I do so love the word smashed’. It’s everywhere, from the roll-my-eyes-whenever-I-hear-it-near ‘avocado’ (is there some edict preventing it being crushed or mashed or bashed or pulverised just the once?) to the sub-moronic ‘bantz’ of hairy-handed dinosaurs and braying City boys. It’s enough to have your eyes rolling so hard you risk the structural integrity of your bony orbits.
But it really is the word which leaps to mind here at Burger & Beyond as you watch them go about their work.
Smash early, smash hard seems to be the Burger & Beyond watchword, and for a very good reason: marvellous things happen when beef meats pressure and intense heat. When the nascent patty’s edges are broken, frayed, you have prime territory for heat to play havoc with those precious proteins. Those irregular edges are where little nuggets of maximum Maillard reaction are found, the proteins being broken down and then regathering in myriad configurations until they form that valuable crust.
Maximise the surface area, maximise the flavour.
Now that’s why I should have paid more attention in Science, kids.
From a short menu- three choices, all of them beef- a double patty (£9.50) is always going to be the way forward this Sunday morning, as I risk missing the train home with this cross-town dash to Camden. Pete, still feeling some modicum of restraint and common sense, goes for the bacon (£8).
It strikes me that they aren’t assemblers here. They’re not unwrapping pre-formed patties; their burgers don’t arrive in boxes. Your burger doesn’t even exist as a burger until you order: your very words summon it into being. It’s enough to make a man feel positively godlike.
Hand-formed, hand-crushed patties start as a ruby bolus of 45 day dry-aged beef. (Meat fetishists may feel they need a lie down in a darkened room at this point, but keep your powder dry for a couple more minutes…).
Cajun fries are seasoned with a robust mixture in which the pepper, paprika and cayenne stand out.
Make no mistake, these burgers look the part, like some fever dream of the perfect buns, a lustrous bronze seeded demi-brioche (see also, Peter Cook’s notable batches for The Beefy Boys).
That 45 day aged beef is the’standard’ offering, though (steady now) 90 day is also available on the Monster, the meat dry-aged on the bone.
‘All burgers are cooked medium unless requested’. Sweet words.
The double-hander looks like a beautifully sloppy mess which has me mentally writing off your cuffs but- crucially- the structure holds. It exists at that precise point on the graph where juiciness and structural integrity meet, that optimum congruence where it feels like a gloriously sloppy, molten mess, and threatens to collapse, but maintains its shape to the very end.
It’s relatively unadorned: just cheese, onion and a smoky mayonnaise. It is also deeply, satisfyingly, sumptously minerally, a profoundly meaty beefy mouthful. That should go without saying, but so often burger beef fails to impress and is hidden among increasingly ‘inventive’ toppings, as if it is ‘just’ another part of the combination, rather than its centrepiece. Wolf nipple chips, anyone?
Burger and Beyond clearly take the basics very, very seriously. If Hereford’s The Beefy Boys continue to be the gold standard, then these are cut from the same cloth (and mixed metaphors). These are burgers to restore your faith in just how good they can be. Their Instagram recently led with the terse caption “simple.” And at heart, it really is: you can disappear down a rabbit hole of larks tongue and hedgehog placentas and parsnip adjudications, but essentially this is the task of finding good meat and bread and making sure they play nicely together.
This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.