It’s not hard to find good food in the UK. I met some tourists who were complaining that you can’t get good British cuisine anywhere, which I can appreciate - it’s often hard to find something that is truly “British” and not borrowed from another culture or country - but as long as you’re not too fussy about where the recipe comes from, good food is pretty easy to find. Don’t get me wrong, there’s terrible food out there too, but that’s not what this blog is about. It’s about good food! Be excited about good food!
I’m rather partial to burgers. I like meat, I like bread, it’s a perfect match. I really love how the burger, as a concept, is so simple, and yet there is so much scope for variation. The selection of meat, how you cook it, the kind of bun, the condiments, the toppings - oh, there’s so much that makes for a good or bad burger. So, whenever I have the opportunity to try out somewhere that considers itself a real, legit burger bar, I get excited. Last weekend we were going to Secret Cinema, which was cancelled, so we changed our plans and hit up London for some beers and burgers. There are a lot of good burgers in London, so we were spoilt for choice, but we ended up in Camden, so we ended up in Honest Burgers.
Honest Burgers is a pretty simple place with a straight up menu. It promises very little but burgers, and very little in the way of toppings. I am fine with toppings, of course: Atomic Burger is my all-time favourite burger joint just because of the wonderful things it offers in the bun, but there’s nothing wrong with going back to basics. At Honest, all of the furniture is plain food. The menu is written on the blackboard wall in chalk, and handed to you on a beaten up bit of paper. It’s a small place, consisting of maybe 5 tables and a small kitchen that probably couldn’t cook much other food if it wanted to. There’s a little bar surrounding the kitchen, which is a really nice touch: the least fancy theatre kitchen I’ve ever seen.
The menu kind of runs as a flow chart. First you pick chicken, beef, or veg, then you pick one of a couple of styles. “Cheeseburger” seemed like the right thing to do, so I went for red leicester. All burgers come with chips, which, to me, seems like a wise move - I always think it feels like a cheat when sides cost extra. I ordered some onion rings too, because I’m always in search of the perfect onion ring. Flipping the menu over I picked a beer from a list of decent craft brews - a Bethnal Pale Ale from the Redchurch brewery. The state of beer in the UK at the moment is really exciting - sure, you might pay a lot for some of it, but there are so many good beers out there to try you never have to drink the same thing twice. The fact that I can get a burger made with decent British beef and drink ale brewed down the road is truly fantastic.
The food was presented in a simple style that I just love: blue and white metal plates, no garnish, a piece of greaseproof paper under the food. Napkins came tucked between a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of mayonnaise. Honest Burgers opts for a glazed bun, not too thick, not fancy, but sturdy enough to hold together. The burger was topped with enough cheese, a little onion relish, and a simple bit of lettuce. It didn’t need anything else. This is how I think burgers should be: simple and delicious, a few quality ingredients put together to make something greater than the sum of their parts. The chips were cooked to perfection, nice and crispy, and the onion rings were beautiful: cooked just right, so the onions don’t disolve and maintain just the tiniest amount of crunch. The burgers were the main event, and were everything they should be: pink in the middle, cooked to perfection, firm and yet melt-in-the-mouth soft was soon as you bit into them. The meat was delicious, high quality stuff (I believe they’re stocked by Ginger Pig?), with nothing added: just great beef.