Fusion: not a word you hear much any more. I guess because, in this increasingly shrivelled and conjoined world, the concept of mix ‘n’ matching various cultural cuisines has passed from pioneering to passé pretty fast. Or maybe not passé, just something that, y’know, happens. Walk into most restaurants nowadays and you’ll see the world’s never smaller than when put on a plate. It’s pretty hard to find a combo that hasn’t been done before. One fusion that did manage to stand out and have me rolling that lamest of words round my tongue last week was the Hawksmoor Kimchi Burger. A combination of British beef prepared American style and kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage) it’s one of those meals that would truly deserve the term ‘juxtaposition’, were I twatty enough to deploy it.
Of course Hawksmoor aren’t the first the fuck with the burger. The basic template is ripe for raping – Ronald will tell you that – and the format’s been redone more times than Pop Idol. Unfortunately, too many places take its blank canvas and scrawl indiscriminately, paying no heed to its heritage, and end up with the food equivalent of Peter Frampton’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (I’m looking at you “Gourmet” Burger fools).
No such worry here. As you’ll know from my visit to the Spitalfields branch, Hawksmoor and I have an entente tres cordial. Their steaks are the best in London, their cocktails top notch, their décor just right. Most of all though they just get it – carefully sourced food, well researched menus, dishes that get tweaked according to customer feedback both face-to-face and twit-based; they’re listening and evolving and ensuring they stay top of the game. It’s sadly all too rare and it means they get to charge what they want and fill the place up and operate in the highest reaches of the supply and demand triangle, a place that just about prices this blog out (according to our founding father [me]).
So the kimchi burger – heartstoppingly beautiful beef patties made with marrow, generous slabs of prime Ginger Pig meat dumped on a carpet of fizzy, fermented cabbage, it was like cramming a burger and a stir fry in one overwhelmed brioche. Was there cheese? I can’t even remember. Yes, there was. I think. And some lettuce. The kimchi was the star though, fermented for ten days and dripping in soy and calling the shots in this particular meal. Eaten in small doses on its own it was enough to make your eyes water. The bun couldn’t take it, and gradually collapsed in my hands – something I found irritating but no doubt some diners consider part of the messy fun.
Triple cooked chips were as good as you’d expect for the effort, crispier than a cricket and cut nice and small to maximise crunch factor. We also got a standard burger laced with blue cheese that Jamie Oliver would say had ‘attitude’ accompanied by beef dripping chips (that were actually wedges, a bit deceptive and a massive disappointment considering how much further down the chain of food awesomeness they are to chips).
Add to those a jammy, spicy glass of Ramon Bilbao black label Rioja (2007) and the Hawksmoor Fizz (gin, lemon, cream, orange flower water and fruit syrup shaken with egg white – a wizard’s concoction of fluffy booze) and you had me over budget. Desserts looked amazing (check Gourmet Traveller) and the whole lobster in a bun for £25 is a decadent option too, but we were outty.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials (ie Covent Garden, just opposite Pineapple Dance Studios and on the same street as that loathsome Mexican hellhole Cafe Pacifico) is a fine addition to the owners’ empire (which also includes Green And Red). Cavernous and parquet-floored, with leather swing chairs at the bar and weak yellow lamps throwing a dim glow over diners, it’s like some municipal library’s reading room or, if you’re at one of the wooden tables criss-crossed with scars from a maths protractor in the bar, some rural boarding school. It got flooded with city boys when we left but, as anyone at the Queen Vic will tell you, you can’t totally choose your clientele. And hopefully you’ll be in too much of a kimchi trance to notice.
I didn’t bother with pics, but London Eater is as reliable as ever on that front.
Price per head: £33.50, so again a little over the blog’s budget (£31.75)
Clientele: A juxtaposition of money-hungry rugger buggers and local creatives. The tourists haven’t found it yet.