Tuesday 24 May 2011

#BurgerMonday: Lionel Lévy @ Andrew's, 160 Grays Inn Road, London

'Twas with a spring in my step, and a rumbling in my belly that I set off to my second BurgerMonday pop-up event. Just a week after Richard Turner had wowed the crowds with his custom, East London Steak Co. Gray's Inn burger, Daniel Young (the Young in Young&Foodish) enticed none other than Lionel Lévy, renowned chef from Une Table, Au Sud in Marseille to London, with several of his sous-chefs, a suitcase full of ingredients, and a challenge to cook up something special for 64 eager #BurgerMondayPopUp-ites.

I'd met up with a couple of fellow foodies (Hayley aka @hayleymudge and Anthony aka @gubgub08) for a drink in the Melton Mowbray prior to the event, and after almost an hour chatting about restaurants and food, our excitement levels were at fever pitch as we arrived at Andrew's (think 1950's style, formica-tabled greasy spoon, walls resplendant with menu covered chalkboards boasting dishes such as kidney, egg, and chips). We were greeted warmly by Daniel, and his wife Viv and seated ready for the feast to begin.

The first thing I noticed was that the marketing hype that surrounded the previous week's burger, was visibly absent. It had, instead, been replaced by what I can only imagine was a carefully executed French minimalism. Knife, fork, teaspoon, napkin sat on the table, with several glasses and a chilled bottle of Pinot Griogio (a rather pleasant Masi Masianco 2010). Following a glass of wine, the great Paul Winch-Furness aka @paul_wf came over to take a few photographs and chat about our mutual passion for ground beef, buns and toppings (check out his photos!)

So first up, our starter rolled out of the kitchen and is was a simple, elegant salmon crumble. The topping was made up of a crunchy, roasted garlic and ginger crumble, which covered a tender, flavoursome circle of zesty salmon that matched the wine very well. Needless to say it was quickly despatched into the pit, ready for the main event of the evening - the burger.
I think our whole table was surprised when the BLT Burger arrived , looking unlike any other burger we'd had before.

The bun wasn't a bun at all, but rather two slices of sour dough bread (from St. John Restaurant, which had been substituted in at the last minute from another bread, after Lionel had tasted the St. John bread when dining the night before!)

The top slice of bread was spread thickly with a pesto paste, a red pepper relish, and topped with a couple of gummy, sticky sun-dried tomatoes.

Then came the meat patty, a round, fat O'Shea butchers chuck, coarsely ground steak burger, with a fat content made up to 30% with rib and plate rib fat. Under the patty sat a couple of thick chunks of meaty bacon, and some lettuce, and then a thick layer of olive tapanade was spread on the bottom slice of bread. Matched with the burger was a delicious 2009 Cotes du Rhone, which went down a little too easily, judging by my head in the morning!

In order to eat the burger we had to carry out, what's known in the business, as the flip technique which as you can see was executed brilliantly below, without a drop spilled:

Enough of the #burgerporn, I hear you shout, show me the money - how did that bad boy taste?

The answer: Awesome.

And here's why: The meat, being high in fat, but from a single cut, had an soft, earthy, slightly tannic flavour which meant it wasn't fighting with the bold olive, pesto, pepper and sun-dried tomato flavours. This meant the quality really stood out as they made the various pastes made their way across the tastebuds. And as you'd expect, the sourdough bread was more than up to the wet, fatty burger challenge, softening slightly from its toasted state but not collapsing up until the final mouthful.

For dessert, was a delicious strawberry soup, which hid a layer of mint and lemon curd (from Bea's in Bloomsbury, no less). It was great, but couldn't sate my longing for another BLT burger provençal.

At the end of the meal would have been a great time to go home, but it just so happened that I was in the presence of the great Burgerac aka @burgeracblog, who shares a passion for all things meat and bun related, so I crashed his table and no doubt bored the other guests with burger chat!

So all that's left to be said is a massive thank you to Daniel, Viv, Lionel and the #BurgerMondayPopUp team - another great job, well done (which the burger, thankfully, wasn't!)

Tuesday 17 May 2011

#BurgerMonday: Richard Turner @ Andrew's, 160 Grays Inn Road, London

This was my first visit to BurgerMonday, and it was rather special.
This BurgerMonday event was the latest in a series, organised by Daniel Young (the young in young&foodish), celebrating the no-longer-so-humble burger, a menu item which has taken London by storm over the last 12 months. They've been popping up everywhere, from posh restaurants adding it a la carte, a range of gastro burger chains opening up, to burger oreientated pop-ups (like the #meateasy) setting up shop for a strictly limited time.

