Go ahead, salivate, that’s the carnivore’s natural response to my list of the top 10 burgers in London.
The quality and variety of burgers in London is steadily improving, of that there can be little doubt. But getting them cooked as ordered remains a crapshoot.
Exhaustive as my investigation was, not just of the top 10 burgers but also of many that didn’t make the cut, I can’t predict the likelihood of your getting a burger cooked the way you want it. Most burger flippers have good days and off days. This ranking is based solely on my days, my first-hand experiences, my luck.
Since your personal burger priorities are not likely in the same order as mind it’s a shame you can’t click a relevance tab to arrange this list according to the factors which matter to you most: burger style (street, joint, pub, steak), patty (size, shape, density), meat (cut, fat content, grind), assortment of toppings, cooking method, construction, consistency of preparation, inventiveness, price, value for money, level of obscene drippiness, etc.
Absent a re-sorting mechanism I’ve resorted to taking into account all these factors. But in the end I relied most on a single consideration: pleasure. My top 10 burgers in London are the ones I’d most want to eat.
The Top 10 Burgers in London
Goodman, once home to London’s best steakhouse burger, is having texture woes. The quality of the beef is as high as ever but the patty’s surface isn’t as crusty or caramelised as it used to be and its coarse, crumbly chew has turned to mush. Seen from the outside the Goodman steakhouse burger remains a handsome handful: You will need to stretch the C-shaped brackets formed between thumbs and index fingers to make a go of it. £15 including chips.
Goodman Mayfair – 26 Maddox Street, W1S 1QH
Goodman City – 11 Old Jewry, EC2R 8DU
Goodman Canary Wharf – 3 South Quay, Discovery Dock East, E14 9RU
9. Burger Bear
Give me a jar of Burger Bear’s homemade bacon jam, a spoon and couple of beers and I could make an evening of it, so good is Tom Reaney’s signature burger condiment. But the street food warrior isn’t done there: He also likes to dress his burgers with the crispest streaky bacon in all of Londonium Burgerdom: The one-two bacon punch could lead some to overlook the patty. That would be a big mistake. Balls of coarse mince are crushed but not flattened on the flattop, leaving all the fatty juices in your burger, protected in its effective if homely white bun, until your first bite liberates them. Beefy red droplets quickly rain down onto your plate and, if you’re not careful, your shoes. You can identify the regulars on the queue by the stains on the toes of their trainers. £5-£10 not including chips. Burger Bear will be competing in the 4th and final round in the group stage of the BurgerMonday London Burger Bash.
Red Market, 1-3 Rivington St, EC2A 3DT
8. Lucky Chip
Is it finally time to draw a line in the salt? The hot-off-the-truck burgers from Lucky Chip get their Gareth Bale kick from the Murray Hill Australian sea salt encrusting its patties. As difficult as it is to put these fabulously middleweights down, figuratively and, yes, literally, the heavy-handed salting has gone over the top. There’s no disputing the appeal of the patties, with their desirably rough contours and fat-soaked crevices. When cooked right the buzz you get from the first bite is so great you can almost feel your ears ringing. The smoked back bacon, however, can border on chewy, occasionally with tiny hard white bits, possibly cartilage. Lucky Chip is in residence at the Sebright Arms pub every night except Sunday. On Saturdays you’ve find the guys parked at the original Netil Market location from 12:30pm to 9pm. £6.50-£16 not including fries.
Lucky Chip at Sebright Arms, 31-35 Coate Street, E2 9AG
Lucky Chip at Netil Market, 13-23 Westgate Street, London Fields, E8 3RL
7. Honest Burgers
In a makeshift burger luncheonette in Brixton Village Market built with hammer and nails Tom Barton and his able sidekicks stick to the fundamentals. They form 5 1/4 ounces (150 gr) of mince into marbled beef balls and flatten them with their hands (not spatula) on their flat-top griddle. Only then are the burgers seasoned with coarse salt. The crunch of the Honest, their best daily burger variety burger, comes from the level layers of sliced homemade gherkins and crisp streaky bacon; its tang, from griddle-steamed Cheddar; its sweetness, from red onion relish; its oven-browned polish, from a brushed white-flour bun; its juice, from marbled meat put through the most minimal of workouts. Burgers are not like boxers: If you want to develop a middleweight champion, as Honest has done, you mustn’t overwork ‘em. £7.50-£9 including chips.
