Burgers are very fashionable right now. In fact a number of burgers available in London have borderline cult followings.
At the high end, there are (amongst others) the burgers served at Bar Boulud and at Hawksmoor Spitalfields/Hawksmoor Seven Dials. These use premium cuts of beef and are presented as serious plates of food. The cost reflects that.
Byron, I think, serves up excellent burgers at a lesser cost. Again, provenance of the beef is a selling point and their patties come a splendid medium rare as standard. The (rapidly growing) restaurant chain has a fiercely loyal following as a result.
But the burger with the biggest cult following is that served up by a dude called Yianni. He achieved twitter and blogger hero status (for what that’s worth) with his Meatwagon, which travelled around various pub car parks in London serving excellent, juicy burgers for nominal prices. The Meatwagon was stolen a couple of months ago and for the last few weeks he’s been running a hugely successful pop up restaurant in New Cross called the #Meateasy. I can vouch for the traveling version of the bacon and cheese burger (it’s the feature photo of this post, btw). By all accounts the one you get in situ is just as good.
Is the whole burger thing just a hyped trend?
Part of me thinks yes, probably. Even at it’s very best, a burger is just a burger, right?
Another part of me says no. In the same way that you can get an urge for a curry, or a pizza, or a roast, sometimes you just feel the need for a burger. That means the burger is a massive part of the modern carnivore’s diet. And if there are some great burgers around, then (a) that’s good news and (b) it therefore makes sense that the urge will surface quite regularly.
I’ve had the urge for the past couple of days. Problem is I’m in the French Alps (Chamonix), not London. There’s no Byron and certainly no Meateasy.
But there are two spots within 20 metres of each other that have their own Alpine cult followings: Midnight Express and Poco Loco. Both of which have epic star burgers – the ‘Double American Midnight Express’ and the ‘Poco Loco Special’.
These burgers, it turns out, are variants on the same theme – multiple meat patties, lettuce, tomato, cheese and bacon served in excellent local artisan rolls and then flattened in a panini toaster. Oh, and they are stuffed with chips. It’s a heart attack in a bun. Awesome.
The Midnight Express chips are better (french fries, not thick cut) as is their bacon (Danish style, rather than French style). But the sauce and the cheese (emmenthal) better in the Loco. It’s close but I thought the Loco probably had the edge (though that could be because I was able to eat it inside, rather than standing outside in -10C; looking at the pictures the Midnight Express burger was thicker and looked to have been cooked better so maybe I should revise my opinion?).
Objectively, both are glorified chip butties, rather than amazing hamburgers. The patties are thin and dry; nothing like the juicy premium meat I had, for example, in an O’Shea/Young Turk burger a couple of Monday’s ago (also, look at the difference between the meat of my Meatwagon burger and in the French ones in the gallery below).
Yet at the time (I should stress the tasting was done over two evenings), that didn’t especially matter. I was hungry and they were both cheap (7.50/8.00), contained enough calories to make a contestant on Biggest Loser weep and, ultimately, both suppressed a burger urge.
The pictures below are from my blackberry and look a bit rank. But honestly the burgers looked and tasted a lot better in 3D (the toasted buns are fantastic). As per usual (and if you can stomach bigger pictures), click on the first one for a slide show.
Midnight Express and Poco Loco in 3 words
Apres ski burgers.
The Double American Express Midnight is EUR 7.50, the Poco Loco Special is EUR 8.00. (The price doesn’t include flights to and from Geneva, transfers to Chamonix, appetite inducing ski hire, lift pass and mountain guide … seems like an effort for a burger, but you’ll need similar arrangements to get to New Cross).
Both on 200 Chemin de la Cascade, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France