If the 60s were all about Beatlemania, then the 2010s will surely go down in history as the time of Burgermania. Londoners just can’t enough of meat-in-a-bun meals, with everywhere from high-end restaurants to backstreet food carts peddling patties like they’re going out of fashion.
We’ve picked our top ten burger boom must-tries, from the classic to the creative and the cheesey to the chicken. Take a look and let us know which other brilliant baps and marvellous meatcakes you think are top rate in the comments below.
Elliot’s Cheeseburger: Elliot’s Café
£12.50, with chips
One for those in the know (and who can get to Borough Market of a daytime), this lunch-only burger is rarely shouted about but worth seeking out. The patty is made from 40-day-aged Ginger Pig beef and cooked to the rarer side of medium rare, topped with lightly caramelised beer-braised onions and smothered in a full-flavoured comté cheese. It’s simple, but effective. The casing is where a lot of the magic happens, though. It comes presented in a rather unique brioche-style bun that’s made with olive oil in place of butter, producing a light, sweet and fluffy-textured dough that has a taste reminiscent of foccacia. It’s also brushed with dill butter for an added layer of flavour and even more juiciness. It comes served with chunky skin-on chips and pickles.
Elliot’s Café, 12 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD
Smoked Basque Beef Burger: Ember Yard
It’s not a burger bar, but this excellent Italian and Spanish tapas restaurant in Soho can still compete with the best of them. The burger in question is made with beef that has been oak-smoked and has a subtle charred flavour, topped with a tangy Spanish sheep’s cheese called idiazabal and an addictive, earthy-tasting chorizo ketchup. The fluffy buns are ever-so-slightly toasted, adding a pleasant crunch to proceedings. The burgers come tapas-sized, so you might want to order more than one, or use it as a chance to try some of the other tapas on offer; read our review of Ember Yard from when it opened for more information on some of that.
Ember Yard, 60 Berwick Street, W1F 8SU
Hawksmoor Hamburger: Hawksmoor
£15, with chips or salad
It’s no surprise that the beef masters at Hawksmoor can whip up a bloody good burger. They have a few on the menu, including one topped with kimchi that’s worth a try, but this simplest one is also the best. A plump, rare-served patty is the natural star, made using a carefully selected array of cuts from Longhorn cattle, all well-aged and all from Ginger Pig. It’s also studded with nuggets of bone marrow, which are secreted like precious gems and melt seductively away as you bite into them, spreading rich, creamy flavour throughout. We don’t really need anything else, but a blanketing of powerful yet creamy melted Ogleshield cheese is no bad thing. The fluffy lightly-brioched bun can barely contain the ooziness of this creation, but we’re more than happy to get a little bit sloppy. Note that the burgers are found at the Hawksmoor bars in Seven Dials and Spitalfields, not at the other restaurants.
Hawksmoor Spitalfields, 157A Commercial Street, E1 6BJ
Hawksmoor Seven Dials, 11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JG
The Honest: Honest Burgers
£8, with chips
Simplicity is the key at Honest, and even the most complex of its short selection of regular beef burgers keeps extraneous toppings to a minimum. The patties themselves are made from dry-aged Ginger Pig beef, with cuts chosen for their high level of marbling, meaning the rich flavour contained in the beef’s fat works its way into the mince, creating a juicy and rich patty that’s hard to rival. Slightly crispy smoked bacon and strong-flavoured mature cheddar bolster The Honest, along with sweet and tangy red onion chutney and thin slices of homemade pickled cucumbers. The buns, which are freshly baked and glazed on site, are firmer than some, helping to keep things neat, and gluten-free versions are also available. All in all, Honest offers a slightly more refined and British-feeling burger than many of the outrageously sloppy American versions included in this list. There are now seven sites around town, but the original in Brixton Village is still our favourite.
Honest Burgers Brixton, Unit 12 Brixton Village, SW9 8PR
Secret Burger: Joe Allen
There’s no burger on the menu at Americana-drenched Covent Garden long-termer Joe Allen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t order one. Almost since the restaurant opened in 1977, the off-menu burger here has been one of London’s worst kept secrets, and one of its best burgers. It’s made from ground sirloin steak and served in a lightly toasted brioche bun with bacon, mild melted cheese, a fat ring of tomato and some token lettuce. Simple as that. For a long time, we’re told, this was the best burger in London by miles; although there’s now much much more competition out there, it has no problem holding its own.
Joe Allen, 13 Exeter Street, WC2E 7DT
Aged Scottish Beef Burger: Little Social
£15, with fries
Jason Atherton’s Little Social is more relaxed than Pollen Street Social across the road, and this burger is its flagship serve. For very good reason, too. The extra-tall patty is the star turn: it’s made from well-aged and coarsely chopped beef, which gives it a taste and texture more reminiscent of tender steak than mince. It’s griddle-cooked for maximum smoky flavour with the char marks to prove it, and boasts a luxuriously high fat content that melts away during cooking to leave a moist, rich and decadent meat cake that’s dark brown on the outside and bright pink in the centre. Sliced gherkins, melted cheddar and sweet caramelised onions are a formidable backing act, while a dense but fluffy, buttery brioche bun is the final luxury that seals the deal.
Little Social, 5 Pollen Street, W1S 1NE
The Kevin Bacon: Lucky Chip
Lucky Chip can be found at Netil Market in London Fields every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as at its residency at nearby pub The Sebright Arms. The burgers all boast moist, meaty patties which are considerably fatter than many, upping the meat-to-topping ratio. They’re incredibly juicy — almost too sloppy — but sturdy glazed buns that soak up some of the liquid and hold their shape throughout allow them to get away with it. The aptly named Kevin Bacon comes with a hefty slab of crisp, applewood-smoked bacon along with sharp pickled gherkins,a sprinkling of lettuce and cheese that is of the floppy, processed ilk but also has some actual flavour. We like the way the burger straddles dirty fast food and high-quality ingredients: it’s like Maccy D’s with attitude. In terms of sides, we urge you to try the chili cheese fries topped with slow-cooked beef and pork.
Lucky Chip (Netil Market), 11-25 Westgate Street, E8 3RL
Lucky Chip at The Sebright Arms, 31-35 Coate Street, E2 9AG
The Dead Hippy: MEATmission
£8.50 (Monkey Fingers £7.50)
This is a creation that dates back to the days when the Meat Wagon was still a nomadic burger revolutionary, kick-starting London’s insatiable appetite for meat in a bun. This sloppy signature consists of two thin patties fried in mustard and topped with gooey cheese, shredded raw onion, chunky pickled gherkins and a secret ‘hippy sauce’ that is something along the lines of a mustard mayo. It’s greasy, messy and trashy, but in all the right ways. Of the varying MEAT outlets (led by MEATliquor in Marylebone), this is our favourite. That’s partly because of the deeply atmospheric, church-like interior but also because it’s the only one that serves monkey fingers: battered chicken strips in a sticky, spicy buffalo sauce served with a blue cheese dip. Order some of these with your Hippy burger and slot them inside for the ultimate in gratuitous feasting. Also see our review from when MEATmission first opened.
MEATmission, 13-15 Hoxton Market, N1 6HG