Honest Burgers Brixton – Unit 12, Brixton Village, SW9 8PR Honest Burgers Soho – 4A Meard Street – W1F 0EF Honest Burgers Camden, Unit 34A, 54-56 Camden Lock Pl, NW1 8AF
6. Bleecker St. Burger
If you’re a native New Yorker, as I am, the first thing you notice about this black burger van is that it’s named after a famous Greenwich Village street. The second thing you notice is that Zan Kaufman, the New Yorker-turner-Londoner taking orders, is wearing the hat of the despised Red Sox, a rival baseball team from Boston. In a flash you almost can hear the voice of Greenwich Village native Robert De Niro urging you to “walk away” from the Zan-with- a-van before it’s too late. But if you’re a bigger fan of burgers than baseball, as I am, you stay: Sometime sure smells really good and you gotta know what it is. The extraordinarily thing about the deceptively ordinary Bleecker burger is that it’s at once beefy, juicy, creamy, sweet and salty without feeling dirty. Rarely if ever will you find aged beef of this quality in a street burger. Plus it’s cooked, as promised, to medium rare – no easy task given the relative thinness of the patties. For that alone I tip my New York Mets baseball cap to Zan. £5.50 for a single; £7.90 for a double (not including fries). Bleecker’s double cheeseburger was voted top burger at round 3 of the London Burger Bash.
Go to Bleecker’s Facebook page to follow it’s schedule and whereabouts.
There are two pairs of hands you want to see around this big and deceptively powerful burger: yours or Hawksmoor‘s. Others have tried to duplicate the lush mince mix, which is said to include bone marrow and obscure cuts like beef shoulder clod, but these imposters have left me and their burgers crushed. Fat fills the grooves within the Hawksmoor burger as it cooks, basting its internal structure with deep, beefy flavours. The wet patty rests over an untidy raft of lettuce interruptus. Squeeze the burger too firmly or not firmly enough, I’m never sure which, and the patty will slide out from its housing, greasing your hands and breaching the bottom of the bun even before you’ve taken your first bite. But, oh my, what a first bite! Danger. Implosion. It’s all there, except, in recent instances, any significant char on the surface of a patty cooked to medium rare. Amongst four Hawksmoors, this ranking only apples to the Seven Dials location near Covent Garden, its burger HQ. £15 including chips.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials – 11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JG
4. Bar Boulud
66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
3. Patty & Bun
A burger bun is a handle protecting our hands from drippy greasy, cheese and condiments. Patty & Bun‘s Joe Grossmann did not get that memo. His burgers are not so much over-the-top as all over the place: Open the wrapper and you can’t tell where the orange cheesy stuff ends and the runny orange house sauce begins. Beneath the radioactive goo is an appealingly plump, deep-pink, hand-packed patty just shy of six ounces but not shy of fatty juices. It’s a genre bender, successfully combining classic elements of both joint burgers and steak burgers. Grossman has named burgers after Ari Gold and Smokey Robinson but for me a more voluminous luminary comes to mind, Oliver Hardy. “Well,” you’ll be telling Grossmann as you unwrap yet another Ari or Smokey and lick mayonnaise off your fingers, “here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”. Grossmann’s Piggy Smalls was voted best burger in round 2 of the London Burger Bash. £7.50-£8.50 not including chips.
54 James Street, W1U 1HE
With beer-braised onions, aged Comté melted as if for a gratinée and bread overhead, Elliot’s burger is outfitted in the manner of French onion soup. The accoutrements enhance but do not smother each 160-gram mound of aged, coarsely minced beef shin and rib cap from Borough Market neighbour The Ginger Pig. British Ogleshield has been added to the Comté to give the cheese element more an edge. The plump patty is smartly shaped for height at the expense of diameter. Its shape and fit over a house-baked linseed brioche bun brushed on its cut sides with acidulated dill butter is in the Bar Boulud mould, whereas the meat’s beefy creaminess belongs to the Hawksmoor school. My only beef with the Elliot’s burger is that it’s only available at lunch. £12.50 including chips.
12 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
Cooked the old-fashioned, low-tech way in a sizzling cast-iron pan, the crusty burger patty at Little Social, Jason Atherton’s spinoff bistro, is good enough to plate with nothing to go with it other than knife and fork. Okay, if you wanted to throw in some of those golden fries they’d not go to waste. The New York-style chopped steak created by Canadian head chef Cary Docherty is a blend of aged Scottish chuck, flank, neck and clod coarsely minced in-house. The hand-formed patty is so close a match for the garnishes (mild Cheddar, smoked streaky bacon, caramelised onions) that cloak it and the gorgeous Boulangerie de Paris sesame seed brioche bun that houses it you’d think Docherty had employed a Savile Row tailor for the fitting. His classic burger, £15 including fries, can be customised with sautéed foie gras for an extra £10 but that luxurious accessory is unnecessary. Amongst the “est”-ending burger superlatives (biggest, baddest, dirtiest, etc.) there’s only one I’d apply to Docherty’s Little Social burger: best.
5 Pollen Street, W1S 1NE