OCTOBER 2019: We’ve added one more smashing restaurant, Four Legs at the Compton Arms, which bashes out ace cheeseburgers.
Fancy a burger? Of course you do. It’s the food trend fave that’ll never die, having outlived the likes of hot dogs, ribs and kebabs. But not all burgers are born the same, and London's best are utter meaty marvels: juice-seeping, humming with flavour and far more complex in creation than they’re ever given credit for. Here, in our (not so) humble opinion, are the best burgers in town.
The best burgers in London
‘Dexter’ cheeseburger, £10.50
If you only order one thing at this small dining room above the Compton Arms in Canonbury, make sure it’s the bona fide, utterly brilliant cheeseburger. It’s the stuff of dreams, a sloppy, messy thing comprising of a thin and juicy chargrilled patty made from Dexter beef, with accompaniments in the shape of melted cheese, burger sauce and finely minced onion – plus a heap of sweet pickles like something your granny would make. You’ll be swooning after the first mouthful.
‘El Chappo’ burger, £9.95
The nomadic Lucky Chip is currently doing its thang at Islington’s always vibey Old Queen’s Head and the recently launched The Bluecoats on Tottenham High Road, serving up burgers that taste like a party in your mouth. There are specials on the menu named after famous faces such as Kelly LeBrock, but of the regulars, the fiery ‘El Chappo’ gets our vote. Here, an already excellent patty is topped with smoked bacon, jalapeños, aïoli and blue cheese. Scorchio.
‘Dirty Barbie’ burger, £11
Flippin’ ’eck, these burgers are good. Juicy, roughly chopped patties of 28 day aged chuck beef comes perfectly cooked and properly seasoned. Ball-shaped meat mounds are squished down while on the grill, giving patties those delicious seared edges. The buns are soft, bouncy brioche. Toppings, meanwhile, run from the classic (pickles, lettuce, slices of processed US cheese) to the inspired (crisp pieces of streaky bacon ‘candied’ in brown sugar, or slices of hot-and-sweet pickled red jalapeños). But it’s the Dirty Barbie with candied everything – bacon and onions – that we keep coming back for.
The Cheeseburger (single patty version), £9
As street-food supremos, the Burger & Beyond boys pride themselves on ageing and butchering the best home-reared meat, and now they’ve brought all their expertise to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Shoreditch. Their burgers are officially cooked ‘medium’ and despite the temptation to ‘double up’, a single patty is more than sufficient in its sturdy sesame brioche bun with essential additions. We couldn’t fault the gloriously sloppy ‘bacon butter burger’ either, stacked with crisp pancetta, molten American cheese and burnt butter mayo.
‘Venimoo’ burger, £12
It’s a double patty party at Highland-loving restaurant Mac & Wild, but not like you’d find anywhere else in town. A beef patty and a venison patty cuddle up together inside a brioche for one hell of a meaty mouthful. Melted cheese, pickles, béarnaise and caramelised onions add to the flavour invasion, while those who want even more meat for their money can order candied bacon for £2.50. Let the game begin.
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Double cheeseburger, £10
There are just a few tables at Bleecker St's Spitalfields Market home, so don’t expect much in the way of comfort or ambience. But what you will discover is a stripped-back but hugely satisfying formula for the all-American burger. Show-stopping dry-aged beef cooked pink is complemented by Bleecker’s ‘secret sauce’ that tastes every bit as peppery as McDonald's’ Big Mac mayo (but more upmarket, obvs). Maximise on that meat with a double cheeseburger. Seeded buns are toasted to perfection, mopping up those excess patty juices without ever compromising your vice-like burger grip.
The Blacklist burger, £10
Blacklock’s third chophouse inhabits a classic Shoreditch warehouse space and the menu is – not surprisingly – heavy with chops (‘skinny’ little chops, ‘medium’ chops and ‘large’ off-the-bone beauties). It also has an unexpected ace up its sleeve in the shape of the so-called ‘Blacklist’ burger. You won’t see it on the menu, but just ask for it by name and they’ll nod knowingly. Inside the soft sesame bun, you get a juicy patty loaded with sliced gherkin and onions caramelised in vermouth plus a slug of mild sriracha-laced burger sauce. Don’t forget a side order of crispy beef-dripping fries.
