Tucked away on Shoe Lane, The Last is a proper City institution, located near the infamous Punch tavern, the Cartoonist and other old school hack pubs. As part of the Ball Brothers network of bars, this one breaks the mold a little with some pumping 'modern' music, a farmhouse kitchen feel complete with stripped wooden tables and chairs, mini potted plastic plant-in-a-bucket, and tea lights on the tables. Menus are thankfully relatively short with some simple, timeless dishes, and a bevy of sharing platters.
Dining with two fellow burgerites (one who'd already had a Byron burger for lunch), we plumped for two burgers and a chicken sandwich - provenance of meat: unknown!
Bacon and Cheeseburger with chips: £10.50. Caramelised onions £0.50.
Ok. This burger was presented in a do it yourself theme. Lid on one side with big chunk of beef tomato and lettuce, burger patty resting on the bun bottom, glistening resplendent in cheddar and bacon. Chip portion was generous, and the whole thing was finished off with a little pot of burger relish. A solid, if standard, burger presentation.
Bacon, cheddar, and caramelised onions (extra). The bacon was pretty good, a thick tongue of salty bacon, with a high meat to fat ratio was very tasty, likewise the cheddar was flavoursome without overpowering the meat. Caramelised onions were...interestingly bright red and dripping pickle juice, stuffed under the meat patty. Their taste was sharp and rather vinegary, but actually worked quite well in the ensemble.
Could do better. I asked for my burger to be cooked medium rare, but the waitress came back to tell me they only cook the meat one way 'all the way through'. I hopefully asked whether that meant it would be pink in the middle, but the response was 'it'll be cooked all the way through'. At this point Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy sprang into my mind - you know the bit where the Vogon guard is yelling "Resistance is futile", so I caved in as it was clear this was a non-negotiable. Needless to say the meat was overcooked, which is a shame as it was actually fairly thick, minced beef, as you can see below. Sadly thought the texture and flavour were ruined with the overcooking, and the taste of the meat was pretty homogeneous, and the grey beef, although not dry, was lacking the juice of rarer cooked meat. I've had Morrisons burgers that were similar in texture.
What a let down. A slightly stale, un-toasted, cheap-ass sesame seed hamburger bun that looks like it was baked at Asda, and fell down the side of the oven, a week ago. Tasteless, and completely not up to the task, especially with the drippy caramelised onions on the base. Total bun fail.
Bloody good chips. Whether it was fresh oil, or double frying, the chips were crisp, and satisfyingly tasty. The relish was also quite good, big chunks of pepper and tomato, and complemented the chips.
Overall rating: 6/10
Not awful but for £11 I expected more. The presentation and toppings were promising, but the essence of any good burger is how the meat and bun combine with the rest of the ingredients to produce an experience. And this experience was less The Times, and much more News of the World...The Last has some work to do to convince me the burger is worth coming back for, but failing that I wouldn't mind trying some of those sharing platters!
A note that The Last have happy hour with 50% off drinks from 5-8pm - my fellow diners (Ant and Stu) and I polished off several bottles of Rioja with our meals for a mere £12 a bottle, now that makes it worth going back...