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!

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