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What is a burger? In its most basic form it is the coming together of meat and bread. Nothing more than a sandwich really, but we find a way to elevate it. We add things, relishes, cheeses, sauces, bacon, toppings, anything we can think of to make this more than a sandwich. We play around with the bread, white, brown, sesame seed, brioche, pursuing perfections of flavour, texture and strength. The toppings must complement, a dreamy mix of flavours, salty and sweet, sweet and sour, umami, not overpowering the meat but lifting it to their shoulders carrying it to your taste buds. It sounds easy really, but many who have attempted rarely get it right. The quantity of complementing elements necessary for a great burger exposes it. One wrong ingredient, one slightly over cooked patty, too much relish, not enough cheese and it comes crashing down before you.
Honest Burger is the burgeoning brand taking over London. They promise simplicity, creativity and above all an exceptional burger.
My first visit to Honest Burger was over a year ago, so momentous was it that I can remember it bite for bite. My friend Ben and I met in Piccadilly Circus. Tourists thronged around us as we stared intensely at Google Maps trying to find the correct road to walk along. We rounded Ripley’s Belive It or Not and began weaving down Shaftesbury avenue. The balmy evening was beginning to set in, sky red and dimming. Theatre goers scurried in to lobbies ready to enjoy their evenings. We turned left on Dean street and up towards Honest Burger. Down a tiny side street it stands unassuming. Through the glass windows you can see customers enthusiastically savouring their burgers. Our wait was 30 minutes, we left a number and proceeded to the nearest pub.
On receiving our summons we hurried back and across the threshold into the small bare restaurant. The wall opposite the door hosts a huge blackboard informing you of the menu and specials that day. There is not much on it. Chicken, Beef, The Honest Burger, since then the Tribute has also been added. At the bottom sits the monthly special. Often a wonderfully thought out change from the norm. We sat down at a bare wooden table with basic implements and condiments.
“Two Honest Burgers please, medium rare”
A breath of fresh air the burgers are all served with rosemary fries, money instantly saved having to not order a side. It did not take long for the burgers to be brought out to us. The sight as they appeared was wonderful, minimal and clean. The brioche bun carried a wonderful sheen sitting next to the mountain of fries. The Honest Burger is simple, a clean take on the greasy bacon cheeseburger. A beef patty provided by legendary butcher the Ginger Pig, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce.
There was nothing else to wait for, conversation stopped. We both picked up our burgers and took the first satisfying bite. The patty was cooked to a perfect medium rare, pink and wonderfully tasty. With each bite the combination of ingredients screamed perfection louder and louder. The tart cheese and salty bacon mixing perfectly on the palate before the sweetness of the relish interrupted demanding attention. Each bite was finished off with the sweet picked cucumber adding an unexpected freshness. In my opinion it is the cucumber which sets the burger apart from anything else on the market.
Between bites the rosemary salted fries remind you of quite how good deep-fried potato can be. They are never over seasoned instead providing a satisfying crunch and interesting flavour. No words were spoken for 10 minutes as we munched our way through our dishes, the only sounds chewing and the occasional groan of appreciation.
There are so many restaurants vying for the position of London’s best burger and in my opinion Honest Burger takes the crown. In its simplicity it is a well crafted burger using only the best ingredients served perfectly. Accompany it with a beer and you will have nothing more than a deeply satisfying meal. I implore everyone I meet to visit Honest Burger as it represents what this simple food can be, and I do the same to you. Set aside an evening, be ready to wait half an hour or more for a table, and become enlightened.