Thursday, 3 July 2008
The Diner, Shoreditch
I'm sure there are many people who will disagree with me, but I've never considered a good burger to a particularly difficult thing to get right. As long as the lettuce isn't brown and the bread isn't stale, I'm generally happy with anything from a Burger King whopper to a hand-chopped ostrich fillet steak burger, as by the time you've smothered the thing in ketchup and pickles the quality of the actual meat isn't crucial. Which is often just as well. It therefore follows from this shaky proposition that I've had at least a decent, if not excellent, burger and chips in many an otherwise crappy pub or kebab shop up and down the country, and it is always my first choice on any menu when my faith in the standard of the other dishes is less than great. An omelette is another good "safe" bet - at the very least you'd hope they'd use fresh eggs.
But while the vast majority of chain pubs and kebab shops can make me a burger I would happily eat, it's only at the other end of the scale where I start having problems. The only times I've ever had a disappointing burger is when I've been paying through the nose for ludicrous "luxury" versions that do nothing more than waste premium ingredients and give you heartburn. The Boxwood Café's veal and foie gras burger costs a whacking £25 and is so stuffed with wobbly pink liver it's like eating a fist-sized lump of butter in between two slices of toasted bread. It's telling that when Heston Blumenthal attempted The Perfect Burger as part of his In Search Of Perfection series, the end product looked suspiciously like, well, a normal minced-meat beef burger. You can't fix something that wasn't really broken to begin with, at least not without spending weeks on end micro-measuring the width of your tomato slices or aligning your meat fibres with ley lines.
So given the ability of nearly anywhere to make a decent burger, it's probably no surprise that The Diner, in Shoreditch, being a trendily authentic recreation of a Golden-Era American diner, served me a very decent burger indeed. Golden brown toasted bread buns, crispy lettuce, a generous slice of sweet pickle, a coating of lovely bubbly melted cheese (Monterey Jack, ubiquitous in 'authentic' US diners) and of course a perfectly good slab of juicy minced beef. I liked the home made guacamole (nice and garlicky), the range of condiments on each table, and I also liked the way the burger was served open and you slapped the two halves together yourself before chowing it down - very satisfying. They also scored extra points for the skinny fries, which were as tasty as they were numerous.
The Diner is serving food which is honest and straightforward, not too expensive and brought to you with the standard excellent London service. It's nothing to get ecstatic about, but then again there's literally nothing not to like either. On the one hand, it's yet another place to get a decent burger for a reasonable amount of money. On the other hand, what's wrong with that?