Clerkenwell House is nestled in a suitably incongurous side street, Hatton Wall, which runs tangentially to Hatton Garden, a street so packed with jewellers that happy couples meander down its stretch on their search for the perfect engagement ring (women smiling, towing their men who follow, glancing nervously at the prices), and Leather Lane, where ubercool clerkenwell types, and less cool city types hustle and bustle for a lunch time burrito at Daddy Donkey, or a classy coffee at Prufrock.
The restaurant itself is a glass-fronted, multi-level, multi-room hotch potch of clashing styles and décor, that genuinely shouldn't work, but totally does!
Outside a single sign in the shape of a globe, the letters 'Clerkenwell House' cut out of the metal, announces it's presence in a street otherwise almost totally devoid of character. We dined here on a Monday lunchtime, and the restaurant was pretty quiet which meant we could have a table by the glass front onto the street, which was lucky as there was a really interesting white van parked in front of us for the whole of our meal... I dined with an old friend and ex-colleague who here will be fondly referred to as 'The Redhead' (on account of her mane of strawberry blonde hair).
Beef Burger with chunky chips: £7.90. Chicken Burger with chunky chips: £7.50.
I immediately felt they were setting themselves up for a fall, as the menu description kicked off with 'Beef Burger: Unmissable on any menu...'. But so many restaurants get it oh so wrong, so while it may be unmissable, that's no guarantee that it'll be good. Still, I wanted to experience it for better or worse...
Presentation:The burgers arrived 'top on', on large, white, oval plates, with a heap of chunky chips. Several generous portions of ketchup and mayo were placed on the table in front of us. Now the redhead confessed herself to being a keen burgerite, so we discussed the presentation - both agreeing the burger and chips looked a bit lonely on the big plate, like there was something missing - a bit like that episode of 'Allo 'Allo when they are missing the The Fallen Madonna's boobie... And perhaps that's why Byron serve a pickle spear alongside their burger, cunning use of plate space. Although both burger and chips were of a good size and looked pretty appetizing.
A generous portion of crispy bacon (I counted three rashers) was piled on top of the patty, unsmoked, they added a delicious, meaty, porky overtone to the burger. Iceberg lettuce and pickles were bedded underneath the patty and were fairly inconsequential but didn't detract from the overall experience.
Surprisingly good. The patty was pressed very thin, and I feared I had ended up with either a solid overcooked lump of meat, or a woefully textureless meat paste, happily it was neither! My waitress had asked me how I'd like my burger cooked and I had requested rare - considering how thin the patty was, the chef actually did a pretty good job at rare. The beef was roughly ground giving a great texture in the mouth, and to my delight a lovely squirt of burger juice dripped onto my hand and the plate. The taste was also surprisingly good, not aged, but beefy nonetheless, mingled with a touch of charring from the chargrill. Meat win people, MEAT WIN!
Bun:Surprisingly good. The bun was a classic sesame seed bap, and for a seasame seed bap to work, it has to be two things in my book, 1) very, very fresh, and 2) light yet robust enough to hold together to the bitter end (and avoid that inevitable topping tsunami). Impressively, this bun was both, coupled with a wonderful depth of sesame seed flavour which made me wonder if sesame seed oil had been added to the dough. This was a great bun, taking back to happy BBQ days at university where we bought fresh sesame buns fromt the local baker, still hot, and piled barbecued Tesco value burgers into them with every condiment you can imagine - how things have changed.
The burger came with some pretty chunky hand cut chips, and little pots of mayo and ketchup. The chips were nice, and certainly pretty substantial, but their size meant they were more like semi-cooked roast potatoes than chips. Not a bad effort, but not as crisp as I'd have liked.
Overall score: 7.5/10This was as much a surprise as any burger I've had, as I loved the quirkiness of the place, the menu talked big, in spite of it's unassuming appearance, and on seeing the burger I was not blown away, but great quality ingredients, good cooking, and an under £8 price tag for burger and accessories means this burger deserves a look. At Clerkenwell House, don't expect a big, sloppy american hamburger, but do expect a well thought out mid-range session burger, and flashbacks of your youth...