Thursday 1 March 2012

A Really Rather Good Burger from the Wenlock and Essex

The Wenlock & Essex is located on Essex Road, Islington just a few minutes walk from Angel tube station. It's a quirky, circus-themed pub (and I mean design rather than contortionists and lion tamers - more's the pity) and covers an enormous low-ceiling'd ground floor area, with space for up to 250 covers. 

After attending the recent Advance preview of The Diner's Grab burger, where I'd been reacquainted with old friends, and met even more burger lovers, I got speaking to James Morgan, the Wenlock's young and energetic head chef (follow him on Twitter: @headchefwenlock) who invited a group of us to join him at the Wenlock & Essex to sample a burger here was really rather proud of, as well as previewing a couple items being developed for a new look dining menu coming in April. Alex (@eatingsoho), Sam (@steampie), Claire and Steve all joined the party.

Braised fore-rib burger, slow roast tomato, dill pickle & skinny fries - £9.50
Bacon, Jalapenos, Blue cheese toppings - £0.50 each
Fairly standard. Burger, bowl of chips, and pot of burger sauce all served on an oval plate. Job done. The burger is skewered with a wooden spike, which can hint at poor composition and instability in burger construction, but this is certainly not the case with this burger. Removal of the spike demonstrates this as absolutely nothing moves. I expect the skewering in this case is more to do with the speed of the efficient staff as they whisked the food out of the kitchen, than any desperate instability issues.
Montgomery cheddar. An exemplary cheddar cheese to melt over a burger patty, tangy and mature. Braised fore-rib. A beautifully soft and buttery shredded beef topping sealed onto the patty by the melted Montgomery cheddar. Thinly sliced dill pickles. 'Nuff said. Oven roasted tomato. A step up from your basic slab of beef tomato, slow roasting for six hours gives a deep savoury flavour, although as a single slice it's a bit tough - slight fail as it pulls out in one piece. Chopped iceberg mayo. Resting under the patty, the tried and tested iceberg 'slaw used by chefs like the Ad Cod's Fred Smith and Bread St. Kitchen's Simon Gregory.
Meat Win. Patty is 100% chuck (80/20 ration of meat to fat) from Angus cattle, cooked to order (mine was medium rare) and char-griddled with a touch of fore-rib fat from their weekly Sunday roast. The beef parry is topped with some beautifully soft, juicy braised fore-rib. Pure, unctuous burger porn.


Bun Win. This is a superb bun from the Harvey Rinkoff bakery. It's a light-coloured, glazed white bap with the staying power to soak up some serious punishment from the rest of the juicily constructed burger components. Hanging on in the face of a serious juice assault to the very bitter end.
The Rinkoff bun is something of a revelation.

A sign of quality. This burger made Steve smile. A lot.
Skinny fries, it turns out, are actually skin-y fries, i.e. skin on fries. These were very good. Crunchy, fluffy, and lightly pre-salted. The only other accessory was the burger sauce, which was an absolute ruddy moreish triumph. A very simple mix of mustard powder whisked with mayonnaise, followed by the addition of a drizzle of Heinz ketchup combined to a sauce much greater than the sum of its parts. You wouldn't want to waste this on your burger, but get dipping your crispy chips - it's awesome.

Overall Rating: 
On preview evening: 8.5/10
On revisiting: 9.5/10

Now, I felt I had to check whether this burger was as amazing as I remembered, considering its high-scoring status, so I popped in on a Friday lunchtime a couple of weeks later, to sample a version with added bacon. If anything it had got better. Gone was the problem of the tomato coming out in one bite, as it had been chopped into quarters to make the bite easier, and if anything the burger sauce was even more moreish than I remembered. This gets a very rare 10/10 from me, which puts it squarely at the top of my Best Burgers in London list just below the Ad Cod and Lucky Chip, and definitely at the top of the £10 category. 
Wenlock & Essex Burger
Bird's eye view of the W&E burger
The Wenlock Burger in it's full cut-though glory
A bit of braised fore-rib cheekily showing what lies under it's bacon dress
All praise be to @bakerjen from the Harvey Rinkoff bakery for this pure, unadulterated burger bun joy!

The Wenlock and Essex can be found on Essex Street, Islington. 

Wenlock & Essex on Urbanspoon

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