“Green street”. A Punjabi noun that can be roughly translated into English as “The dark netherworld of complete and utter chaos”. Located in the heart of Newham, this stretch of road is renowned for traffic jams, angry wedding planners, and violent gladiator-tournaments that take place between Asian mothers and unsuspecting saree-salesmen. Legend has it that the anarchy of Green Street afflicts everything that it touches, and when Brioche Burger opened their doors in 2014, this certainly seemed to be the case. Inconsistencies were abound, service was slapdash, and critical reception was turbulent to say the least. No doubt, for many restaurants, this would have led to a premature downfall, but for Brioche Burger, it created an unfaltering drive to get things right.
In the years that followed, Brioche Burger grew in leaps and bounds to become what is – in my opinion, the foremost gourmet burger establishment in East London. Eager to expand upon this success, Farhad Chowdhury – (the man behind the bun), decided to launch a brand new branch in Walthamstow, and with it, a completely revamped menu. Of course, wherever there’s good meat, there’s a man called Haloodie Foodie, who kindly organised a burger-based blogger’s preview to unveil the new tricks that Brioche Burger had up their sleeves.
Note: The Green Street branch has closed down since the publication of this review. Please visit the Walthamstow branch instead. All the meat served here is halal and HMC-certified.
Within five minutes of meeting Farhad, it became clear that he thought we were all a bunch of overweight layabouts, as he promptly asked his staff to deliver some emergency salads to our table. Composed of housemade quinoa tabouleh, soft feta cheese, rich purees of avocado and beetroot, and an assortment of refreshing pomegranates and sticky dried cranberries, the “Superfood Tabouleh” boasted an impressive range of balanced flavours and textures. It’s certainly not the first thing that I would order at a burger bar, (and I would probably laugh at anyone who did), but the adept execution commanded both recognition and respect.
Next to arrive was the all new “Oh My Cod” burger, forged with Panko cod, red pepper mayo, and a black olive tapenade. The soft cod was held within an ever-so-slightly crispy batter, and texturally, the creation was sound. However, with regards to taste, the black olive tapenade and red pepper mayo seemed a little out of place, and we felt that a helping of tartare sauce would have done mode to elevate the burger.
On the other side of the spectrum, sat the updated Maharaja burger, composed of spicy shreds of chicken tikka, an onion bhaji, and a chilli and mint sauce. Here, we encountered a ferociously spicy afterkick that lingered on the tongue, and we all agreed that the heat was at least a little bit excessive. If however, you’ve been fed bottles of Mr. Naga since birth, this may be the burger for you.
We also had a chance to sample the “Roger Rabbit” – a vegetarian burger composed of a spinach and mozarella patty, tomato relish, falafel and mushrooms, and topped with a sunny-side-up egg. To my surprise, Roger Rabbit’s burger was just as appetising as Roger Rabbit himself, with a full set of sharp and rich flavours, and an interesting range of complementary textures.
The real excitement however, lay with the two new signature beef burgers. After sourcing halal Aberdeen Angus in 2015, Brioche Burger have managed to lure a couple of wagyu cows into their kitchen, resulting in the creation of the “Don Vito” and the “Super Saiyan” – two exuberant 6oz wagyu beef burgers with a price tag to match. The Don Vito burger is the simpler of the pair, and comes armed with monterey jack cheese, balsamic caramelised onions, and Brioche Burger’s house sauce. Though the wagyu patty itself was phenomenally succulent, the burger as a whole proved to be a touch too salty on this occasion, and this feedback was relayed back to the team.
Thankfully, the Super Saiyan compensated for its wagyu partner and lived up to its nostalgic name, obliterating every other burger we had sampled that night. Here, the succulent patty was perfectly balanced in its seasoning, and paired incredibly well with the smooth sweetness of the red pepper relish, and the rich, buttery notes of the egg yolk curls. It was, in every way imaginable, a unique and masterful formulation, and a true testament to the craftsmanship of Brioche Burger’s head chef.
Full and satisfied with my meal in Walthamstow, I found myself revisiting Brioche Burger’s Green Street branch just two weeks later, and ordered the Angus-based Lone Ranger – with not one, but two Angus patties. The soft and succulent patties carried a tremendous depth of flavour that was enhanced by the rich slather of cheese and the subtle, smokey essence of its BBQ sauce. It was, by and large, one of the most satisfying burgers I had eaten in a long time, (after the Super Saiyan and B.O.B’s Big Love), and I could tell that there had been some fine-tuning of the Angus range since I last set foot in Green Street branch.
In fact, the very first burger I devoured at Brioche Burger was the mighty Cojack, composed of two 4oz, 21-day-dry-aged Angus patties, crispy beef brisket rashers and American cheese, all held within two soft and crispy potato buns. To this day, I have fond memories of the thick, crumbly, and perfectly-cooked Angus patties, as well as the deep inherent flavours that they carried, which paired perfectly with the salty touch of the rashers.
As a mental heath nurse, Steak’s very first order at Brioche Burger was the aptly-named “Mad man”. After opening up a dialogue and building a rapport with her burger, she came to understand the manifestations of its psychosis, and built a therapeutic relationship based on mutual trust and respect. She then proceeded to eat it whole. (I promise she doesn’t do the same with her real patients. I think). The regular beef patty within the Mad Man could instantly be distinguished to its dry-aged Angus counterparts within the Cojack, and the difference in quality was evident in every aspect. The regular patty lacked the same depth of flavour found within the dry-aged patties, and the texture was nowhere near as crumbly, nor as integrated. It did however, do well to deliver a reasonable amount of satisfaction. However, the real winners within the Mad Man were the auxiliary components. The heavily-caramelised onion rings possessed a sticky coating that delivered a mildly spicy, yet sweet flavour, whilst the barbecue sauce delivered a pleasantly sweet and subtle tang.
The rustic chips however, could not be salvaged. These medium-cut chips were thick, and of a reasonable quality, but for some reason, they had a very soggy and limp texture, and were fairly bland in terms of seasoning. Equally unimpressive were the oreo and salted caramel milkshakes (not pictured), which were woefully thin and diluted.
As well as their extensive repertoire of high calibre burgers, Brioche serves up a range of high quality Aberdeen Angus steaks. On a particularly cold winter evening, I opted for the 8oz, 21-day-dry-aged Angus ribeye steak, cooked to medium-rare, and served with a side of peppercorn sauce. The high quality of the steak was immediately evident in its exceedingly tender and succulent nature, which took me rather by surprise. Though I asked for medium-rare, the chef decided to do one better and delivered my steak rare, resulting in a deep and radiant band of pink that spanned its entire thickness. The steak was also covered in a thick, savoury basting, which provided further depth to its inherent flavour. It was also nice to see that they had cut the ribeye in my own image, as it came attached to a big blob of fat, which was thick, soft, and creamy. As for the accompanying peppercorn sauce – it possessed a strong and pungent flavour, but personally, I preferred the flavours within the ribeye itself.
8oz 21-day-dry-aged Angus ribeye steak
The rarity that is a beautiful rare-cook.
Value For Money: 4/5
At first glance, prices at Brioche Burger may seem a little steep for an East-End establishment. Regular burgers range from £7-£9, dry-aged Angus burgers cost between £10-£11, wagyu burgers cost £15, and dry-aged steaks range from £22 to £24. However, this sense of monetary doubt is quickly obliterated when the food arrives. The quality of the meat used is – quite frankly, superior to that of Brioche Burger’s nearest rivals, and unlike many gourmet burger establishments in the East End, Brioche Burger aren’t frightened to death by the sight of pink meat. As a result, you can actually expect to receive a juicy piece of high quality meat, (unless you explicitly choose for it to be scorched), and your money will feel significantly better utilised for it.
Over the course of my numerous visits, staff members have maintained a friendly and attentive level of service. There isn’t always a great deal of warmth or interaction, but they do what needs to be done with a healthy dose of good manners and efficiency.
If you plan to visit the new Walthamstow branch, expect to encounter a touch of supermarket history. Built into the site of a former Sainsbury’s store, the restaurant retains a set of Victorian tiling that dates back to the 1900’s, and fits in a cool and quirky retro decor around it. Vintage comics, artwork, and priceless SEGA consoles hang on its many walls, and you’ll even find a Street Fighter Arcade machine in the back room. Be warned however – if you find Haloodie Foodie lurking around and he offers you a game, be sure to run a mile before he batters your Street Fighter cred and leaves you with a black eye in real life too.
When I think back to the turmoil that surrounded Brioche Burger in its debut year, it really is rather pleasing to see just how far they have come. As other gourmet burger establishments cling on to menus of old and scream in fear at the thought of innovation, Brioche Burger continues to stride towards the unknown, pushing the boundaries of what they can achieve – and more importantly, what they want to achieve.
Undoubtedly, there is still much room for improvement, (and it certainly frustrates me that they can’t get simple things like milkshakes right when their burgers are so very good), but in the grand scheme of things, Brioche Burger serves as an example to other gourmet burger establishments that change can in fact, be a very good thing. After starting out as just another “new kid on the block”, Brioche Burger has risen through the ranks of London’s halal gourmet burger scene to become one of my favourite burger establishments in London – and almost certainly my overall favourite in the East End. It’s a position that I feel is well-deserved, and with a little more fine-tuning, I see no reason why they can’t bring the crown of “London’s best burger” over to the humble East End.
Walthamstow Address: 154 Hoe St, Walthamstow E17 4QH
Telephone: 0203 816 0790 (Green Street) / 0203 674 6106 (Walthamstow)
Originally published: 23/12/15