Burger, A Love Story – Goodman, Byron, Hawksmoor, Joe Allen… and us!

WHY is everybody so passionate about burgers? When you think about it, it is basically two buns, a slice of tomato, a leaf of salad and, hopefully a very nice piece of meat.

A dish couldn’t be simpler and yet, when you search for the definition of the perfect burger, you find nearly 50,000 points of view.

At the start of every incredible food saga, there will always be controversy, just as, according to Wikipedia, the invention of the burger could come from quite a few different sources and events:

  • Residents of Hamburg, New York, which was named after Hamburg, Germany, attribute the hamburger to Ohioans Frank and Charles Menches. According to legend, the brothers were vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair when they ran out of sausage for sandwiches and used beef instead.
  • Frank Menches’s obituary in The New York Times, on the other hand, states instead that these events took place at the 1892 Summit County Fair in Akron, Ohio.
  • The Seymour Community Historical Society credits Charlie Nagreen after he reportedly made sandwiches out of meatballs that he was selling at the 1885 Seymour Fair so that customers could eat while walking.
  • The Library of Congress credits Louis Lassen of Louis’ Lunch, a small lunch wagon in New Haven, Connecticut, for selling the first hamburger and steak sandwich in the U.S. in 1895
  • The historian Frank X. Tolbert attributes the invention to Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas. Davis is believed to have sold hamburgers at his café at 115 Tyler Street in the late 1880s, then brought them to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
  • An article about Louis’ Lunch in The New York Times on January 12, 1974, stated that the McDonald’s hamburger chain claims the inventor was an unknown food vendor at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Moving on from its uncertain past, burgers are also most probably the most simple yet versatile dish. Depending on where you live, the ingredients used in hamburgers can vary to impressive degrees. Have a look at Wikipedia and each country has developed its own style of burger to adapt it to local’s taste. How often do you find a dish that has conquered the world creating so much enthusiasm? Curry maybe?

Before moving into more in-depth research and tasting, let’s wonder what makes burger such a popular dish.

“Hamburgers make great comfort food. They satisfy. You get a meat hit. You relax. You recover. And they don’t cost the earth. You don’t even need a knife and fork. You can eat them on the go. There’s even something naughty about them, something a bit erotic. People won’t admit to it but it is true!” Tom Byng Byron Hamburger

Burgers are a quintessential friendly meal, built in popularity by fast food and ease of access it is a staple of any good BBQ and usually a communal affair with friends and family. It is filling, tasty and contains many of the food groups; protein, dairy, vegetable and grains. Done properly and eaten in moderation it is a good choice for a complete meal.” John Cadieux – Goodman

“People mostly love burgers because they taste nice! They are also evocative of that 50s Golden-Era American Dream period.  With lots of exposure on TV and famous films, people started associate burgers become to America which became the country for burgersChris Pople, Cheese and Biscuits

London is full of places claiming the best burger in town and of course, each of us has his favourite. A miracles in my agenda gave me the opportunity to go try some of the hottest places in London known for making good quality burgers over a short period.

There is something very classy about the burger at Hawksmoor. First the atmosphere, full of businessmen coming to enjoy a good lunch between two meetings, gives you a good idea of the quality of the food.

Calling itself a steakhouse that offers the very best British meat simply cooked on a real charcoal grill, Hawksmoor has become the place to go for meat lovers.  The fact is proven just as well by the blackboard filled with all the available meats and sizes featured every day.

When the waiter brings your burger, you immediately understand that this beauty is going to make your day. With two huge buns and a perfectly cooked hamburger patty, no other topping seems to be needed. The meat is rich with a true meaty look and taste. The expression meaty may seem obvious but it is really the feeling you get at every bite.

When we devised our burger we tried every ingredient option possible and dozens of different buns. We think a slight sweetness is good which is one of the reasons we opted for a demi-brioche. Then comes the cheese.  We tried it with everything we could think of before settling on Ogleshield as the cheese of choice, with a great Stilton option as well. But the meat is the most crucial choice. To stand up to all the other flavours going on you need to have good beef with good flavour.Will Beckett, Hawksmoor

157 Commercial Street
London E1 6BJ
020 7247 7392b

Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon

‘Keep it simple but make it good’ is Byron Hamburger’s strategy. The restaurant offers a limited choice, with no more than 6 burgers on the menu, but focuses on quality and flavours.

Every now and then, the team comes up with some ideas to create buzz and excitement amongst the foodies. Which is just what happened when Byron announced the Big D.

Don’t rely on the size of the burger, the big D knew how to make people talk about it… Behind its innocent look is hidden a filling and very comforting burger. The 8 oz beef, developed and supplied by O’Shea’s of Knightsbridge was juicy with strong flavours and cooked just as it should be.

Despite what some people think, the white buns added an enjoyable touch and offered something different than the classic brioches buns that everybody is such a fan of.

“My perfect burger is all about respecting ingredients and keeping it simple. Great beef, super fresh, cooked pink served in a soft bun that you can hold easily in your hands. Don’t go crazy on toppings. Some lettuce, tomato, onion and maybe some cheese or bacon but that’s it. If you want 50 different choices of burger, Byron ain’t for you.” Tom Byng

Byron Hamburger
Kensington, Wardour Street, Kings Road, Gloucester Road, Guildford, Kingston, White City

Byron on Urbanspoon

Once you walk through the door at Goodman, you first wonder if you have suddenly inadvertently walked into a memeber’s only men’s club. With an average of one woman for five men at each table, your hormonal radar is suddenly very alert. Men and meat. There are some matches made in heaven that even the most beautiful woman can’t beat.

