It was my friend Elsa who suggested eating at Honest Burgers’ Soho branch last night, as we came out of Curzon Soho where we’d seen the newly released film, The Death of Stalin, a black comedy which has been receiving rave reviews. It was mildy funny but we thought over-hyped. Supper, as it turned out, wasn’t at all over-hyped; it was just as good as I’d read about.
I’m not someone to go in search of a good burger. I quite like burgers but in general they haven’t been my first choice since my teenage days when my mum would treat me to one at the Hard Rock Café on trips to London, in an age when it was probably the only place in town to get a good burger. However, I do still occasionally enjoy one and was pleased by Elsa’s suggestion because I’ve read a lot of good things about Honest Burgers. The original branch in Brixton (which seems to give birth to many good restaurants) has grown into 24 branches; all in London, except for the Cambridge branch.
The Soho branch is tucked away down a small side road off Dean Street. It was about 8.45pm and inevitably a queue had formed outside. We were told by a friendly guy that the wait would be about 15 minutes so we decided to stay put. It was a mild October evening and no big deal to wait outside for a short while. The inside is tiny; far too small for queues.
I’m not sure how long we actually waited but it couldn’t have been too long before we were ushered inside and shown to a table. Again a friendly welcome, a menu brought, things explained, like the cooking of the burgers to pink inside (if you want well done then you need to ask at this point), what the special was that day; and we were asked if we had any allergies or special requirements (you can ask for gluten free buns). The menu was also written out on a blackboard above us.
Well, I was in Honest Burgers for the first time so really the only burger to choose was an Honest Burger: beef, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce (£10.95), but there are chicken and vegetarian options. The burgers are served in a glazed brioche bun and come with Honest Burgers’ signature rosemary salted chips.
The wine doesn’t come in choices other than red, white or rosé, but it does come with the option of 125/175ml glass (£4.75/£5.75), a 500ml carafe (£15), or bottle (£20). I really like it when there’s a carafe option. I don’t want to share a whole bottle but sometimes a glass doesn’t feel quite enough with a meal. The wine came, along with a carafe of tap water, and bottles of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and tomato ketchup stood on the table awaiting our meal.
It wasn’t long before our burgers came. Elsa had also ordered the eponymous ‘Honest’.
I opened up the burger and could see a generous dollop of the red onion relish sitting on top of the bacon. Cutting the burger in half, there was the tantalising sight of a perfectly cooked burger, all wonderfully pink and moist inside.
The burger was great. I’ve read they get their beef from Ginger Pig (one of the best butchers in London) and it tasted fabulous. But the chips – wow! They were amazing, quite the best chips I can remember having for a very long time, wonderfully crispy outside, soft in the middle. These really are handmade chips, not the frozen variety that pollute so many restaurants. And you could taste the difference. But also the rosemary salt – what an ingenious idea. I often put fresh rosemary on roasting potatoes but to put it in the salt for chips is a brilliant touch.
When we were asked if we’d enjoyed our meal we ending up talking to Connor (we thought the manager) for a while after I enthused about the chips. He told us they were made by hand in a central kitchen, had the first cooking, were chilled (but not frozen!) and sent out. At the different restaurants they have their final cooking to order. Well, a good chip needs to be fried twice (or even three times) so this seems a good way to ensure fresh chips in bulk orders.
I really don’t think I’ve been so excited by a burger since my teenage trips to Hard Rock Café and I’m definitely going back to Honest Burgers soon!