A burger competition? In London? Where you have to sample 6 of the country’s top burgers and vote for the best? Where do I sign up?
The London Burger Bash is hosted and organised by food guru Daniel Young. He is a legend on the food circuit and is very passionate about his food; his heart and soul goes into making these events special and they are. I’ve been to 5 events now and not one has ever let me down, so follow him on twitter and sign up to his newsletter, because if you’re in love with food, and in this case burgers, you need to sample one of these events.
Mr Young put together the first Burger Bash last year, at Camden Town Brewery, which the very talented chef Fred Smith won, so this time around another champ would be decided to join Fred in the finals of all finals. In heat 2 you have burger enthusiast Joe Grossman from Patty & Bun, Master Chef winner Tim Anderson from Nanban, New Yorker’s Joe Allen, meat guru Richard Turner from Hawksmoor, young gun Manuel Andrades from Mother Flipper and Northern grease-ster Beau Myers from Almost Famous. What fine company we were in! All this in Camden Town Brewery where the beers flow like water, this was going to get messy, very, very messy.
Me and my burger brethren’s arrived at Camden Town Brewery and clocked in. We had discussed strategies on the train journey up to London but that all went out the window when we arrived! We walked around like lost puppies for about 5 minutes but then we heard some beats by Dre which were coming from a big shiny burger wagon. It was Joe blasting out some hip-hop, so Piggie Smalls it is then. Joe’s 'Piggie Smalls' burger was a beef patty, Middle White pork belly confit, double cheese, hot sauce, pork scratching, roasted garlic aioli, smoky P & B mayo and bread & butter pickles all nestled in a brioche bun. Sounds good doesn't it? It was! Initially I thought “ingredient overload?”, but when I took a bite I was in piggy heaven. The patty, as always, was cooked to perfection, then I got the pork belly and the crunch of the scratching, and the sauces all just merged into one. It was hard to pin point a flavour but I didn't care, the flavour was good, real good, and with the next burger on the horizon, it was going be tough as we were off to a flyer.
We finished up the ‘piggie’ and went in search of our next burger hit. All we could hear was the voice of an American, “Get your Joe Allen burgers here, traditional American burgers!”. He was their burger town crier, and he enticed us in. We stepped up to order our Joe Allen ‘Secret’ Burger which was based on an American classic. A no nonsense burger; ground Angus beef patty, Spanish beef tomato, Battavia lettuce leaf, maple glazed streaky bacon, mature cheddar, horseradish ketchup & seasoned mayonnaise in a cream brioche bun. The first thing I did was remove the tomato, as I can’t do tomatoes, then I was ready. I sank my teeth in and 3, 2, 1, pow! The flavour of the patty was superb, really beefy, nicely cooked with the all familiar pink tinge in the middle, then I got the sweet taste of bacon and finally came the sharpness of the cheese. This was no fancy pants burger, this was a good, old, traditional burger, one that was done to perfection.
It now dawned on me that the vote was going to be hard, really hard, but we had four more half burgers to sample and next up were Manchester’s Almost Famous. There was a little bit of a queue but the friendly staff kept us entertained with banter and alcohol. That’s right, we got a complimentary shot of Jack Daniels, mixed with some sort of sour, almost like a pickleback, a real treat!. Then our burger arrived, and it was huge! Butter-basted double patty or coarsely ground brisket/chuck/bone marrow, A/F burger cheese, crispy smoked bacon, JD maple butter syrup, BBQ fried onions, frazzles, baconnaise, chipotle ketchup & Famous mustard in a toasted brioche bun glazed with bacon butter. This thing was a monster, but great fun to eat! So messy, but the flavours that were busting out of this burger were unreal, the two beef patties were cooked to perfection, the combination of meat cuts really worked, the BBQ onions were the best I have ever tasted, with a nice spice to them and the sauce mixed in with the frazzles worked really well. This was feel good food at its finest. I did indeed feel good after ramming it down my throat, we had a leader.
