Monday, 12 June 2017

Bite Me Burgers, Holborn

Cha Chaan Teng is a huge, ugly basement restaurant off huge, ugly Kingsway in Covent Garden, which - as far as I can tell - has remained relatively unbothered by paying customers since it opened in September last year. I didn't like it much then, and a quick glance at their menu today reveals hardly enough to have changed to make me think it would be worth another try now, and yet I found myself venturing down that garish staircase once again thanks to a residency (sorry "pop-up") by Bite Me burgers, who have set up shop in Cha Chaan Teng's small kitchen (yes, CCT had two kitchens; we don't know why).

Bite Me are from Australia, joining a list of restaurants that have made the jump across from the Southern Hemisphere as long as... actually, now I come to think of it, are there any? Is Bill's Australian? If it is, I'm not surprised you don't hear many Aussies bragging about it; my friend once had a lunch at Bill's in Richmond so bad she left in tears. So if there's no great tradition of Australian restaurant concepts expanding to the UK, it's a brave soul indeed - in this case chef Adam Rawson - who would attempt such a coals-to-Newcastle move as starting up a burger chain. We are, as even the most oblivious must have noticed by now, sort of "OK for burgers" as a city.

For Bite Me to even get noticed at all, then, they'd have to be something pretty special. Surprisingly - and I genuinely was surprised - the burgers themselves, slider-size little things, pretty as a picture and sold in sets of 3, 4 or 12, have immediately found a space in my top 5 burgers in the city. They're great. Unfortunately for Bite Me, sharing a space with Cha Chaan Teng means not only that they're served in a room with as much charm and sophistication as a branch of Foxtons, but that they're also at the whim of CCT's seating policy. Those spacious, leather-backed booths at the sides? Not for you, my friend - you'll be seated on a ricketty plastic table for two in the middle of the room, while all the good tables remain resolutely empty for the duration of your meal.

But enough moaning about seating arrangements; Bite Me do takeout anyway, and Lincoln's Inn Field is just around the corner. No, what's really important are the burgers, and it turns out that Adam Rawson, along with MeatLiquor, and Bleecker, and Burgerac, and perhaps only a handful of other people in the country, knows exactly what makes a good burger and exactly how to transfer that knowledge into a cracking end product. The beef, aged and fluffy of texture (I'm guessing from never being frozen) brings to mind Nathan Mills' work for Bleecker, which of course is about as big a compliment as you can pay to, well, mince. The short list of varietals - one with bacon, one with shredded lettuce and a "Big Mac"-style sauce - is exquisitely well-chosen and tastefully done; I'll even allow them a "Hawaiian" option with pineapple in because even this was pleasant and oddly comforting rather than deliberately quirky for the sake of quirk. And even a lamb burger, spiked with blue cheese and jalapeno, boasted powerfully fresh products and satisfied on every level.

Chips were skin-on, which is faintly annoying, but had a good crunch and were well seasoned (Himalayan salt, apparently, if you think that makes a difference). And I didn't try the chicken burger, or duck and truffle, or even a milkshake but I very strongly suspect these are all as superbly well-researched and expertly-executed as everything else I did try. As I say, this is an operation that knows what it's doing.

So, who knew a brand-new burger concept, from Australia of all places, would have the power to rise to the top of the burger tree in 2017? The only dark cloud on the horizon is that with it being so close to work, and so eminently suitable for takeout, my burger consumption could end up even further off the scale than it already is. Perhaps I could ask them to limit their sales to me, like the arrangements problem gamblers make with Casinos. One set of four a month, that should be my limit. Or maybe 3 every week? Come on, I can take it. I can stop any time I like.


Bite Me are in 50% off soft-launch mode at the moment, hence the tiny bill.


Ian said...

No--Bill's with the green sign and slow service is from Lewes, it's Granger & co who are Aussie (Bill Granger had cafes called Bill's in Sydney). Dickie Fitz is Aussie, as is Flat White/Milk Bar, but really the only genuinely Aussie touch to burgers is beetroot slices.

Gavin said...

Does David Thompson from Sydney opening Nahm in London count as an Aussie import?

gourmetgorro said...

They look like some damn tasty burgers. I think Bill's is originally from Lewes in East Sussex. And yes, they're pretty poor. Maybe you're confusing it with Bill Granger of Granger & Co? He is Australian but serves some lovely food in my experience.

gourmetgorro said...
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I Gede Sudiana said...

Bite Me Burgers is brand and great testy burger ever I bite. New burger concept is a very good idea.

Anonymous said...

"(Himalayan salt, apparently, if you think that makes a difference)"

Didn't you tell us we should all be eating Cornish Sea Salt?

Chris Pople said...

Anon: I did indeed, hence my slightly disapproving tone about using Himalayan. Cornish would be much more appropriate.

Me again said...

My top burger is Still tongue and cheek Heartbreaker, Those burgers look a bit dry. Massive fan of toasted brioche as opposed to the buns shown. Bread Street kitchen is my next fav. burger. Cornish Sea salt????? Maldon in many cases, or Welsh Halen mon in some cases. I don't think I've tried the Himalayan?

Tony said...

In Australia, a burger with "the lot" has cheese, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, pineapple, bacon, and egg, one of the few things I still remember fondly from my home country's culinary past.

I was very disappointed Chris did not seem to be aware of/care to mention Granger and Co.