But suddenly, you understand why. Here it comes, the true American burger. Made of processed meat mixed with onion, the burger looks dense but every bite is the expression of a truly rich and intense meaty flavour that you only find in American burgers.The choice of brioche buns adds a nice sweetness to it without overpowering it.

The perfect burger has as much to do with the quality of the meat the style of cooking as the company you have it with. A good burger can be elevated to a fantastic burger with great friends and a cold beer. Keep in mind it has to be quality meat!” John Cadieux

26 Maddox Street
London W1S 1QH
020 7499 3776

Goodman on Urbanspoon

Joe Allen is a 25 year old institution, known for being the place where all the actress and actors go to enjoy their dinner after their performance on stage. Movie posters and pictures hang on the walls as a reminder of the golden glamorous times.

The place has built-up its reputation on good quality meat and a peculiar atmosphere with heavy stones and walls, as if no secret could escape from there.

The burger is like a star… It isn’t on the menu but everybody wants it. The first bite was an explosion of strong char grilled tastes, which was very pleasant and positively different from the other ones. The burger was served on brioches buns and the size reached the right level: easy to handle, easy to eat – the perfect construction as @chrispople would say.
But then, the enjoyable char grilled taste turned out to be too strong, the buns were a bit over toasted and the meat was lacking in seasoning.
Some layers of ketchup and mustard later, the burger managed to achieve a decent taste but not my favourite.

Joe Allen
13 Exeter Street
London WC2E 7DT
020 7836 0651

Joe Allen on Urbanspoon

Home made In’N’Out burger (well, we tried)
1 slice Kraft cheese
1 Hamburger bun
Lettuce (leaf, not shredded)
1 onion, finely minced
1 thin slice of onion
250g ground chuck beef
1 tablespoon Thousand Island dressing
1 tomato sliced thin
Salt  and black pepper

Lightly toast bun.
Make your patty by mixing the meat, a handful of chopped onion, salt and black pepper.
Cook for about two minutes, then flip it and add cheese. Cook for two more minutes
Grab bottom bun and pile on dressing, tomato, lettuce, beef patty, and onion.
Add top half of bun and, voila.

The tips from the expert John Cadieux: If possible double your burger meat and make 2 patties, you double your surface area and make more room for salt and sauce to hide. If you do go for a second patty remember to double your cheese.  You need a good pickle, ideally a salted one and not a sweet brine.

“The In’N’Out burgers are pretty close to perfect. Good ingredients, they are cheap, generous with good ingredients. The brioche bun, the Kraft cheese and a nice crispy bacon for texture contrasts are essential in a good American burger. There are other kinds of burgers around but the best is the original American style.Chris Pople

19 thoughts on “Burger, A Love Story – Goodman, Byron, Hawksmoor, Joe Allen… and us!

  1. A terrific post and an important addition to London’s growing conversation about burgers.

    For me a good burger is an implosive, very nearly dangerous sandwich. That it sits not only on a bun but also on the brink of collapse is a great part of its excitement and appeal.

    • I like the idea of this very nearly dangerous sandwich. I see it in a way that you can fell in love with it and get addicted to it very quickly, like the perfect mean comfort food!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Burger, A Love Story – Goodman, Byron, Hawksmoor, Joe Allen… and us! « Mathilde’s Cuisine -- Topsy.com

  3. Pingback: Any ideas for making a better bbq hamburger?

  4. Having had the steak at Hawksmoor I am eagerly awaiting a lunchtime return for the burger… Would rate the Luxe also…. Is there scope for a rundown of places to avoid? For every Hawksmoor there must be 10 that don’t make the grade

    • I haven’t tried the Luxe yet.. still some many places to go. Joe Allen was OK but I wouldn’t go back. And sometimes the best burger is the one you find in the most dudgy pub

  5. Good post on the various burger options blossoming around London. I think the Hawksmoor sounds the best, although i’ve yet to have it. I like their combo of different cuts and bone marrow to get the right flavour.

    I’m one of only a few i know not to be a big fan of the brioche bun. I prefer something a bit softer. But that’s definitely a personal thing.

    Which do you think was the best one?

  6. What an awesome review of Burgers Mathilde 🙂 loved reading it with the quotes from each restaurant. I STILL haven’t tried Hawksmoor but love Byron and Goodman for very different reasons. And In’n’Out.. WELL. Hey if you ever go to LA, you MUST try Umami Burger!!

  7. Wow! Epic post Mathilde…
    Having sampled all of the burgers above (apart from Byron for some inexplicable reason – oh, and your homemade In’N’Out Burger of course – although I have tried Goodmans take on it), I still think Hawksmoors is undoubtedly the best…
    Although, saying that I tried the burger at Bob Bob Ricard yesterday, with no expectations at all, and it was bloody superb!! A real contender!

  8. Great post Mathilde! Really great read and feel prepared for our next trip to London now if we fancy a burger!

    The burger is one of the most underrated products in a butchers shop. The craft and love that goes in to the manaufacture of burgers is incredible, and as much care and attention goes in to developing the perfect burger than any other cut of meat.

    Our favourite question still remains what is the best topping for a burger though….!

    • Thank you! There is still a lot of places where I haven’t been yet, so the burger journey goes on! The best topping should be salad, pickles, cheese and tomato.. Basic but very good!

  9. Pingback: New Hamburger Recipes Just in Time for Summer! | RecipeLionBlog

  10. Pingback: Restaurant Review: Goodman in Mayfair

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s