Monday, 19 September 2011

Byron's "Uncle Sam" Cheeseburger

I see that McDonald's have released some sort of 1955 burger that has seemingly sod all relation to what would have been dished up in its original restaurants, and no doubt worse quality of ingredients. Gripe over.

Actually, not fully over. A stag do the previous night had dealt me a moderate hangover; maybe 6 on the Richter scale. Junk was needed, but well-made junk. I'd not tried the Byron burger yet and they seem to be popping up everywhere to mainly good reviews. What also attracted was their nod to the US diner in their "Uncle Sam" burger.

I liked their diner - nestled in the thoroughly shit part of London that is the theatreland-cum-bad cafe central-cum-hideous pizza slices in window type fast food outlet. The friendly host with the t-shirt with the legend "medium" was enough of a hint for how I should be having it cooked.

And so it arrived:

The Uncle Sam Burger, Byron, Charing Cross Road

The first impression was that it was relatively small - but was well-filled with the 6 oz patty. Lovely bun that was soft but with enough sturdiness to hold its interior without collapsing. Tomato ketchup, pickles, what I would describe as American Burger Cheese and French's mustard. The disappointing thing? Where was the flavour of the beef. It was there, but it just seemed to lack seasoning and was almost lost in the various condiments.

Dammit - I didn't want to be disappointed! Everything else seemed fine but the main feature was a disappointment. It's by no means a disaster as it was so nicely constructed, but I'm not a structural engineer. 6.

Afterwards I went for a pile of beijing dumplings at the Chinatown staple Jen Cafe. Never fails - somewhere between 8-10 home-made steamed dumplings for £5 that were well seasoned (take note, someone else!) and cack-handedly dropped by me into vinegar probably to the amusement of the local Chinatown clientele. Look at the awkward Englishman and his chopstick cack-handedness.

Friday, 16 September 2011

3 months of eating North London: Pt 6: Made in Camden, Camden (!)

3 months of living in North London is almost coming to a close. I've come to the conclusion that despite my 70s hair and youthful 36-year-old looks, I am a) too late for Britpop in Camden and b) not cool enough for North London. Never mind, a return to middle-class, middle-aged Blackheath beckons as I ease buckets of Black Vanilla gelato down my cakehole.

Tried to get into Market to treat a couple of friends with a belated wedding present. Full. Good for them. Instead I recalled that the small plate menu at Made in Camden looked quite handy, and the reviews on London Eating were largely good - and a recent visit from AA Gill earned it 4 stars, which I'm assuming was promising. Oh my it was.

Camden Lager and imported weissbiers on the go, myself and the newly happy couple attacked pretty much the entirely of the small plate menu.

Pan-fried fennel, marinated feta, pistachio, salted caramel was laden with flavour and sticky pork belly, green papaya, mango, cashew, nam jim (new one on me that was something I'd like to repeat at home now I'm getting a hankering for doing some oriental slow cooked pork.

I jumped at the grilled tiger prawns, romesco, broccoli and garlic crisps - was interested to try some romesco and how it paired with prawns. It paired with them very nicely and the prawns took on a wonderful smoky flavour from whichever implement it was griddled on.

The complete show-stopper and my dish-of-the-year so far was the crisp-fried chicken, black vinegar glaze, carrot and miso puree. Crispy chicken - I would guess thigh meat - seemingly in panko breadcrumbs which swam in a savoury, vinegary sauce that I could have slurped on its own. Stunning, bloody stunning. We made the right choice ordering two at the start.

The lamb kefta was tremendously well-seasoned and tuna with caperberries with roasted peppers and egg almost had too many flavours! Not that I'm complaining. My only complaint was the lighting was quite low which rendered to zero any chances of poor-quality photos in ShitDixonVision. Staff were friendly and unobtrusive. My favourite type of staff. The bill for what were 9 sharing plates between the 3 of us plus a glass of wine, 2 dessert wines (which came in very small servings - probably my only gripe) and 3 beers was around £120.

Unplanned meals this good always raise a smile as expectation ahead of a meal can take the edge off an experience sometimes. I will return north of the border when I move back south just to go there again. 8. Quite possibly a 9, actually.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hot dog alert - Joe's, Camden

The current trend of being able to get well-made, lovingly-constructed American fast food is great news. I'm not your arbiter of knowledge on this front but it seems that the likes of Hot Chip and Meatwagon as well as great burgers in the more permanent of residences (Byron, Hawksmoor, Goodman) mean that there's no excuse to go into a McDonald's unless you're commode-huggingly drunk.

With this trend, I hope that London goes hot dog mad. Even the tinned ones made of bollocks, elbows, underarms and heels I deem as palatable, but then again I'm probably seen as a heathen for this reason. Abiye's Big Apple Hot Dogs are the daddies, but I stumbled into a recently-opened bar in Camden, Joe's, to share a couple of beers with a friend on Bank Holiday Monday and noticed a wonderful Hot Dog sign over the bar:

Hot Dog Sign, Joe's Bar, Camden

The place incidentally was either deliberately spartan or their seating man had only partly fulfilled his task. The 50s soundtrack and exposed brickwork was if anything a nod to Russell Norman's growing London Polpo empire. I wasn't even hungry, but having had my Hot Dog Enlightening by Big Apple, it was always worth a try. An attempted chat with the unsmiling barman revealed that they were from Gloucestershire from a man called Graham. That was all.

Nonetheless, the hot dogs were good. Thinner, so lacking the juicy texture of Big Apple Hot Dogs, they certainly had good flavour and the meat well-seasoned. And that very required "snap" was there when biting into them - something of course that you'll never get from a can of Tulip / Princes Genuine American Hot Dogs With Bits of Cock and Achilles Tendon in a tin. I liked the touch of toasting the bun, too.

Hot Dog, Joe's, Camden

Would happily have another. And almost did, the fat knacker that I am. Would say a 7 to Big Apple's 9. Let London go hot dog mad and I will hoover them up and I look forward to the proper fried chicken and/or massive pastrami sandwich revolution next.