When Loaded Burgers opened their doors in 2014, few people would have anticipated the great burger revolution that they would trigger in the East End. In the years that preceded their arrival, East Londoners had relied upon the usual rabble of perfect fried pigeon vendors and risky grillhouses for their dirty American food fix, and if you had uttered the word “wagyu” back then, someone would probably have thwacked you with a shovel for “swearing at them”.
Fast forward to the present day, and you’ll find that East London’s food scene is a very different place. In these modern and enlightened times, many East Londoners have started to prize the quality of their food over the mere cost of it, and the standards for satisfaction have never been so high. So how does Loaded – one of the pioneering gourmet burger establishments in East London – fare in the new era that it has helped to create? Having stepped into Ilford for the first time in years, Steak and I headed over to find out.
- All the meat here is halal and HMC-certified.
- Loaded accept cash payments only. ATMs can be found at the neighbouring RBS / Tesco branches.
Our impromptu lunch began with a portion of buffalo chicken wings, which arrived in a small but weighty iron skillet. After picking it up and using it to render Steak unconscious, I proceeded to single-handedly devour the tender chicken wings, which were slathered in a tangy buffalo sauce. Sweet, sharp and reasonably balanced, these wings quickly proved to be the high point of the meal.
Buffalo wings (£4.50 / £5 w/ chips + soft drink (Lunch Menu))
Having tried my hand at various Loaded burgers of the past – (including the ludicrous “Fully-Loaded”), I decided to try the relatively newer “Boombasteak”, composed of a “slim beef patty” and a piece of ribeye steak. Alas, both chunks of beef were lacking in both quality and texture, and the beef patty in particular was far too lean to hold down a substantial amount of flavour. The well-done ribeye that sat on top was chewy and equally bland, and the burger as a whole was dominated by an uninspiring dollop of mayonnaise, which neither enhanced its flavours, nor compensated for its shortcomings. The tragedy continued with the hand-cut chips, where strange inconsistencies were abound. Whilst some of the chips were perfectly thick and soft, others seemed to have been grossly over-fried, and their hard, firm texture made them difficult to enjoy.
When Steak regained consciousness, I vehemently denied that we had ordered any buffalo wings, and eventually convinced her that it was all a figment of her imagination. Having suffered a spot of amnesia from the blow, she disregarded her beefy namesake and ordered a classic chicken burger, which sadly, didn’t fare much better. Whilst the chicken breast itself was wonderfully succulent, the burger as a whole was again solely dominated by mayonnaise, with very little else to offer in the way of substance or flavour. That said, there’s very little you can ask of a “classic burger” in the first place, and the simplicity was still enjoyable to a certain extent.
Classic Chicken (£5 w/ chips + soft drink (Lunch Menu))
Value For Money: 3/5
Across the menu, burgers range from £7 to £10, (or £21 for the Fully-Loaded), and sides and wings cost between £3 and £5. As such, both the prices and portion-sizes at Loaded are completely in line with those at other gourmet burger establishments, though the quality of the food is most certainly not. In the years since Loaded’s launch, the bar for American food in the East End has been considerably raised, and as other establishments continue to push those standards even further, it seems as though Loaded have failed to catch up from where they were a few years ago – if not regressed altogether. Combined with the fact that East Londoners are no longer limited in their options for a deathly gourmet burger, (and a truly “gourmet” one at that), it really is rather difficult to justify parting with one’s hard-earned money at Loaded.
Whilst the food may fall short of expectations, the service is both effective and efficient, and staff members are as polite and as helpful as they have always been.
The rustic decor has also remained the same, with a mixture of bare-brick walls, worn wood, and weathered tiling spread across the fairly spacious interior. In the midst of this laid-back environment, wooden tables and Parisian chairs make up the bulk of the seating, whilst a long denim-laden diner-sofa caters for anyone with an inexplicable desire to sit on top of old jeans. The restaurant can be found a short walk away from Ilford station, and parking spaces can be found at the nearby Exchange mall car park, or the Citipark on Clements Road.
For Central and West London, gourmet burgers have been around for numerous years. In the humble East however, this meaty renaissance has only begun relatively recently, and there is no denying that Loaded Burgers was instrumental in starting it off. Alas, this makes it all the more disappointing that as the East End’s gourmet burger scene has evolved, Loaded have failed to evolve with it. It’s certainly not for a lack of effort, as it’s clear that there has been some attempt at rejuvenating the menu, but for various reasons – (ranging from the quality of the ingredients used to the execution of their burger formulas), Loaded have come to fall short of contemporary gourmet standards.
No doubt, many will continue to visit Loaded, and many will continue to sing their praise, but from our perspective, the only way for Loaded to return to the fold of the good and the glorious would be to purge their kitchen and start afresh. It’s a task that is easier said than done, but as establishments like Brioche Burger have come to prove, sometimes, it’s the only way to turn a sinking burger-boat into a mighty burger-battleship.
Address: 68 Cranbrook Road, Ilford IG1 4NH
Telephone: 020 8514 5299