Wednesday, 26 October 2011
The Admiral Codrington, Chelsea
The Admiral Codrington, or "Ad Cod" if you're feeling particularly insufferable, is a pub so smart the only way it can still, with a straight face, be called a pub is because it's in Chelsea. Locals probably come here to slum it, but to your average Londoner gazing upon the substantial dark wood bar, expensive lotions and hand towels in the gleaming conveniences, not to mention the "dining area" with its white tablecloths and Reidel wine glasses, this is a restaurant, albeit a restaurant that has Kronenburg on tap. But who cares about fixtures and fittings; I was here for one reason only, tipped off by a number of fellow burger fanatics on Twitter and eager to see what all the fuss was about.
Ironically given my rant last week about dual menus, the Admiral Codrington's is an odd split of standard gastropub fare on the left (crab linguini, burrata and heritage tomatoes, fish and chips) and an exciting list of Jack O'Sheas steaks and gourmet burgers on the right. I wouldn't have ordinarily felt compelled to deviate from my incurable red meat addiction but a small bowl of comped chilli salt squid (yes, full disclosure time - we'd had a bit of a chat on Twitter beforehand and they did know I was coming) showed at least that they know how to deal with seafood too - these were fried crunchy golden brown and really rather good. Pork scratchings were only slightly less than perfect because the scratchings themselves were cold and the apple sauce was warm - I'd have preferred it the other way round.
At £15 the 8oz house cheeseburger is confidently pitched alongside London's other market-leading offerings from Hawksmoor and Goodman, and as such has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, and surprisingly for something coming out of the kitchens of a Sloaney gastropub and not a dedicated steakhouse, it is absolutely brilliant. A glossy brioche bun, lightly toasted, holds a generous thick beef patty (aged, though they don't say for how long) topped with cheddar and resting on a layer of sliced tomato and mayo-loosened salad. Sliced pickles add that all important tang and extra texture, but the real star here is the meat itself which while cooked perfectly medium still managed to have a wonderful crunchy crust - a feat none of the other £10+ burgers in London have managed. I do have issues with the use of cheddar - the chef told me he'd like to try an American cheese version but is worried how the regulars would react (sod 'em, I say), but it was at least all melted properly and not, like the version at Honest Burgers, cold and claggy.
The special on the menu on Saturday was a chilli cheeseburger topped with chipotle-braised ox cheek, Monterey Jack and chilli slaw. If you think that sounds like there's a lot going on, you're not wrong - I would really liked to have tried some of those elements, particularly the braised ox cheek, outside of the burger as a dish in their own right, as I wasn't completely sold on the idea of combining them all inside a sesame bun. Having said that though, it was all undeniably very tasty, and in fact my friend said she preferred it to the house cheeseburger, so this is probably just a case of me being an unreconstructed burger snob rather than the idea as a whole not working. Also, and impressively, this burger was ordered medium rare and arrived just so, the centre of the beef that extra bit more purple.
The Admiral Codrington burgers are a real find, and even in this "gourmet" price category represent pretty good value for money when you consider the quality of the meat and the fact they come with lovely crispy chips. I'm not going to get carried away and herald London's new wave of world class burgers because let's face it, three in the city over £10 worth eating is hardly Mission Accomplished - we're not yet New York. But that a talented chef with a love of proper American food has been given a bit of room to age his own beef (I'd love to go back to the Admiral for a steak) and make burgers how he thinks they should be made is perhaps just yet another sign things are moving in the right direction. And for that, we can all be thankful.