Patty & Bun review

I first went to Patty & Bun a few months back now, and decided before waxing lyrical here about just how damn good it was, I’d have to go at least another two times. Just to make sure, y’know? Purely in your interests, dear reader…IMG-20130804-WA000

Well, I’ve been three times now (with three ladies), and I’m happy to confirm this is the real deal. Push aside the over-hyped, under-delivering MeatLiquor (the burger was so disappointing I’ve not bothered to write it up), and get yourself to Patty & Bun now. (All three ladies agree, by the way).

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So, what have we got? Each time I had the Ari Gold cheeseburger with chips, and coleslaw. The burger itself is magnificent. Juicy, tender, well-seasoned, and it just tastes…good. It’s how I’d imagine happiness tastes. For the geeks, the beef is 35-day aged grass-fed Aberdeen Angus, and ground daily. The Ari comes with (good) filthy American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and the winning combination of ketchup and P&B’s own smokey mayo. It works. It works well. Throw a toasted brioche around all of this, and there really isn’t much more to add.

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Now, the chips. On my first visit, L and I decided to share a portion of chips. Mistake. Seriously, these things are like crack. They’re triple cooked in rosemary sea-salt, and are by the far the best chips I’ve had in any burger joint in London. Throw in some of their spicy ketchup as a topping and you just can’t beat this. The coleslaw (full marks not being ‘slaw’, P&B) is tangy, fresh, and sets the burger off nicely.

Crucially, the experience has been consistent. All three times we got what we wanted, burgers cooked as we asked, and friendly, non-pretentious service. The place itself is very low key. It only seats 30 (prepare to queue), is very minimalist, and always has some very good tunes playing in the background.

I would say more, but there really is nothing else to add. This is, so far, the best burger I’ve eaten in London. Right now, I can’t offer any higher praise. Go.

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Cheaper to rent in Barcelona and commute to London…

(NB: this was very hastily written, so I hope the logic flows – I just wanted to get it out…)

I think many people thought I was joking when I boldly declared it would be cheaper for me to rent a two bed flat in Barcelona and commute to London every day than get a one bed flat here. Turns out I was – I could in fact get a three bed flat.

I thought at least it would require some poetic licence or awkwardness or dodgy sums, but no. The only assumption I’m making here is my working a four-day week in London, with a day at home (i.e. in Barcelona). Here’s how it pans out:

So, zoopla informs me the average asking price for a one-bed flat in West Hampstead (chosen because I know and like the area, and seems not a stretch to suggest that a young professional may afford to live there) is £1,505:

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For the purposes of bringing it to life, here’s a couple around that mark.

Throw in council tax (say £75) and a zone 1-2 travelcard for me to get to my job in the City (£116.80), and we get a total of £1,697. To make it a level playing field, let’s convert to euros at today’s exchange rate, and I’ve got 1,979€ a month to play with.

For Barcelona, I’ve looked in the Les Corts district because I used to live there, and being a fairly upmarket residential district, it’s a very decent and fair comparison to West Hampstead. There was no shortage of flats available, but I liked the look of this one here: http://www.habitaclia.com/alquiler-piso-carrer_vallespir_164_les_corts-barcelona-i586001230674.htm.

For those who don’t speak Spanish, it’s a three bedroom flat, with three balconies, a stone’s throw away from the metro, in a nice, safe area. This sets me back 680€ a month, and there’s no council tax in Spain. (There are of course cheaper flats. I’m trying to compare apples with apples – even in spite of the three bedrooms)

So, the commute… A cursory glance at Ryanair in November throws up returns from Barcelona to Stansted nearly every day for 34€ (seriously, check it).

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It’s 6€ to and from Barcelona’s el Prat airport (and I can walk to the airport train in 5 minutes from that flat) and then £14 return to Liverpool Street with Terravision (so 23€ in total on transfers each day).

I can then walk to my desk by 9:30am, with time for a Pret coffee and bacon and cheese croissant en route.

