Sunday, August 8, 2010
What the hell does a guy have to do to get a great Burger in England? This is the question that has been plaguing me since I came here three months ago. This country tricked me by offering a stunning example of a great British Hamburger at The Hinds Head in May. But since then I have had little success. When I read the Dos Hermanos blog on Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud's new London restaurant, I immediately got a tingly sensation in my nether regions. You know the feeling. This is because Chef Boulud has been satisfying the appetites of young New Yorkers seeking Burger nirvana for quite a while now. Long enough to be beaten down by Gucci wearing Gastronomic know bests, who understand what a good Burger should taste like. After all, New York houses just a few big names when it comes to Burgers. I won't bother spelling them all out for you. You probably already know what I'm talking about. Hint... Shake Shack, Burger Joint, Pop Burger... the list is endless.
A quick 50 minute train ride from West Sussex to Victoria Station and then a pleasant 120ºF Tube ride and we were in Kensington. Staring in awe to our left as we gazed upon the grand turrets of Harrods and to our right and slightly behind us, we feasted on the sensual offerings of Harvey Nichols. But we weren't here for shopping. Bar Boulud is housed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Next door Candy and Candy are building an enormous structure, which I assume will house flats for the wealthy Arabs that cruise down Sloane Street in their Lamborghini Gallardos, their Dubai number plates still on, indicating that these cars are on holiday with their owners. Shipped over for the pleasure of the young princes and the entourage that follow them. Straight to China White they go, or wherever is hot these days. I wouldn't know. I'm but a humble married man-servant.
The inside of Bar Boulud keeps with the overall theme of the neighborhood. Rich and extravagant. Not in an overly posh way, but it's definitely not the Burger Joints I'm used to in New York. It isn't just a Burger Joint though is it? It's actually a Bistro. And they serve a lot more than Burgers. Most of it looks fairly tasty. However, I didn't see anyone eating anything other than Burgers. Except for the two guys next to me talking about £200 million movie deals. You know the type? They speak in exaggerated voices so we can all hear how amazing they are and congratulate them on their domination of the universe.
Our waiter took our orders, which didn't take long as we knew what we wanted before we entered the restaurant. And within ten minutes our Burgers were brought to us. These beautifully formed concoctions sat atop white plates and came with a generous side of Fries, which had their own metal holders and white paper holding it tightly around. On first glance, these Burgers looked top notch. But as I investigated more thoroughly with my mouth I realized something was terribly wrong. At the end of this meal I was going to spend £13.50 on a Burger that tasted like it came out of a bog standard British kitchen. There was nothing that stood out except the price. The Brioche bun was a nice touch on the Frenchie Burger, which also has Confit Pork Belly, Rocket, Tomato-Onion Compote and Morbier Cheese. But there was nothing overly exciting about this Burger. It didn't even make a mess, or drip onto my clothes. My God, is this what fancy London Burgers are like? I'm in hell.
The Yankee Burger with Iceberg Lettuce, Tomato, Sweet Onion, Sesame Bun and Pickle was even worse. Oh, and Cheddar Cheese for a £1.50 supplement made me want to write a letter. To whom, I don't know. The flavors were muted, the meat was tiny and the Vegetables had obviously been sliced with a mandolin and although this makes an attractive Burger, it also makes SMALL Burgers with far too much Bun.
Daniel, you're on the right track, mate. And possibly you know your market better than I do. Maybe Londoners want boring Burgers with no character and don't dirty your tie when eaten. But I seriously doubt it. Perhaps if you have a separate menu for the rest of us that like true, honest Burgers that have huge amounts of meat, "real" American Cheese, Thousand Island Dressing and lots and lots of towering toppings. Until then, I'll make mine at home and save my pennies.
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