London Burger Breakdown

Written by Katie Parla on February 4, 2011

The kimchee burger at The Hawksmoor.

On and off for the past year I have been on a heart-stopping quest for the best burger in London. As a die hard burger fanatic, my instincts first told me that I should head to Heathrow for a JFK bound flight to find what I am looking for. But I have actually found quite a few good–and one spectacular–burger here in London. This is not altogether surprising, as the UK has some outstanding beef (and cheese and bacon, for you bacon cheeseburger enthusiasts out there) and, like its colonial counterparts, its residents aren’t afraid of a little a shitload of lot of cholesterol. Here are the results of my best burger search:

The Big D is that spectacular burger I alluded to above. It is 100% Scottish Angus chuck, has an ideal 20% fat content, a 4-inch diameter, and weighs in at half a pound. It is a limited edition burger available at Byron this month only (O’Shea’s of Knightsbridge, the butcher that created it for Byron, sells it year-round). It has only been on the Byron menu for 4 days now and I’ve already had 3. It’s that good. The only shortcoming is that Byron serves it on a pretty lame bun. The Big D is available through February 28. It costs £10.50.

Goodman serves an excellent burger on a well paired brioche bun. After the Big D, this is the best burger I’ve tasted in London so far. It comes with chips and costs £12.

The Frenchie at Bar Boulud.

Bar Boulud, which opened in Knightsbridge last year, has been a divisive presence in London’s burger culture. Some love it, others hate it. On a visit in back in May, I had two excellent burgers, the Piggie and the Frenchie (both borrowed from Boulud’s DBGB menu). Flavor, seasoning, and burger-bun proportions were all on point. The Frenchie and Piggie are both served with fries and cost £13.75. A third burger, the Yankee, costs £12.75.

The Hawksmoor‘s famous overrated £15 cheeseburger is made from 100% Longhorn meat, including bits of bone marrow and clod and sticking (neck and shoulder pieces). It is all topped with melted Ogleshield or Colston Basset Stilton. This is an alright burger, but I find the patty too greasy and heavy. I can’t say for sure, but I would estimate it has a 25-30% fat content which is a shade too high. It’s really hard to finish (I never say that about anything) and also takes a week to digest. The classic cheeseburger is available at both branches, while the Seven Dials location also serves a kimchi burger and a third burger that changes regularly (this week it was topped with pulled pork).

Burger at the Greenwich Union.

The Greenwich Union‘s homemade 28 day aged Angus burger is about as good as a pub burger gets. The meat and bun both hit high marks for texture and harmony and the accompanying chips are superb. It costs £11.30 and is best washed down with a Meantime Helles. The pub itself, which brews its own beer nearby and has a nice selection of imported bottles, is worth a visit on its own.

Lucky Seven‘s single estate prime Aberdeen Angus chuck burgers are pure comfort food: just the right amount of grease, plenty of flavor, and nothing fancy. The ambience of this 1950s American style diner only adds to a great burger experience. The classic burger costs £6.75, fries an additional £3.25.

Haché…What can I say about this place? Ciabatta buns annoy me, “chicken burgers” are not burgers, and why the hell would a Sicilian burger have Parma ham on it? That said, their 100% prime Scotch beef steak patties are tasty if you can overlook that rocket has replaced lettuce. Their whole concept of innovation is heavy handed, but if you stick to the classics, you can find solace in their very good patties. The steak au naturel burger costs £6.95. Fries are an extra £2.50.

The Big D at Byron.

Byron serves grass fed Scottish beef on large, soft buns. The service is terrific and the burgers are adequate, though not mind-blowing (that is, unless it’s February and the Big D is on). It is just a very good fast food style burger.

Diner, like Lucky Seven, offers an American greasy spoon feel and the burgers are pretty good and very cheap. Though this certainly isn’t a gourmet burger, it is compact and flavorful, the bun is alright, and its about the best you can do for a fiver.

The Meateasy, the pop-up incarnation of the Meatwagon, opened in New Cross Gate last month. A cheeseburger costs £6 and contains all the greasy goodness you knew and loved at the Meatwagon. And just as at the Meatwagon, the experience is part of the meal. Perhaps when you have to wait a long time to eat, the burger, which is decent enough, but not amazing, is perceived as tasting better? The Meateasy closes in March and if you like eating burgers in an interesting atmosphere, make a trip, but surely not two.

A word of advice: order burgers medium rare. Servers almost always recommend medium but go for MR.

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