So, to recap, we now have fixed commuting costs of 57€/day, 4 days a week, for 4 weeks a month, which gives us 912€. Add on our rent of 680€/month, and Barcelona’s total comes to 1,592€.

This still leaves me with 387€ free compared to my London life, with which to enjoy fine bottles of 5€ Rioja on one of my three balconies. Sigh.

Burger & Lobster W1

A friend’s 30th saw six of us head off to Burger & Lobster Mayfair (we had booked Soho, but Dean Street was closed due to an electrical explosion…). For those unaware, B&L only serves three dishes: lobster, burger, or lobster roll (all at £20 each). In fact, there’s not even any menus – the server just explains this to you. I’d told myself to go for the lobster as £20 was just too much for any burger, but then this would be a pretty useless burger review. So I asked the waiter for his opinion on the best dishes, and without a moment’s hesitation he replied, “The burger. Definitely the burger. Followed by the lobster roll, and then the lobster.” What’s a boy to do?

Well, we ended up going for a massive 6lb6oz lobster to share, and a couple of burgers for good measure. Let’s go off-piste and start with the lobster. I’ve had wonderful lobster bisque before today (in Stockholm – a bargain £20 as a starter), but never actually eaten lobster. Apparently B&L now flies two tonnes of lobster in each week from Nova Scotia to sate customers of its four London restaurants (hint: that’s a LOT of lobster), and they know what they’re doing. Ours was on the catch of the day menu, and I asked the waiter how old he thought ours was – the answer, a staggering 50 years old. Not gonna lie – I felt a little guilty.

The lobster arrived (steamed, and then grilled) on a huge platter, with a bib for each of us to wear (no messing around here). The lobster itself was truly delightful (and massively plentiful), and it was interesting to see how its various limbs tasted quite differently. You can probably tell from that last sentence I’m no lobster expert, so I’ll move on to the burger…

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In a nutshell, very good. Clearly very good quality meat, well-seasoned, and cooked just as we asked (regular readers will know about only one in five burgers I order seem to be cooked as asked). Solid bun, which held together, lovely crisp bacon and nice American style cheese, but a slightly dull beef tomato. Chips nicely salted and pretty decent. A few blogs have disliked the neat little bowl of side salad (everything from the raw onion to the raw pepper to the parmesan cheese), but I enjoyed it, even if it was a purely token effort at healthy. (And if you order a large lobster, the table gets unlimited chips and salad… I took advantage).  You’re also brought little gravy boats of garlic butter sauce, which truly was amazing with the chips (and I’m actually thankful to B&L for having no nutritional information online for this one).

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I really enjoyed the Burger and Lobster experience overall. A very slick and friendly operation, with really great food. The lobster is really great value at £20, but let’s not forget the burger is also £20, which goes well and truly above any other examples to date. If you’re in a couple, I’d probably recommend one of each, although I clearly need to head back soon for the missing lobster roll…

(Apologies for the lack of photos in this post – it seems no-one could wait the minute I needed take pics before digging in…)

ShakeShack, Covent Garden

Huge US chain ShakeShack opened in London the day after Five Guys. They’ve taken over a small shop in Covent Garden, with lots of outdoor and indoor seating in the market, and naturally, I had to try it.

I really wanted to like ShakeShack, and it certainly has a lot going for it. As with Five Guys, the chain clearly carries a lot of love with folks who’ve tried it in the States, and the US menu with locally-sourced products and twists (they use 100% Aberdeen Angus beef, and shake biscuits from the St John Bakery) ought to be a recipe for success. Sadly, it isn’t.

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I went Wednesday lunchtime with my dining companion (and sister), B, and we queued for around 15 minutes to get served. I went for a single Shackburger (cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and ‘ShackSauce’) and cheese fries, and B (“is it actually possible to get a burger without cheese??”) went with the Cumberland sausage and normal fries.

