chips fried in beef dripping and chips with beer cheese sauce.  You see what I mean when I talked about them being the dirtiest chips in town?  Sure, you find beef dripping chips on lots of menus but the difference here is that you can actually taste the dripping.  The chips with beer cheese sauce were just as epic.  It tasted like Welsh rarebit, only with chips instead of toast.  And if that’s not enough for you, you can also choose from chips with truffle and chips with slow cooked chilli and cheese sauce.  I swear my arteries are furring up just typing this.

Image supplied by the Jackdaw and Star

The Jackdaw and Star do a pretty sophisticated cocktail list, where you can choose from the likes of a fog cutter or a mezcal margarita.  My negroni was one of the best I’ve had in London – and I’ve drunk a LOT of them so it’s safe to say I know my shit here.  The team were also able to recommend some decent soft drinks, such as Square Root sodas, to my tee-total friend, which made a pleasant change from the usual pint of Coke.

We Serve Humans clearly know that naughty food is the way to put a smile on anyone’s face.  What’s even better is that their version of naughty food is a step up from the bog standard burger and chips.  They’ve actually given their menu some thought, come up with fun ideas and then lifted everything by going hell for leather with their ingredients.  There’s no worrying about calories or pandering to the “eat clean” brigade here.  Even their vegetarian options are mega (crispy truffled mac and cheese in a bun, anyone?).  This is the sort of food you eat for a treat, food that cheers you up, food that’s minxy and indulgent.  So roll your sleeves up and get your knife and fork ready.  You’re definitely going to need them for these burgers.

Jackdaw and Star, 224 Homerton High Street, E9 6AS

Many thanks to the team at both the Jackdaw and Star and We Serve Humans for inviting me along to sample their menu.  All views are, as ever, my own.
Due to a technical issue with my phone, I lost all but one of the images from this night.   The last two images are professional photos provided by the Jackdaw and Star and are not necessarily representative of our meal. 

Gold Rush

Gold Rush

IMG_1849[1]Channelling my inner Yosemite Sam isn’t something I tend to do very often.  Yet last Friday night I found myself  “yee haw”-ing to my heart’s content, whilst downing shots of buffalo juice.  This was not some marathon session of Looney Tunes, however.  It was Gold Rush.

Gold Rush is the latest pop up from Django Bango.  Sounding like a cross between a Tarantino film and a 90’s dance tune, the team have previously held successful events such as Wild West Town in Shoreditch earlier this year.  Gold Rush sticks to the Wild West theme; this time transforming a steel yard in Vauxhall into a gold mine worthy of the Klondike.  A cast of cowboys and saloon lovelies, including hostess Miss Trixy Dixy, are on hand to welcome all of us potential prospectors.  However, it’s not just all eating, drinking, and carousing in this here gold mine.  We were also going to be doing a spot of mining ourselves.  Some pesky varmint had stolen the gold and stashed it around the mine.  Including in the food!  Anyone who finds any gold will win a mystery prize so, with five courses on the menu, it was time to get digging.

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The set dinner commenced with muffnuts.  Muffnuts sound vaguely naughty – and that’s exactly what they were.  I had to keep reminding myself that there were another four courses to come, otherwise I would have eaten far more than my fair share of these buttermilk muffins filled with pulled pork and covered with melted Monterey Jack.  Course number two arrived in the form of a washing line with dinky metal pails dangling from it.  These contained crocodile tempura bites, and were accompanied by a sauce boat of salsa verde.  The crocodile was a bit on the chewy side, sadly, and the salsa verde was overly oily.  All was forgiven, however, when the next course of BBQ beef short ribs was served.  These had clearly been in the slow cooker for hours and the meat fell apart with a gentle prod of the fork.  The addition of a hefty dollop of BBQ sauce and slaw made sure that this dish ticked all the boxes.  I’ve always been a sucker for American comfort food and this was definitely doing it for me.

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Three courses in and still no sign of any gold!!!!  Was I going to end up empty handed, albeit full bellied?  The arrival of course number 4, a cast iron pot containing smokey sausage gumbo, certainly guaranteed the latter.  I was beginning to flag by this stage in the proceedings, but the gumbo still went down a treat and the inclusion of a jambalaya “arancini” provided an interesting nod to fusion food.  The feast then concluded with a decadent slab of Rocky Road.  This was perhaps a little on the heavy side after four other fairly rich courses but who cares?  I had already fully surrendered myself to the inevitable food coma and it tasted utterly delicious.  And then….my spoon clanged against something suspiciously hard.  There, glinting out of the chocolatey darkness, was a shiny nugget of gold.  Yee haw!!!!!!

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As if all the food, gold and general mine-y fun isn’t enough, there is live music throughout the night and a drinks menu that is more comprehensive than you’ll find in your average saloon.  The cocktails are particularly good (my personal fave was the MineyMcMineFace – a potent brew made up of mezcal, fresh lime juice and hibiscus syrup).  Giving the event a shout out on social media can also net you a shot of the mysterious buffalo juice, which does taste a lot better than it sounds.  So dig out your stetson, pack your pick axe and stake your claim on this hugely entertaining night out.  The London Gold Rush has begun.

Gold Rush is on every Friday and Saturday until October.  Tickets cost £35.
(http://www.djangobango-goldrush.com/)
Use the discount code ‘goldenprosecco” when booking, for a free glass of prosecco upon arrival on the 24th and 25th June.

I would like to thank the team at Django Bango for inviting me to join them at Gold Rush but all opinions are, as ever, my own.