Kimchi burger, £17
Hawksmoor’s Kimchi Burger = true Seoul food. This unctuous behemoth was dreamt up by head chef Richard Turner after a trip to South Korea. It’s simple really: a Hawksmoor cheeseburger – already a banger – is topped with beef short rib and spicy fermented cabbage. It was on the first-ever bar menu at Hawksmoor’s Seven Dials branch and has stayed there ever since. We’ll neck a Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew to that.
Cheese and candy bacon burger, £6.50 (single), £9.50 (double)
It’s pretty rare to find burgers cooked ‘pretty rare’ these days, but BB is one of the few exceptions. This burger boy has a pitch among the stalls of Street Food Union on Rupert Street (Wed-Fri), and his star turn is a cheese burger pimped up with nuggets of nicely chewy candy bacon, plus red onion and lettuce – all in a soft brioche bun. It's good on its own, but tastes especially great when generously lathered with a punchy sauce – choose from a huge range, including chipotle mayo. For more info check @BurgerBoyUK.
The Goodman burger, £16
Looking for all the world like some rich old grandfather’s study, the polished Mayfair branch of the Russian-owned steakhouse chain brings Manhattan to Mayfair with its well-upholstered, well-aged look and truly excellent grass-fed beef from both sides of the Atlantic. Steaks are headliners, but don’t ignore their stellar beef burger – a super-juicy patty with the usual additions (lettuce, pickle, tomato, onion), plus a heap of crunchy thick-cut fries.
‘Dirty’ burger, £6.95
It’s already got a cult following, and not just because ‘dirty’ has become synonymous with ‘sexy’. DB actually has a rocking formula: chic interiors courtesy of ultra-slick owner Soho House, reasonable prices and exceptional cooking. A blend of carefully selected cuts goes into each patty, for a depth of flavour that, when combined, with pickles, cheese, lettuce, tomato and condiments, makes for a seriously good bite. But don’t forget the sides: the triple-cooked hand-cut chips and terrific tempura-battered onion fries deserve equal billing.
Steamed Japanese Wagyu mini burger bun, £9
This Chelsea sibling of the acclaimed Marylebone sushi spot ain’t cheap, and you’ll pay a pretty penny for its cutesy wagyu mini burger buns, but these little beauties are damn fine to eat. Intensely flavoured, Josper-grilled beef from pampered cows is slotted into a perfect brown bun with teriyaki sauce, sesame and some crunchy baby gem lettuce. For an extra three quid, you can have your burger pimped up with foie gras mousse.
Take no heed of the name: Bad Egg’s an exceptionally good little City diner, tucked down a side street in the Barbican’s brutalist shadow. The menu – a mix of Southern States diner fare and more modish little plates – is a grab bag of hits, but the cheeseburger is a must. The filthy mother melds a rare-breed beef patty with such delights as a potato bun, turmeric pickles, burger sauce, caramelised onions and – wait for it – a veritable flood of Red Leicester fondue. FONDUE, FFS. Not bad, right?
Bacon cheeseburger, £8.90
Forget about the French dips and dive deep into the burger list. The bacon cheeseburger holds a beautifully charred-on-the-outside, pink-on-the-inside patty in its middle, topped with molten cheese and crisp smoky bacon, not to mention long slivers of gherkin, burger sauce and shards of raw cabbage (a smart move: crunchier than lettuce, but with a peppery note). This is all snuggled into a rich, of-the-moment brioche bun. Ooh la la.
'Belly Connection' burger, £7
These Nomadic meat masters have been plying their trade around Kerb and Brockley Market for years now, building a cultish rep for gutsy, left-field bites (the clue is in the name). A case in point is their awesome ‘Heartbreaker’ burgers. The ‘Belly Connection’ version is a truly inspired dish, with a patty made from 50 percent ox heart and 50 percent dry-aged, native breed beef (sourced from Bermondsey’s finest, The Butchery), topped with 24-hour cooked pork belly, gorgonzola, pimiento mayo, pickled red onions and lettuce.
