By now, many of will know that I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch in my relationship with burgers. (No that’s not a nickname for someone other than Steak – I literally mean burgers). The reason? Simply that London now has more halal burgers than it does feral pigeons, and as much as it is a great problem to have, the excitement of visiting a new burger restaurant has for me, started to fizzle out. So much so, that when the team behind Burger UK invited us along to sample their menu, I was apprehensive to say the least.
Woefully disappointed by the last burger I had eaten, I made a despondent vow to myself that if Burger UK proved to be a disappointment, I would stay away from burgers for the rest of the year. Needless to say, this was a serious ultimatum, and as Steak and I made our way to the far reaches of Chalk Farm, I hoped – prayed, that my aversion to burgers would be cured.
Halal Status: All the meat served here is halal. The chicken is HMC-certified, and the beef is sourced from a HMC supplier.
The guiding ethos of the Burger UK team is one which adheres to the wider principles of halal food, and this is reflected in the small and simple menu. All the produce used is organic and locally-sourced, giving diners enough green points to feel as goody-two-shoes as a militant vegan – without actually having to be one.
We began our own meal with a portion of teriyaki chicken strips, which were forged from a set of soft and succulent chicken thighs, and possessed a crispy, crumbly batter that had enough heat and flavour to hold its own. The slather of teriyaki sauce meanwhile, was sweet and thick, but could have done with just a touch more savouriness to bring the elements into perfect balance.
Teriyaki chicken strips (£5.50)
We also tried a portion of hand-cut truffle cheese fries, which were an intermingled symphony of soft and gooey textures. Needless to say, they proved to be as addictive as coffee, crack cocaine, or Game of Thrones, and perhaps almost as addictive as all three in combination. (Please don’t try all three in combination).
Truffle fries (£3.30) *Recommended*
To determine my fate for the next few months, I opted for the 10oz “Chef’s Special” beef burger, and promptly prepared to kill myself when I realised that I had forgotten to specify a medium cook. Fortunately, the thick, well-done patty had been pressed almost perfectly – being neither too dense nor too loose. This allowed the patty to retain its juices and remain surprisingly succulent, and aside from the very obvious brown centre, it was near indistinguishable from the medium-cooked patties that I prize. Together with a balanced combination of house sauce, caramelised onions, cheese and jalapeños, it formed a wonderfully fat, juicy, and simple gourmet beef burger.
Chef’s Special 10oz Beef Burger (£10.50) *Recommended*
We also tried the popular fried chicken burger, which boasts a rather hefty load of battered chicken thighs. Once again, the chicken was crispy, tender, and well-seasoned, whilst the homemade buns were soft, thick, and possessed a good bit of texture in its outer layer. However, the burger as a whole lacked a sufficient amount of sauce, and this prevented the bun and the chicken from properly marrying together.
Fried Chicken Thigh Burger (£8)
At a more recent visit, we tried the “Chef’s Special” chicken burger, which was constructed with a generous helping of American cheese and masala chilli sauce. Here, the crispy, tender chicken worked wonders with the subtle heat of the sauce, resulting in a most addictive and appetising chicken burger.
Chef’s Special Chicken Burger (£10)
Full and satisfied, we washed our food down with a couple of locally produced soft drinks – namely the “Karma cola” and “Dalston lemonade”, which provided the same fizzy satisfaction as mainstream drinks, without the sensation of one’s teeth dissolving into rubble. Naturally, as a dentist, I approve of this mildly reduced dental destruction, because if anyone is going to destroy your teeth, it should bloody well be me.
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Across the menu, burgers range from £6.50 to £10.50, whilst sides cost between £3 and £5. This is of course, in keeping with the usual standards for a halal gourmet burger establishment, and when one considers the quality of the ingredients used – (and indeed the organic label), the cost is certainly reasonable. Our own meal would have amounted to around £30 for two people, and by the time we had reached the end of our rather huge burgers, we were ready to be used as boulders in next week’s episode of “World’s Strongest Man”.
The staff members that make up the Burger UK team are also incredibly friendly and welcoming, and our food arrived within a short 10 minutes. However, we did notice that service seemed to suffer and slow down with larger groups, and this is no doubt due to the small size of the team. In particular, there seemed to be only one hard-working waiter manning the dining area, and whilst it is a small diner, having another member of staff on hand would certainly help.
Decor / Ambience: 3/5
Indeed, visiting Burger UK as a large group would be ill-advised anyway, since the dining space is rather small and cramped, with no more than 20 seats. The furnishing is comprised of a mixture of stools and tables – (which reminded me of the numerous times I sawed myself in half at Stax Diner), and a small number of leather-clad chairs, whilst the decor is simple and rustic. Appreciation must be given however, to the fact that Danesh – the owner, has encompassed the ethos of his restaurant into the very structure in which it is housed. Every element – from the decking to the tables, has either been hand-crafted or recycled from some other, extinct establishment, creating a sense of sustainability that my hairline would envy. The restaurant can be found a short walk away from Chalk Farm station, and pay-by-phone parking is available on the same street.
In a saturated segment of London’s halal food scene, Burger UK has managed to provide something a little bit different, by not really being that different at all. Their burgers are simplistic at best, but by choosing to focus on quality ingredients instead of outlandish formulations, they have released a bit of fresh air into the suffocating smog of halal gourmet burgers. Make no mistake – they are not the best new burger restaurant in London that we should all now be raving about, and there is marked room for development. But, for a young, immature burger establishment, Burger UK have done quite a lot with very little. Most significantly of all, they have managed to restore my faith and love for gourmet burgers when other, older establishments could not, and for that, the angel of death will thank them.
Address: 8 Ferdinand Street, London, NW1 8ER
Telephone: 0207 482 0438
Disclaimer: We were invited to sample the menu at Burger UK.