Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Meat & Shake, Burgers in Tooting

Situated just 300m from Tooting Bec tube station, and directly opposite the most enormous Spice Village I’ve ever seen, is the somewhat incongruous Meat & Shake – the wooden sign, the exposed brickwork, the naked-yet-caged filament lights are in stark contrast to the pop-up stalls and multi-coloured neon of Upper Tooting Road.
 The restaurant has been open since September 2013, however they recently got in touch to ask me to come and try out their menu. They've been on the list for a while, but as it meant travelling down to Tooting, I hadn't found the time to go. Well now I have, and here are my thoughts on the burgers.

Price:

Plain Jane: £6.80
Von Longhorn: £9.90
Dirty Fries: £5.50

Presentation: 

The presentation here is all about being big and bold. The Plain Jane burger was drenched in sauce and cheese, and the Von Longhorn burger was stacked high with multiple topping layers, each merging into the next. Both plated burgers are garnished with a squiggle of sauce topped with an edible flower - I have to say this jarred a little, given the stripped back feel to the restaurant.

Toppings:

The Plain Jane comes topped with American cheese, melted nicely over the beef patty, and a gallon of Stokes ketchup, whilst underneath the patty is a slice of tomato and a leaf of unchopped rosso lettuce with  mustard, gherkins and onion.

It's a classic combination, and while some of the elements are great (the cheese, the gherkins, the mustard), others clash. The ketchup is an artisan version which is mellow and tomato-y, but it doesn't belong in this burger and stands out like a sore thumb against the sharp riff of vinaegry pickles and mustard - why not use Heinz? And it's too sloppy. Within seconds my hands were coated with sauce and the patty was sliding all over the place on the unchopped lettuce and tomato.

The Von Longhorn burger is a beast. It brings together (from top to bottom) aioli with tomato and rosso lettuce - then a beef patty - topped with Monterey Jack, fried onions, turkey bacon (I know, it's not real bacon), matchstick fries, and a panko-coated onion ring. Some of this is really great - the fried onions on Jack cheese and beef is a fantastic combination, and I unceremoniously scooped up the dollops that escaped the burger with my fingers to cram into my mouth. The panko onion ring is firm, crunchy and pretty good. But the issue here is the bacon. It looks and feels like bacon, but the taste is unmistakably turkey.*

Actually there's another issue, which is the size of the burger - it's impossible to fit it into your mouth, even after squashing, so you end up either nibbling the edges like a cob of corn, of effectively decorating your face and clothes with burger. I did the latter.

*The joint is Halal which explains the turkey bacon, but I hear there is some serious behind the scenes testing going on to recreate the taste of bacon without pork...I wish them the best of luck!

Meat:

A very acceptable 100% chuck patty. The beef is minced daily from 35-day aged beef, and formed into 6oz patties - it's sourced from Selfridges butcher, Mackens Brothers. These are cooked medium/pink by default. The patties were underseasoned so, while juicy, failed to pack a proper beefy punch and were lost in the melee of toppings.

Bun:

A decent brioche bun, ostensibly from Miller's, that as we know does a great job of soaking up juice and condiments over the lifespan of burger consumption. The problem, however, is that with both burgers so loaded with toppings and sauce, the beef patty slips and slides around like a bar of soap - several times whilst eating my Plain Jane burger, I had to fish the patty out of the sauce on my plate and tuck it back into its bready home, and I ended up abandoning a wedge of meatless bun at the finale.

The Von Longhorn suffered the same fate, but less due to over-saucing, and more to do with the panko onion ring and matchstick fries reducing squashability.

Accessories:

Dirty fries. Pretty good. These are essentially chilli and cheese covered fries with sliced chillies, mustard and mayo. And they're pretty decent. Thick, meaty chilli covered in a blanket of melted cheese and interspersed with sharp, medium-hot chillies. Great stuff.

Overall rating: 6/10

Whilst there are elements of greatness at Meat & Shake, I can't help feeling it's a bit confused with its whole menu/location/vibe.
The founders confess they're not chefs. They've tasted burgers extensively across the capital and that's where their inspiration comes from, but I feel they need to narrow their focus - there's a hell of a lot going on in that menu, and they're trying to target multiple audiences with influences from everything they've tasted. The Von Longhorn, with it's matchstick fries, mimicks Byron's Miami Slice special, the mushroom swiss is a replica of the one at MeatLiquor, the Smokey Bandit is a take off of Patty & Bun's Smokey Robinson...you get the idea. There are currently 15 burgers on the menu, 11 of those beef and on top of that They also do ribs, wings, dogs, and up until recently they had a Josper oven in the kitchen to do steaks as well, but after a few burns to chefs and staff they removed it.

It feels like they're trying to do everything.

One thing to note is all their meat is Halal, so they're not going to be serving pork or booze anytime in the near future and that immediately rules out a decent cross-section of people who want to grab a beer with their burger, or order bacon.

If this all sounds doom and gloom, it's not meant to - they're on a journey and, according to their founders, are constantly testing and tweaking their offering. I enjoyed my evening at Meat & Shake, the burgers are quite good, it was busy and I bumped into former MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo having an early dinner there. I expect if it was in my neighbourhood I'd be back - and they're clearly doing very good business (they broke even on day 1, with queues around the block, without any marketing). They're even working on opening their next restaurant(s) soon and I admire their entrepreneurship.

From my perspective, I hope they start to focus on what they're good at, rather than being jack of all burgers, and master of none.

Find Meat & Shake on my Interactive London Burger Map

Meat & Shake on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

  1. Ripsnorter11 June, 2014

    I wish them luck. Anyone who opens a burger joint and has ambitions like these guys deserves it. They have found and won an audience, so Yay! Go team Meat & Shake! You didn't mention the shakes, by the way: any good? I hope they take note of your comments and decide to specialise rather than generalise. Although they won't change this, for me, bacon has to be ex-pig or it doesn't count!

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  2. Thanks Ralphy, I'll check it out.

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  3. I think they're doing a great thing - so wish them luck. Just a few things to sort out to raise the bar.


    Shakes are good, though I think they need some malt...

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  4. Ripsnorter23 June, 2014

    I spend a lot of time in Berlin, where the bar is set pretty low. Tommi's just opened here and the service is already down to local levels, which is not good. And the quality jump over the opposition is not enough to justify the higher prices, either. Most of the local joints stick with the frozen patties, awful buns, toxic yellow frozen fries formula, although there are one or two exceptions, like Shiso (excellent burgers, Hot Asian Babe waitresses). Every time I'm in London I burger out! Could do with more people like these Meat & Shake guys here.

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  5. Ketchup by default on burgers? No beer with burgers? £5.50 for Fries? Tooting? I don't think they will survive for more than 6 months

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