London is one of the best places in Europe to eat a great burger. I should know. I have been maniacally searching for amazing beef patties on this side of the Atlantic since here from America’s burger capital seven years ago. In some cases, London’s kitchens are even giving American cities a run for their money. I still haven’t found an Old World rival to Louis’ Lunch, but there are great burgers to be had here if you know where to look. Now a NYC-based burger joint is getting into the London action.
Bar Boulud opened fewer than three weeks ago on the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in Knightsbridge. The French bistro’s London incarnation shares much in common with the Manhattan flagship–Gilles Verot’s charcuterie, wine cellar-inspired decor, and Vic Muniz’s framed “wine stain” pieces, to name a few. But Bar Boulud London also weaves in the Yankee, Frenchie, and Piggie burgers from DBGB in NYC. According to the Bar Boulud’s management, the Original DB, a short rib and truffle burger from DB, another Daniel Boulud venture in New York, will follow as soon as the kitchen perfects the bun and gets the patty just right.
Several reviews of Bar Boulud from its first two weeks in business say the burgers hadn’t yet reached their full potential. Wrong cooking temps, in particular, were a complaint. Based on the two burgers I had at Bar Boulud at lunch yesterday, I can report that the kitchen has nailed the Frenchie and the Piggie (both £13.5). The former is a grilled beef patty with confit pork belly, morbier cheese, and arugula on a peppered brioche bun, while the latter is a beef burger topped with barbequed pulled pork, bibb lettuce, red cabbage slaw, and green chili mayo on a cheddar bun. In both cases, the Scotch beef patty was the protagonist supported by a well balanced cast of condiments and toppings. Each was enveloped by a bun engineered to bring its own subtle flavor, while holding its contents without becoming overly soggy, a problem The Hawksmoor burger struggles against.
Bar Boulud’s renditions of the DBGB burgers were highly satisfying on every level. Flavor, seasoning, burger-bun relations, and overall coherence eclipsed the competition. Another thing BB’s burgers has on its side is size. The burgers are not massive as many of London’s other offerings tend to be. That is a good thing. They are a manageable size, and therefore one has room for other menu items. Don’t miss Gilles Verot’s charcuterie, gorgeous terrines and cured pork that warrant a dedicated visit. A small tasting platter costs £14 and may be the bargain of the century.
There was also room for dessert, the light and airy île flottante, a wedge of meringue in a pool of creme anglais with poached rhubarb and lemon curd (£6.5), and a dense and rich tarte au chocolat with mocha ganache and caramel ice cream (£8).
Having reached our daily fat and calorie intake by the end of the meal, we got the bill and made plans to return for the DB burger when it’s good and ready. In the meantime, Piggies and Frenchies are a fine substitute.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
London SW1X 7LA