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The burger itself was so painfully average, it barely scores higher than a McDonald’s. The “all burgers are cooked medium” seems a little pointless – the burger is so pitifully thin, it’s hard to do it as anything but well done (you can see mine was heavily charred). The real disappointment here though was the chips. I can’t remember eating any so bad. They come uniformly crinkle-cut (no hand-cut here), had a bizarre white residue all over them, and just really didn’t taste of anything. The closest I can come to describing them is a sort of vague taste of frozen potato waffles. The cheese sauce was pleasant for the first few bites, but just so heavy and calorific that half-way through I began to hate myself. We agreed the best part of the meal was the Cumberland sausage itself (it would hard to get it wrong), but even then the bread was stodgy and unappetising.

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I felt fairly uncomfortable and disgusted with myself for the rest of the afternoon, which I find is always a good litmus test for whether a burger’s any good or not. In ShakeShack’s defence, the service was great throughout, and they’re certainly keen on first name use à la Starbucks. I suspect part of ShakeShack’s appeal is their trademark shakes and frozen custards, which I didn’t try, but as this is just a burger blog, I’ve got to conclude with a warning to stay well away.

Five Guys

Regular readers will know I loathe queuing for food, even more so because on the occasions I have queued to try the latest over-hyped burger it turns out to be just that – an overhyped disappointment, where (largely, ironic) style over substance wins. So, the thought of joining what promised to be a queue of epic proportions, to try out a new chain restaurant on its first day did not fill me with joy, but I agreed nonetheless.

I’d never heard of Five Guys, a huge US chain that has “has grown a cult-like following around the world” (their words), but dining companion Lucy convinced me it was worth a visit. We joined the queue just before 6pm, which seemed to be the best time (it was snaking round for a couple of hours when we left). The sun was shining, we had a couple of cans of Pimms as we waited, and we were in within 40 minutes (having also randomly bumped into one of my best friends en route to see Derren Brown…).

I opted for the cheeseburger at £8, and Lucy went for the ‘little cheeseburger’. If you’re new to Five Guys, I should point out that the standard cheeseburger comes as a double, and is pretty substantial. Don’t be put off by the ‘little’ – this is what we’d class as normal. All the toppings were included in the price of the burger (and they’ve got 15). I opted for lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, jalapeños, green peppers, ketchup, and mustard. (They also offer free monkey nuts as you wait, which is nice).

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We shared a regular fries at £4 (today’s potatoes, we were informed, came from the Netherlands, and they’re cooked in peanut oil), and again, this was more than ample for the two of us. There’s a selection of beers available including Brewdog, Budweiser, and I was delighted to see Brooklyn Beer, as well as the magic 100 Coca-Cola machine, which I’ll come back to.

So, the burger itself was huge, pretty filthy, but pretty good. The beef’s 100% Aberdeen Angus and tastes good (although they insist on cooking it well done), and the cheese is plentiful and satisfyingly oozy. The bun reminded me more of the McDonald’s sesame style rather than the current trend for toasted brioches, but it held together, so did the job. The toppings were great (and it’s refreshing not to be charged 50p/£1 for each one…), and although the jalapeños tasted awesome, I’ve got to warn you – they’re hot, very hot. The chips were a bit disappointing. They’re hand cut and skin on, but came slightly undercooked and not all that tasty or exciting.

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The double burger (or standard by their terms) is big, and I was beginning to struggle by the end. The unlimited drink machine didn’t help. Their magic machine has all Coke’s brands (Fanta, Dr Pepper, Schweppes etc…) along with multiple flavours for each one. We tried vanilla Coke, Lemon Fanta, Grape Schweppes, Fruit Punch something or other, and carried on until the novelty wore off (and I couldn’t stomach any more), after about 10. Anyway, it amused me.

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So, all in all, this is a decent offering. It’s not gourmet by any means, but pleasurable and good quality for the price. The staff (we counted more than 20 working behind the counter) were efficient and there were lots of smiles with everyone willing to help out, which does make a difference.

