Wednesday, 31 December 2014

[Review] The Playboy Club Burger at Salvatore's Bar

I'd been invited to try out the burger at The Playboy Club at Salvatore's Bar, which has undergone a refurbishment and renaissance from it's 'Dining Room' days and their £40 Hef burger, to become Salvatore's Bar, ostensibly the same restaurant but with a more laid back lounge-feel complete with big armchairs, corner sofas and scatter cushions.
The Playboy Club itself is sitauted in Mayfair in a building of glass and steel on Old Park Lane. Outside, the slowly changing rainbow of neon lights rotate, like an out of town casino, and subtle bunnies are etched onto the windows. It feels out of kilter with its surroundings, and it's grander neighbours on Park Lane. Entry to The Club is via a couple of big bouncers and a plush reception area where several bunnies greet you, kitted out in full ears, tail and leotard. We dumped coats and were ushered through to Salvatore's Bar (open to both members and non-members) to try a selection of items from their new American-themed menu, including the burger... 

To start we were presented with chilli squid and fried chicken. The squid was a mix if deep fried rings and tentacles of squid in a tempura batter, served with a spicy dipping sauce - it was tender and crispy. The fried chicken was also pretty decent. Brined pieces of deboned drumstick chicken had been fried in a mild southern-style batter and are served with a ranch dipping sauce - both of which are pretty good, with the chicken being exceptionally tender.

Price:

Playboy Burger (inc. fries) £16.50. Alsace Bacon £2. Cheese £1. 

Presentation:

The Playboy Burger is #In a world of metal trays, greaseproof paper and wrapped burgers, being served your burger on a wooden board feels more and more out of touch. The burger is nicely presented and bun, meat, toppings are all in good proportion but it’s been skewered to hold it together, even though the structure looks pretty solid. There are also two elements that stick out like a sore thumb – the translucent slices of slightly sweaty cheese, and the very fine grind of the beef in the patty. In the latter there appears to be no discernible grain to the minced beef – suggesting it’s either been overworked while forming the patty, or pre-salted, which as we all know by now acts to break down the structure of the patty – only eating will tell us what’s happened.

As for the rest of the presentation – fries are served in a silver beaker, a la Burger & Lobster, which is more akin to the burger’s £16.50 price tag, however the three skewered cornichons feel out of place in this US-themed menu.

Toppings:

Let’s start with the cheese, as its translucent sweatiness was a cause for concern on presentation – actually it punches above its weight as a pile of wafer thin slices of cheddar giving a creamy and slightly nutty flavour – I had to ask whether it was emmental, but it was confirmed as cheddar…very good. The bacon is also a winner here – a cured strip of streaky Alsacian pork, salty and satisfying. Lettuce is fine too, although there's an element of window dressing. The real surprise in this burger is the tomato – it actually tastes of tomato(!), which is refreshing. Finally, there’s a burger relish which finishes it all off, a combination of mayo with blitzed pickles, capers etc.

Meat:

As I’d previously flagged, this is my main area of concern with this burger – on the outside the beef appears to be very finely packed with little in the way of discernible grain – and sure enough this is reflected throughout the patty, as you can see from the cut-through. One taste and it’s very clear this is a salting crime as the meat is aggressively seasoned which, coupled with the bacon, tips it over the edge, even for me. There is a but, however, the meat IS juicy, and it HAS been cooked medium-rare to order – just pare back the salt (and don’t pre-salt) and this meat will shine. 

Bun:

The bun in this burger is a full brioche, and it's pretty good. It's been lightly toasted, bringing out the sweetness of the enriched dough, and a bit of resistance to stop it falling apart as it's eaten.

Accessories:

The French fries that come out with the Playboy burger are decent. Crispy and salty, served in a silver beaker accessorised with a wrap of greaseproof paper.

Overall Rating: 6/10


There's not a lot wrong with this burger, save the destruction of the beef patty. The bun and toppings are pretty decent, the meat is still juicy and cooked to order (but over salted), and the fries are pretty decent, but when you start looking at what you get for your £19.50, the whole thing doesn't quite add up. And then there's the juxtaposition between the Mayfair location and the back to basics American diner menu - there's a disconnect between the fantastic high end cocktails (there's one on the menu for an eye-watering £5,500) and this expensive bar menu that doesn't deliver.

Find The Playboy Club and London's best burgers on the Hamburger Me! London Burger Map.

On a separate note - the cocktails at Salavatore's Bar are excellent. Here's a selection that we were kindly comped:

Spicy Fifty: Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Elderflower Cordial, Fresh Lime, Juice, Honey Syrup and Chili Pepper.
Oliver: Liquore di Limone, Fresh Thyme, Lemon Juice, Double Cream and Olive Oil Ice Cream.
Barrel Aged Blood and Sand: Whisky, Vermouths and Cherry Brandy are laid to rest in an oak barrel to mature in depth and character. Served into a coupette finished with blood orange foam.
Humadorita: Tamarind infused Tequila, Grapefruit, Lime, Agave and smoke.
Jon and Gerry: Cognac, Rum, Tonka Beans Syrup, Quail Egg and Homemade Hazelnut Milk.


Salvatore's Bar on Urbanspoon

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