Arriving at the venue shortly before opening at 7pm, I could sense great things were afoot. Certainly the setting was understated, the event was being hosted in Andrew's, a classic 1950s, formica-tabled, greasy spoon cafe on Gray's Inn Road. Outside, to my delight, was parked the unmistakable East London Steak Co.'s electric van emblazoned with their livery - their clever marketing minds have done an fantastic job with their branding, it sums up images of honest, quality beef, the kind you'd have liked to know, name and chat to when it was alive.

Shortly after 7pm, our hostess for the evening ushered us inside and sat me and my dining companion, Anthony, down at a table with another keen burgerite. The wine arrived, (a young, bright, and lively Santa Cristina (from Antinori winery in Tuscany) that matched the food throughout the meal), and flowed easily... And then this humble burger blogger realised he was sharing a table with foodie royalty @Londonfarmers, the organiser of around 18 of London's biggest and best farmer's markets!

Daniel then appeared with the burger patty. a patty that had been built especially for the BurgerMonday pop-up, just for that evening, and boy did it look good.

A combination of 31% short rib, 31% fillet, 31% shoulder, and 7% marrow, a single grind kept the mince rough and ready, and the flecks of marrow made it look more like a chorizo than a burger. Daniel soon whisked this away, and as the anticipation built, I couldn't help feeling I was but a pawn in Daniel Young's game of London foodie pop-up domination.

So the menu was billed as follows;

  • Steamed asparagus
  • Gray's Inn burger with beef dripping chips
  • Sticky toffee pudding with beef suet

And it was delivered on a fabulously designed place mat which outlined a cow as london underground's circle line, with branches off for each cut of beef, represented by a different line. I felt it was worthy of a design award!

To be honest, I hadn't given the asparagus a second thought, as my mind was purely on the burger, so that's my justification for why I was blown away when it arrived in front of me. And here's why;

The 'english breakfast' asparagus, incorporating sausage bites, fried egg, bacon, and black pudding, was an inspiration! The creamy egg yolk more than made up for the lack of hollandaise sauce, and the meat was warm, salty and flavoursome.

Starter was quickly dispatched, and by this point Andrew's was beginning to fill up. The way the pop-up evenings work involves a rolling sitting of 16 people, arriving at half hour intervals, and seating 64 over the course of the night - which obviously keeps the cooking manageable for the chef - but also means a raft of envious looks from recent arrivals greeted us as our burgers were delivered.

Daniel presided over the placing of the burger on our table and , on the plate, the burger seemed like a fairly standard affair. A free-standing brioche bun that fitted the burger and toppings like a mitten, and a generous pile of triple-fried, beef dripping chips were the only things present, but a quick dissection demonstrated without a doubt that this was a best-in-show pedigree:

As I previously mentioned, the blend of fillet, shoulder, short rib, and marrow was ground once to keep a thick, chunky feel, and it was cooked perfectly. The short rib/shoulder flavour worked in perfect harmony with the soft fillet and beefy marrow to create, and I say this with no hyperbole, the most delicious, drippy burger I've ever eaten.

The rest of the burger ingredients read like a farmer's market shopping list: Two cheeses: an astringent Ogleshield (montgomery cheddar), and a melty St Gall (with Irish provenance) both added massive depth to the flavour and complementing the whole burger package; homemade thousand island dressing with the addition of hot paprika; a soft, yet strong, premium brioche bun from Miller's Bakery held everything together and was man enough to last without splitting apart to the juicy end. In fact the only ingredient that didn't work was a frankly terrible iceburg lettuce (that ended up being removed for sanity and slippage reasons).

It was all over too soon, but the buzz still wasn't over (nor was the meal!)

Daniel took the opportunity to introduce me to Richard Turner (director at East London Steak Co, and chef at Hawksmoor) who was busy in the kitchen rolling out his custom 'Gray's Inn' burgers (incidentally now on sale at East London Steak Co.). In our brief chat (where your humble starstruck burger blogger repeated the word 'phenomenal' to him about 17 times) we discussed where the inspiration for the burger came from (a recent trip to LA), what the new third burger was at Hawksmoor (Lamb and Anchovy) and he dished out a few tips - one of which was about his burger rub, a rich and salty blend of smoked sea salt, hot paprika, pepper, muscavado sugar, and mustard powder, which he applies to the patty seconds before dashing it on the hot, sizzleplate:

Action shot of Richard by the griddle- I'd had almost a bottle of wine at this point - Richard wasn't moving...

A touch of French's finished off the burgers (and check out that fab chorizo effect in the meat!)

After leaving the busy team in the kitchen to roll their trade out to the other happy burgerites, I returned to my table and out came the dessert. What a way to finish the evening. A super-rich sticky toffee pudding, made with suet, covered in toffee sauce and topped with clotted cream - one word...decadent!!

