I don’t know how many times it bears repeating, but burgers are the tardigrade (google it) of the gastro world: an evergreen, ubiquitous, artery-furring staple that simply will not die. Joining the upper echelons of London’s finest patty purveyors is Brixton’s Black Bear: the first (bare) bricks and (artfully exposed) mortar site for an itinerant street-food stall already at Shoreditch’s Boxpark and Giant Robot in Canary Wharf.
This is a joint doing burgers at their best. Let’s work backwards. The house Black Bear Burger was killer: two dry-aged patties, smashed thin and crisp-charred to maillard perfection, neatly offset with onion jam, synthetic cheese and garlic mayo. The buttermilk chicken burger, topped with zingy bread-and-butter pickles and honey-mustard mayo, served ‘dipped’ (that is, molten with chilli heat) would have been up there too, had it not been sopping with oil. Still, without cutlery it was more a practical detraction than a taste one.
But the sides… Christ, the sides. Both a pile of house chicken nuggets (fiendishly succulent chunks of breast, greaselessly battered, with buffalo and blue cheese sauces for dipping) and a plate of brisket spring rolls (the fried wonton cut lengthways to reveal a heady mulch of stripped slow-cooked beef, smoked bacon and American cheese) were truly stratospheric snacks. Add in a portion of poutine, heavy with rubbery curds and deeply flavourful gravy, and you’ve got some of the best haute-junk in town – all the better knocked back with a gin and tonic cannily stuck with a wedge of charred, caramelised lemon. The sheer volume of competition means it’s hard to be heard on London’s burger scene, but Black Bear roars through the static.