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I’d recommend a visit (go for the ‘little’ burger), and whatever you do, don’t look up the nutritional information online. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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Pim Pam Burger, Barcelona

I’d been reliably informed by friends and a number of local magazines and blogs that Pim Pam Burgers were the best in Barcelona, so you can understand I was keen to try them out (even in spite of the ridiculous name).

I arrived in the city for a wedding one Thursday lunchtime in May, and immediately went for a siesta (give me a break – I’d just turned 30, was full of a cold, and had caught the 8am Ryanair…). I met old friends Salva and Felipe and we headed over for an early (for Spain) dinner, 9pm. The place is tiny and they don’t do bookings, but thankfully we just managed to grab a table.

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Felipe and I went the Roquefort burger, and Salva opted for the ‘tres quesos’ (three cheeses – parmesan, feta, and gouda). Pim Pam pride themselves on the finest quality meat, and press the burgers themselves into shape as they’re ordered. I was reading their story in Catalan about how the meat is sourced, and we were all slightly worried at their use of quotation marks around sourcing the finest “beef” available from the market. I’m putting it down to the Spanish tendency to overuse speech marks, rather than it being a euphemism for something else…

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So, all in all, a decent burger. Nice meat, well-seasoned and cooked. The Roquefort was plentiful and tasty, and the bun held together well. The chips were hand cut (I worry I now take this for granted with London burgers, but it does seem to be a point worthy of highlighting here) and satisfyingly crispy. The boys went crazy for some ‘American style sauce’ on the table, which after much investigation we concluded actually was cauliflower flavour (I’m still looking into this…). It was new to me and, to be fair, actually pretty pleasant.

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I’ve had better burgers in my life (but then I do say this with every review), but Pim Pam is a very decent effort, and definitely a welcome addition to Barcelona’s culinary scene. The bill for the three of us came in at 28€, and that included three large burgers, two large fries, and three beers. A bargain really. Or as they’d say in Spain, ‘una ganga’.

So, where else to investigate in Barcelona? A few days later I went to Rita Blue in Raval, where I’ve been drinking cocktails for over 10 years. I only now just managed to try the burger, and was pleasantly surprised. Friends have also recommended El Kiosko, Betty Fords, and Negro Carbon. It would only be professional of me to go and try all of these, purely in the interests of the blog of course. I guess I’ll just have to come back to Barcelona then… ;)

The Alice House, West Hampstead NW6

It was my first time at the Alice House. Up until then I’d only heard murmurings of discontent about poor service and food from locals, so I was somewhat apprehensive. It’s also why I went twice, a few weeks apart, just to be sure y’know. I’m glad to say I was pleasantly surprised, however, by both food and service.

I had the burger both times, naturellement, being joined the first time by @marmitetoast and @puddingsandwine, and the second just by a hungover @puddingsandwine (neither puddings nor wine was consumed that time).

The service was friendly and helpful, and I do like the Alice House’s excellent range of local beers. But on to the burger. It comes with cheese (and I’m pretty sure bacon the first time, but not the second), chunky chips and a sort of glowing purple coleslaw (full marks for not being ‘slaw’). I’m a bit disappointed at the lack of pubs who ask how we’d like the burger cooked, but this did come a nice medium anyway.

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The burger itself was juicy, tasty meat, although perhaps a little under seasoned (“needs more pepper”, said Rosie). Decent solid sesame bun which held together, a nice slab of melted cheddar, and a mix of mayo/ketchup/mustard on top, which worked quite well.  

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There seems to be a growing trend for chutneys (and in this case ‘red onion marmalade’) to be added to burgers, which I can’t say I’m a fan of, so that went. The coleslaw was tangy, but the highlight was the chips. Not quite as good as the Truscott’s, but a close second. Huge, chunky, well-cooked and well-seasoned, although Rosie was disappointed at the ketchup – “that is NOT Heinz”. Personally, I’m not fussed.

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So, not the best burger in NW London, but a decent effort for a pub burger, and a nice place to while away a Sunday afternoon. Recommended.

 

Score

Me: 7

Rosie: 7

Total: 7. Decent pub burger, nice venue.