Early evening slot, Andrew's was just filling up!

So a big thanks to Daniel, Richard and the team at Andrew's for such a fun-filled evening - there was loads of twitter chat during and after the event, and I didn't realise until I'd left that several fellow burger bloggers were there in the room with me - next time dudes!

How about next week, for BurgerMonday with Lionel Lévy?!!

Finally, an honourable mention has to go to the East London Steak Co. burger sauce - a deep-flavoured, smokey dippin' sauce - careful with it though, as a little goes a long way!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

8.5/10 - Barbecoa, 20 New Change Passage, City of London

Location: Up on the first floor, of the posh, shop-filled, and now not-so new, One New Change, sits Barbecoa - a collaboration between Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang. The restaurant is a low-key affair, with simple wooden tables, and a wine rack that spans most of one wall. A Tuesday lunchtime was the setting for my first assault on this resaurant, and indeed only my second time eating in One New Change (my previous experience being in Byron, opposite on the first floor). Getting the early bird slot at around 12.15 meant we had our choice of table and so we sat right by the window, overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral - not a bad dining view!

£16 for the burger, which includes bacon and cheese toppings, and is accompanied by duck fat chips.

Immaculate. The works are presented on a chopping board, with my speared burger taking pride of place between a pile of mixed pickles, and a metal bowl of chips. There is something incredibly prehistoric about serving lunch on a big chunk of wood, and my first thought was that my knife and fork would be redundant for this meal!

Pretty good: there was a decent amount of thick, flavoursome, streaky bacon, and the Westcombe cheddar cheese was generously portioned, and nicely melted so that it stuck the burger patty to the top of the bun and left swathes of it hanging down the side. The flavour of the cheese was, in my humble opinion, too strong for the bun and the patty, so rather than complementing the juicy 6-week aged ground beef, it fought for supremacy.

Very good: a perfect sized pork fat brioche-style bun, with a dusting of seasame seeds on top complemented this burger nicely. The brioche-style was not overdone (too much sugar as per Corney and Barrow can kill brioche burger buns), was nice and soft on top, and lightly toasted on the inside, making it the perfect consistency to hold the burger together until the last, delicious bite. An honourable mention should be given to the size of the bun, which fitted the burger and toppings perfectly - leaving neither the 'empty promise bite' , nor the all filling no wrapping debacle. This, my fellow burgerites, is a custom-made bun for the patty that actually works! Speaking with Nathan Mills (of Barbecoa and Ginger Pig fame), their pastry chef, Colin, went through around 50 variations to get the bun right. Colin, we salute you (and all the staff who went through the rigourous 'burger tasting process' - tough life!)

Very good: the patty contains a load of wonderfully flavoursome, 6-week aged ground beef, in a combination of 30% fat to 70% lean steak. The grinding is quite fine so you don't get that course feeling as you bite into it, but it was moist, meaty and full of flavour. There was however one major issue with the meat, and that came down to the cooking...I asked for the burger rare but was told it had to be cooked through. I then asked the reasoning for full cooking and, in fairness to my waiter, I did get a good reason: apparently cooking a steak on each side kills any bacteria that may exist on the surface, but for ground beef the bacteria could be anywhere in the burger, so it needs to be cooked through. Luckily the burger was still juicy, and oh-so-flavoursome, but sadly no pink centre.

Plate Accessories:
Great. The chips were great, with delicious crisp outers, with nice fluffy insides, with a fabulous duck fatty unctuousness, sprinkled with sea salt. The pickles were also a great touch, piled in one corner and including several sliced cornichons, mini pickled onions, and a spicy pimiento pepper. All were polished off with gusto, save the stalk of the pimiento, even I wasn't that hungry today!

Overall rating: 8.5/10
Barbecoa is an excellent restaurant, with even more excellent views, and so scores a very good Burger Me! 8.5/10. For £16, the meat was flavoursome, and the bun excellent (Bun win...!) but I would have liked a softer, less mature flavour on the cheese, and a pinker inner burger to give this a higher mark.

One thing I'm really pleased to have done is pop into the Barbecoa butchery downstairs on Watling Street and check out their very own meat aging room. I would have a picture, but sadly the sun conspired against me and it was all reflection and no meat...:(. I do, however, have a great picture of their meat presentation counter, with none other than Matt in shot - currently in training for the International Young Butcher of the Year (thanks Nathan!)...Mmmmmmmm Meat!

What are your thoughts on Barbecoa - I'd be interested to hear what your experiences are!
Barbecoa on Urbanspoon
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