To the delight and anguish of all starving, early evening commuters across the big smoke, the Evening Standard recently posted an edible bucket list for London; a culinary countdown of places you must visit and dishes you must try in order to fully experience all the gastronomic delights that our beautiful capital city has to offer. Now the fact that London has a million cultures all living within frying, baking or drizzling distance of each other won’t come as any sort of shock to anyone who’s walked down Edgware Road or through Camden Market or around the side streets of Kilburn but some of the suggested dishes posed a challenge even for little, old, eats-everything-she-can-lay-her-hands-on me…milk-fed lambs brain anyone?
A bit beyond your comfort zone?
No problem. Tuck your napkin back into your shirt, pull your chair back into the table, pick up your knife & fork and get on board with some slightly (metaphorically) easier-to-digest suggestions such as shepherd’s pie, egg, ham & peas or a simple grilled cheese sandwich.
For me though, the easiest thing to sway someone into trying a new restaurant is nothing fancier than a damn good burger, Well, unless you’re my mother and then a plate of broccoli will do it every time but for those of us less enthused by those bright green florets than by something juicy, meaty and impossible to eat without a stack of napkins and the acceptance that you will end up with all kinds of deliciousness dribbling down your chin, let’s venture into Patty & Bun and into the only burger on the list…
With just 2 locations in London, one just off the behemoth that is Oxford St in the restaurant laden area of James St and the other, a fat rosemary chip’s throw from the station in Liverpool St, Patty & Bun might not be as big as some of their peers but what they may lack in physical locations, they more than make up for with a nigh on fanatical following.
Everyone’s got an opinion on where they think you should be devouring half a cow laden down with cheese, bacon, pickles and all manner of other expected and shocking-but-delicious toppings and no-one’s afraid to share it with you which is amazing if you have no idea where to go and nervewracking when you know you can only pick one place at a time. On a recent cold, dark Friday night, it was the turn of J and I to venture into a small but perfectly formed branch of the place that began life as a pop-up a couple of years ago and has grown in both size and acclaim ever since.
Ranked in the top 1000 of nearly 18’000 London restaurants on Trip Advisor, Patty & Bun in James St has inspired over 300 of the capital’s diners to wax lyrical about the menu, the staff & even the veggie burger; the made-for-carnivores-only burgers of the past are quite literally just that, a thing of the distant and unimaginative past. The menu here boasts chicken, lamb & vegetarian choices as well as 3 beef options, one of which is the legendary Ari Gold which so emphatically made the Standard’s short list.
Arriving at 6.30pm was a stroke of unintentionally perfect timing as J and I bagged a table for two by the large open windows which afforded a great opportunity for the watching of people enjoying that so-happy-it’s-Friday-night feeling. The sound of music loud enough to signal the weekend was here but not so loud you’re forced to lip-read, along with the chatter of other diners – the place was understandably packed and I suspect would be long into the night – made for a bustling environment and the decor was clean & simple enough to avoid any distraction from the food.
Staff were utterly & sincerely lovely from the moment we stepped in to the moment we rolled out, proving that you don’t have to lose all sense of genuine friendliness to still be cool when your culinary star is ascending.
So after all this build-up, what exactly is the Ari Gold and more importantly to those of us who think with our stomachs – is there any other way? – how did it taste? For those unfamiliar with Mark Wahlberg produced TV of the last few years – I know, shocking that anyone could be this way inclined isn’t it?! – Ari Gold is the sometimes-hard-work-but-always-entertaining agent in LA based TV show ‘Entourage’ and it is after him, that tonight’s dinner was (inexplicably and I’ve tried my hardest to find out) named.
Consisting of beef, cheese, tomato, lettuce, pickled onions, ketchup and smokey P&B mayo topped & tailed by a brioche bun, your first question may well be what the heck is P&B mayo? That dear reader, I’ve also tried and failed to discern…all I know is that a) it contains paprika & mustard among other things and b) it’s get-me-enough-to-cover-everything-I’m-ever-going-to-eat-again-in-it delicious.
The burger was quite simply excellent. The meat – 35 day aged & grass fed Aberdeen Angus – was cooked perfectly and was succulent and moreish from the first sniff let alone bite. Y’know that feeling when you’re starving and the first bite of a fine burger is literally like heaven in your mouth? Like you couldn’t be any happier at that moment? Like life couldn’t get any better? Tick that box here please.
In my role as last of the big spenders, I’d splashed out an extra 50p on bacon and it’s crispy, saltiness was the perfect foil to melty cheese, tangy pickle & gentle-kick-of-mustard flavours. The brioche was sturdy enough to ensure the Mr. Gold didn’t fall completely apart in your hands but soft enough to add a hint of sweetness to each mouthful.
The chips were liberally doused with rosemary salt in a manner that won’t be totally unfamiliar to London’s burger eaters and they were piping hot, crispily golden and very satisfying. Given that beer or cider are usually our drinks of choice for burgers, a £10 carafe of P&B red wine was a surprisingly delicious way to wash down dinner and perfectly complemented the rich, luscious beef.
Non-scary pricepoints of £7.50 for the burger, £2.75 for the fries and £10 for the wine meant that our central London Friday night treat feast cost us just over £30 which, for the quality of food & service on offer, we had no problem at all in paying and before people start chuntering that ‘it’s just burgers, it’s just fast food’, err, not it’s not and no it isn’t. Quality dining is always worth paying for but doesn’t always have to come with a hefty pricetag, a celebrity chef or a star or two above the door. P&B also score extra points for the handwipes brought along with the bill – seriously a great and super simple idea that was much appreciated as we licked the remnants of dinner off our fingers.
Burgers have been big business both literally and financially for some time now and this obsession of ours shows no signs of letting up. The opening of a new place to get your fix drives some afficionados into a near frenzy and there are more burger inspired clubs, blogs & made-all-the-more-beautiful-by-the-addition-of-the-Valencia-filter images online than you can shake a brioche bun at. In a market that, while not over saturated yet, is definitely healthy in size and growing, there are always going to be a few places that stand out and Patty & Bun is definitely one of them. As addictively good burgers go, Ari is up there with the very best in his class…
The full list for your dining delectation can be found here: