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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 and weekend-only item, 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.
Venue says: “Heading to the theatre in Covent Garden this month? Our tapas menu of small plates is perfect for a quick pre-theatre or post-theatre meal!”
Mini Ibérico pork and foie gras burger, £8.50
From the same stable as Salt Yard and Dehesa, this smart and attractive tapas bar – once a Covent Garden boozer – might not be an obvious place to go looking for a burger. But the Opera Tavern mini-burger (if this was a Yankee-themed joint you’d probably call it a ‘slider’) is well worth seeking out. It layers a rich and supremely moist patty (fashioned from top-notch Ibérico pork meat and foie gras) with melted manchego and a crunchy battered onion ring, adds in the gentle hum of red onion jam against aioli and finishes with a few pieces of soft lettuce. Divine.
It’s a pity that this branch of Honest Burgers doesn’t have quite the same bohemian feel as the Brixton original, but on the plus side, the prime Soho location will make it easier (for most people) to get to. And, let’s face it, we’re here for them burgers: patties fashioned from 35-day dry-aged British chuck steak – courtesy of posh butchers Ginger Pig – topped with the likes of smoked bacon, sweet pickled cucumbers and slices of lip-smacking cheddar. Chips are hand-cut and salt-crusted and there are some not-too-shabby options for veggies, such as the sweetcorn, cauliflower and shallot fritter-in-a-bun.
'SmokeShack', £7.50 (single)
‘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.
The Advisory, named after the Asian Women’s Advisory Centre formerly on the site, is so popular with Hackney locals that it’s been known to run out of the brioche buns (and, for that matter, the stand-in brioche hot dog buns), having to serve its patties in the next day’s brunch muffins instead. No matter, as the variety on offer (from your regular beef, bacon and veggie, to chorizo and gorgonzola-topped numbers) is far better than you’d expect for the sub-£10 price tag, while moreish sides (cauliflower mac and cheese; sweet potato fries) seal the deal.
Japanese Wagyu beef burger, £6.55
This Chelsea sibling to the acclaimed Marylebone sushi spot ain’t cheap, we admit that. And that lofty pricing might extend to the cutesy wagyu mini burger (priced at a very specific £6.55), but ding dong are they fine. Think intensely flavoured, Josper-grilled beef from pampered cows, a perfect brown bun, a whack of heat and the cool crunch of little gem lettuce. Proof that good things come in teeny-tiny packages.
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?
Venue says: “We have just launched our new menu at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, based around dishes from Savoie.”
‘Frenchie’ burger with cheese, £18
Well before ‘sliders’ became the burger du jour, Bar Boulud was creating spectacular ‘petite’ burgers with plenty of va va voom. This contemporary bistro, set beneath the Mandarin Oriental hotel (and sibling to the equally A-list NYC original) offers four different versions, including the ‘Yankee’ (the most classic), the Southern-themed ‘Piggie’ (featuring pulled pork and fresh slaw), and the decadent ‘BB’ (with foie gras and braised rib meat). All are worthy of a place on this list, but our favourite is the ‘Frenchie’, where the juicy patty is topped with mellow tomato compote, a slice of soft morbier cheese, and shredded confit of pork belly.
Beef burger with Korean pulled pork, £16.50
Right, this one’s for the true meat-lovers. Islington’s Smokehouse is one of the capital’s high temples to flesh (barbecue don Neil Rankin presided over it for a long time, which says a lot), and where better to start practising the faith than with a dish as pure as the humble burger? Here, they come smothered in a heavily spiced Korean sauce and generously
topped with pulled pork of the highest standard. Amen to that.
Aged cheeseburger taco, £8.50 for two
OK, so this one’s a bit of a cheat. Temper is Neil Rankin’s subterranean Soho temple to meat. Down there, they riff on humble cheeseburgers by whacking them by the half onto tiny corn tacos, sort of like a Tex-Mex open sandwich. But put pedantry aside, as they’re 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, and finished off with sharp provolone cheese and red onion. You’ll be done in two mouthfuls, but holy hell what mouthfuls they are.
‘Dead Hippie’ burger, £9
Burger God Yianni Papoutis (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.
‘Smokey Robinson’ burger, £9
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.
Dirty Burger, £6
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.
Bacon cheeseburger, £8.20
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.
Venue says: “MAC-MUSSEL MONDAYS AT MAC & WILD! Every Monday, lunch and dinner, bottomless Shetland mussels, a glass of wine, and bread or chips for £20!”
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 between brioche for one hell of a meaty mouthful. Melted cheese and pickles add to the flavour invasion, while those who want even more meat for their money can add candied bacon for £2. Let the game begin.
Dirty Barbie, £10
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.
Kimchi Burger, £16.50
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 Seven Dials and has stayed there for seven years. We’ll neck a Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew to that.
'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.
‘Grizzly Bear’ bacon cheeseburger with bacon jam, £10
The burgers are uproariously good, but so is the atmosphere at this fun food joint. Service is smiley and personal, and the soundtrack flips between Studio 54-style floor-fillers, gay anthems and Italo piano classics. Order the Grizzly Bear burger served with wrong-sounding-but-right-tasting bacon jam. And wash it all down with an ever-changing array of beers, wines and house cocktails.
Double cheeseburger, £9
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 Cliff, £10
The Burger & Beyond boys pride themselves on using the best meat (well, they do run their own farm). All beef is hung, aged and butchered by the B&B team. Try it in The Cliff for maximum phwoar – the patty contains 90-day-aged chuck and brisket, pancetta and a tarragon mayo for a touch of gourmet. Trust us, there’s not much room for anything ‘beyond’ this bad boy.
‘El Chappo’, £9.20
The nomadic Lucky Chip is currently doing its thang at the hip Camden Assembly pub/venue, Islington’s always vibey Old Queen’s Head and the buzzy Hackney gig spot/boozer the Sebright Arms – which is appropriate, since each bite of one of these burgers is like a party in your mouth. There are specials on the menu named after famous faces, but of the regulars, the fiery ‘El Chappo’ gets our vote. Here, an already excellent patty is topped with smoked bacon, jalapeños, aioli and blue cheese. Scorchio.
Fancy a veggie version instead?
With the burger trend still going strong, and more people than ever opting to cut out meat, London has seen an explosion of creativity when it comes to veggie burgers. Though plenty of places are still dishing up dry bean burgers or overpriced portobello mushrooms, others have seriously upped their vegetarian game. Whether you’re a committed herbivore or just trying it out, here are the seven best veggie burgers that London has to offer.
This Thai restaurant in Belgravia has long been a popular spot for those seeking a sophisticated take on Thai dining. It now boasts a London offshoot in Harrods, with further venues in Birmingham and Dubai, too. Classic Thai dishes are all present and correct, so expect tom yum and tom ka soups, pad thai noodles and thai green curries. Signature dishes include poonim yum mamuang (soft-shell crab tempura with mango salad and citrus soy sauce) and hoy shell (grilled king scallop with a choice of garlic butter or spicy Thai garlic sauce). Set menus also feature. Keep an eye out for various special events, including a big celebration of Thai New Year.
Venue says: “Experience the creative Thai tapas cuisine on Mango Tree's Christmas menu, from Nov 14-Dec 24.”