The lead was contested though with my next burger. Tim Anderson’s ‘Barbarian Burger’! Now, Tim runs a Japanese restaurant called Nanban, so there were a lot of Japanese influences in his burger. ‘The Barbarian’ was short rib/chuck/smoked gammon mince, Gochujang kewpie slaw, mature Gouda, bacon-shiitake croquette, asazuke picked onions and katsu sauce in a Portuguese sweet bread bun. It was delicious and I had never had a burger like this before. The meat was something else, the flavour just lingered on and on, even with all the other flavours that were coming in, and the croquette was good and really went well with the burger. The slaw brought some much anticipated crunch, bite and heat and the sauce left my mouth with a spicy sensation, not too hot but just right, and the bun, wow the bun! Everyone normally opts for the brioche, but not Tim, he tried something new. The sweet bread bun really worked, and although bit heavier than a normal bun, the sweetness cut through the weight of the bun and spice of the burger, a good call on Tim’s part, and this was now neck and neck with Almost Famous. Really precise cooking by Tim Anderson and his team which I really enjoyed.
With four burgers down in 30 minutes we decided to take the pace down a notch and headed to the bar for some refreshments. We pretty much went through the list, Camden Ink, Camden Pale, Gentlemen’s Wit and Hell’s lager, both filtered and unfiltered. My fave was the Pale, really good hoppy flavour, which goes well with any burger. With a few pints sunk it was time to crack on with the burgers, but I have to admit I made a school boy error by drinking too many beers. My fears were coming true, I started to feel bloated and full. Nooooooooooo!
My burger buddies were eager to crack on so I went with it. Next up was Mother Flipper, English chuck steak patties, crispy onion rings, candied bacon, Swiss Cheese, smokey homemade BBQ sauce & homemade ranch dressing in a sesame seed brioche bun. Although I was ready to go bang, I still woofed this down like I hadn’t eaten all day. Again, the burger was well cooked and had a lot of flavour but it was that BBQ sauce mixed with the sweet candied bacon that stood out for me. The sweetness of the sauce with the bacon then the ranch dressing just cooled everything down and the stringy Swiss Cheese was just plain fun to eat. The onion rings added good crispness, all in all a solid burger, but I was fading fast, Mother Flipper you put the lid on my coffin and it was Hawksmoor who the nails.
Now I was moaning and groaning, the full sign had gone “PING” my fellow burger comrades had gone on without me. They went in for the Hawksmoor and I watched them eat it despairingly. It looked good, real good. I gave it 20 minutes and thought “Man up Dan, you can do this!” so I headed up to Hawksmoor for the final challenge of the day. They named it ‘The Out ‘n’ Out Animal Burger’, a take on In-N-Out’s famous Animal Style burger, it was a mustard-fried, pure-bred, grass-fed, Aberdeen Angus patty, Ogleshield cheese, fried onions & lettuce in a demi brioche bun accompanied with oxtail poutine and, not only that, they give a full, whole burger! I sat down and sized up this monster. With a deep breath in I went. Juice went everywhere, the Angus beef was good, it held together like a steak, probably the best patty of the day, real quality meat. The oxtail poutine and chips also tasted like melt in your mouth heaven, it was just a shame I couldn’t finish the whole thing. I’d been done! we all sat back and admired what we had just achieved. An afternoon of great burgers, and every single one was superb in their own unique way, but we had a task to do, and that was vote.
The voting was hard. I felt Mother Flipper and Hawksmoor didn’t get a fair crack of the whip from me as I was so full when tasting their burgers, but I did capture their flavours and take them into consideration. I had to vote for the one that I enjoyed the most, and it was a toss up between Nanban and Almost Famous. A really hard decision, but I went for Almost Famous. It was the ultimate feel good burger, there was so much going on in the burger it was scary, but really enjoyable. My burger bro’s went Nanban and Almost Famous and with the Sunday competition done, Almost Famous took an early lead going into the Monday leg. With another night of voting it was Joe Grossman from Patty & Bun that came through to be crowned heat 2’s burger champion, and to be fair the ‘Piggie Small’s’ was a worthy champion, so well done to Joe and his team, who now joins Fred Smith in the London Burger Bash finals.
What a great afternoon we had. With tickets costing £50 I initially thought it was a little expensive, but I have to say with all those quality burgers and the good laughs we had with the crews and fellow burger go-ers it was money well spent and I will be gunning for tickets to the next London Burger Bash. A big shout to Daniel for organising such a brilliant event.
Thanks for reading.
For more info on Daniel Young’s event follow him on Twitter/Facebook or check his website out.
Web - www.youngandfoodish.com/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/youngandfoodish
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/youngandfoodish?fref=ts
Pictures taken by myself, Ricco and Dave.