Monday, 19 December 2011
Lucky Chip, Hackney
It is a common complaint levelled at overeager food saddos like me that we will often review restaurants in their opening days and weeks before they've had a chance to "bed in". By and large, this accusation is easy to deflect - if anywhere is open and unapologetically charging full price, they deserve a proper critique. If they're not - a soft opening or press launch - then that's different of course, and I very rarely write those up in full (though on this subject, do go to Burger & Lobster, it's brilliant). However, nobody can accuse this blog of being too early to the party regarding Lucky Chip - they've been operating in one form or another since March and given the reams of positive feedback from others, I have no idea what's taken me so long. If they've not "bedded-in" by now, they never will.
So, on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon, in a spot well away from the overpriced olive oil vendors and irritatingly kooky buskers of Broadway Market itself (no, wailing Babooshka by Kate Bush along to a backing track doesn't make you part of an exciting counter-culture, it makes you a moron) we queued up to place orders at the Lucky Chip van. I wish I could report on more of the menu than the bacon cheeseburger and fries but as this was all either of us wanted, that's all we ordered, although the idea of scoffing down one of their oak-smoked hot dogs did fleetingly cross my mind. Maybe next time. For I'm sure there will be a next time.
A couple of niggles aside, this is a top burger. Inside a firm, glossy brioche bun (don't let anyone tell you that brioche buns have to fall apart like sponge cake - Lucky Chip have nailed it) was a good amount of medium-rare aged beef (the menu said Ginger Pig but I'm reliably informed they have recently switched suppliers to Walter Rose) soaked in bright yellow American cheese (hooray!). Adding much-needed crunch (the beef itself tasted great but was missing that MeatLiquor char) and all-important sour tang were some excellent sliced pickles and a subtle application, on the bottom bun, of Heinz ketchup and French's mustard. Shredded lettuce added a bit of volume. So far, then, so very very good.
But why back bacon? That's my only issue with the Lucky Chip bacon burger, and it's quite a fundamental one. A great big wobbly slice of soggy gammon doesn't add anything to a cheeseburger. Back bacon belongs inside white bread soaked in brown sauce, and you use crispy streaky bacon for burgers - everyone knows that. I'm sure their applewood smoked pig is very good quality, but finding it inside an otherwise very authentic American burger is a bit like serving a roast dinner with curly fries. It just doesn't work.
That said, the quality of the other ingredients from Lucky Chip, including their excellent fries which despite having that slightly soily taste of skin-on had a very good potatoey flavour and addictive crunch, meant this was still food that was very easy to enjoy. It is not, in the end, a MeatLiquor beater - that extra inch of sordid heaving decadence, power and black magic is somehow still missing (maybe it's the bacon, but it's not just the bacon) - but in this price range and in late 2011, there is very little else that can touch it.
But maybe even that is changing. I began this post high-mindedly declaring I hardly ever write up press events or launch nights, but based on a very hastily arranged sample of Masterchef winner Tim Anderson's burgers at brand-spanking-new Brewdog Bar in Camden last week, London looks like suddenly being something approaching spoiled in this arena. He had made one containing an interesting mix of Bangladeshi spices, which wasn't anywhere near as weird as it sounds, but of course my favourite was the standard cheeseburger, juicy loose beef, sliced pickles, American cheese, nice soft brioche bun. Oh, and the bar serves almost the complete range of the best craft beers in the world, including my beloved Tokyo on draft. Things are looking up.