‘Smokey Robinson’ burger, £9.50
As you’d expect from the name, the burgers here come both with a properly cooked ‘patty’ and a rich brioche ‘bun’, but the real star turn is the use of own-made mayos and relishes. The ‘Smokey Robinson’, made with ‘smokey P&B mayo’, jammy caramelised onions and crisp bacon, is so good it deserves to be in a burger hall of fame. Fries are of a rustic ilk: skin-on, hand-cut thin chips with flecks of rosemary salt. Perhaps the only downside is that, surprise surprise, it doesn’t take bookings, and gets seriously busy. Our top tip: go on a dreary Tuesday afternoon, and get a bit of burger-shaped sunshine in your life.
‘BB’ burger, £24
A Knightsbridge outpost of the New York flagship, this modern French/US mash-up from chef Daniel Boulud features plenty of finger-licking American staples alongside its Gallic brasserie offering. The restaurant’s signature burgers (now beefed up to full size) are among the best in town and we just love ‘em. The signature ‘BB’, for instance, is a near-perfect triumph of juicy beef, pulled short rib, horseradish mayo and confit tomato, piled high on a salty black onion-seed bun.
Venue says Stylish bistro and wine bar by Daniel Boulud in Knightsbridge. Seasonal French cooking with an American touch!
‘Dead Hippie’ burger, £9.50
Burger God Yianni Papoutsis (who first wowed us with his creations from the back of a van) opened this grill-and-booze bar in 2011, but the sloppy, juicy burgers are as knock-your-socks off as ever. There’s ground chuck steak in each one, and all manner of toppings available: chilli, bacon, mushrooms… you get the picture. But our out-and-out favourite remains the ‘Dead Hippie’, where two thin double-stacked patties are anointed with melted cheese, tangy gherkins, finely diced onions and a ‘secret sauce’ so addictive that, if you didn’t know better, you’d think had crack in it.
‘Tribute’ burger, £11.50
This chain has more than two dozen London branches – and counting – but never fear, HB hasn't lost its sheen. We still love the signature Honest burger (with its super-sweet red onion relish), but our all-time fave has to be the ‘Tribute’. It’s got American cheese, French mustard, bacon, pickles and a patty made from 35-day dry-aged British chuck steak. Chips are hand-cut and salt-crusted and there are some not-too-shabby options for veggies, such as the Southern-fried courgette and sweetcorn fritter with chipotle mayo in a bun.
Aged cheeseburger tacos, £9 for two
OK, so this one’s a bit of a cheat. Temper is Neil Rankin’s subterranean Soho temple to meat, and his riff on the humble cheeseburger involves whacking the beef onto tiny corn tacos (a bit like a Tex-Mex open sandwich). The result is simply astounding. The fresh minced beef (aged up to a funky 78 days) is cooked on a charcoal plancha, then slathered with chipotle sour cream and a lime-heavy house green sauce, finished off with sharp provolone cheese and red onion. You’ll be done in two mouthfuls, but holy hell what mouthfuls they are.
Drapers cheeseburger, £13.50
Ah, The Drapers Arms. As pretence-free, cosy neighbourhood pubs go, this Islington stalwart is one of the best, not least because of its ace seasonal food menu. The cheeseburger is a lunch-only item (not Sun) but is well worth schlepping out of work/bed for. It’s a thoughtfully-sourced little pile that includes a bone-marrow-laced patty made with aged beef from The Butchery, house burger sauce, smoked cheddar and pickled red onion rings, all crammed into a St John demi-brioche bun. A pub grub classic, done marvellously.
'Smoke Shack', £7.50 (single), £10.75 (double)
‘Oooooh, but it’s better in America!’ I hear you whine. Well pipe down! That may be true, we concede – no idea why, mind – but Shake Shack’s UK eateries do absolutely dandy stuff too. A case in point: the signature SmokeShack burger. It’s a regular cheeseburger (already delish) topped with Applewood smoked bacon, piquant peppers and creamy, sweet, slightly spicy ShackSauce, served up in a little waxed paper jacket. The millennial’s Big Mac, basically.