It's Monday. But instead of the Monday blues, on this particular evening I'm wired with a Monday buzz. Because me and mah homies are at our first Burger Monday.
Well. Just a wee representation of my homies. Mostly because the ridiculously popular event sold faster than I could fight through the excruciatingly frustrating Paypal interface to book my spots.
Breathe. Happy thoughts. Hamburger thoughts.
Burger Monday is an eat and meet party, hosted by Daniel Young of Young and Foodish. As I understand it, he usually organises a sizeable reservation at the best burger and pizza establishments in London, and sometimes New York. His guests / customers enjoy the fruits of his foodie research, and maybe make a few friends in the process.
This year he's tweaking his format -- bringing top chefs and purveyors to a laid back location, to test the gourmet limits of these well known and well loved fast food items.
Starting with a bang, last Monday (24 Jan) his line up at Andrews Restaurant on Grays Inn Road consisted of The Young Turks: Ben Greeno (Tudor Road; alum of NOMA and Sat Bains); James Lowe (St Johns Bread and Wine; alum of Fat Duck); and Isaac McHale (alum of The Ledbury and Tom Aikens). Supplying the beef for the evening -- a private reserve blend of 100% Perthshire Black Angus -- was Darragh O'Shea of O'Shea's Butchers.
The diner is buzzing when we get there, and it's not from the flourescent lights!
The effervescent Mr Young is the one in the red shirt. As you can see from the abundance of cameras pointed at food, I am in good food geek company for the evening.
Here's Ben Greeno plating up the starter: "Lox on Toast" -- house-cured salmon, pumpernickel bread, pickled kohlrabi and a smudge of horseradishy mousse.
I'm a confessed fan of Ben Greeno's raw mackeral starter, and am delighted that I can now add salmon to that list.
Maybe it's just me, but the proximity of Marmite and candy bars somehow just brought the elegance of the finished lox dish into sharper focus.
Given there were 4 generous slices, I ate 2 slices sashimi style and with the other 2 made myself a little open-face sandwich.
Note to self: Get more kohlrabi onto the dinner table. I'd first started eating these in earnest while in Bangalore and then Hanoi last year, and missed them after Babs and I left Asia. But given kohlrabi means "German turnip", they've got to be findable not too far from London, no?
At this point I would like to officially say a big thank you to the event's waitstaff. Whom despite very cosy quarters and very hungry diners and very heavy plates were infinitely patient with me while I got underfoot around the counter, trying to get some kitchen action shots.
Here's James Lowe salting the burgers and manning the grill. I'm guessing he used coarse salt while shaping the patties as well -- they had brilliant little pockets of extra savouriness, which had me puzzling for a few minutes about whether they had added bone marrow or minced bacon into the blend.
Dress with lettuce, onion shavings, a very light ketchup, mayo and homemade pickles, and hold together with a pillowy toasted bap.
I love it that the burger can barely fit in the frame.
If I've observed right, the burgers are grilled to just under medium rare, then the ogleshield cheese is slapped on, the the cheesed up patties are put in the oven for some top-down melty-magic heat. Clever. Combining melty cheese and a still medium rare burger is always a bit tricky for me if I'm grilling outside. If the heat has worked its way upwards through the patty to melt the cheese, it usually means it's not as pink as I would like inside. Some burger purists might consider using an indoor oven cheating, but hell! Melty ogleshield on a pretty pink patty is definitely a case of the ends justifying the means.
Put it all together and it's a gorgeous and soon very primal messy work of art.
And the fries! I didn't get a good photo of them, but they were very golden and very crispy. Triplecooked in beef fat, I'm guessing?
The dessert for the evening is "hot chocolate sundae" -- affrogato al cioccolato. If Mickey D's hot fudge sundae had a posh boarding school plum-in-the-mouth cousin, I think this would be it. Its sweet notes are much more smooth and subtle. The garish chemical sugars of the fast food rendition tastes like how Mimi from the Drew Carey show looks, by comparison.
I'm really regretting now not holding back a few fries to dip into the the ice-cream -- the way i used to eat them at Mickey D's as a teenager. Don't knock it till you try it!
To summarise, all 3 dishes and the wine (a 2009 Santa Cristina from Tuscany) were soooooooperb. I am immensely curious to see how Daniel Young and his future collaborators are going to top this burger.
If there's anything that would take the evening to the next level for me, however, it would be to do a milkshake pairing with the burger (very much missed this evening). There's no reason these milkshakes have to be PG-version only, mind you. I'd love for some young pastry chef genius to come up with alternatives to a very memorable Jack Daniels & peanut butter milkshake from Cape Town's Royale Eatery.
Last but not least, a bonus to the delicious evening was to finally meet and chat with a few London food bloggers I'd been reading for some time. Dino of The Epicurean, Eu Wen of A Rather Unusual Chinaman, Niamh of Eat Like a Girl, Chris of Cheese and Biscuits, twas a real pleasure, and I hope to see you all again soon!
See Young and Foodish for future events. And thank you for putting together such a fun evening!
This particular Burger Monday cost £35 per head, at
160 Grays Inn Road
London WC1X 8ED
Disclosure: I'm the founder of Edible Experiences. Unless otherwise stated, I attend events as a paying guest.