You could lose hours in Brixton Village. A bustling, gaudy microcosm of London, with flags familiar and unfamiliar draped from the roof, and stalls with baskets piled high with fascinating produce from near and far, people from every corner milling around. It thrums with life and seems custom-built to give a Daily Mail reader an aneurysm. Or at the very least a migraine. This, of course, is always A Good Thing.
It is also home to this, the original Honest outlet, though they have since added nine more to the roster. It’s a tiny space, with an added few tables outside. There’s a no reservations policy so on a busy Saturday you resign yourself to queuing- again- but they have a civilised approach here. Leave your details and you’re free to wander and explore the market’s palette of cuisines and attractions, and they’ll get back to you when they have room for you. They messaged us immediate confirmation of our place in the line and contacted us again within 10 minutes, just time to load up on Colombian chorizo at the carniceria next door. Or have a peek at the Caribbean seafood place over the way. Or Mama Lan’s with its burgeoning reputation for zingingly fresh Asian street food.
Theirs is a small but judicious beer list, ranging from England to Hawaii via Iceland and Spain; a Gosnell’s mead and their own ‘Honest’ pale ale, in those telltale skull motif Nick Dwyer-designed cans and brewed in collaboration with local superstars Beavertown, were standouts.
The burger options are limited in number-of which, more later-and all come with chips.
Onion rings have a light spicy batter fried a deep gold. They’re brilliant: as soon as we try the first, we order another batch. They are also huge- big enough to double as bracelets for slimmer wrists than mine. Yes, burgers plus fashion AND gift-buying advice now- you don’t get that on other food blogs, do you? A last-minute option for a forgotten anniversary? A birthday, perhaps? Rest assured- she’ll love them. You can thank me later.
And it came to pass, that our waitress did enquire as to how we desired our burgers cooked; and lo, when they did arrive, there was much jubilation, for behold they were pink. And they did say among themselves, ‘This is a miracle!’
(At this point I usually get a flurry of emails telling me that advocating the eating of undercooked meat is downright irresponsible and will surely lead to housemaid’s knee, Mrs Miggins’ Drooping Malady and Guy Fawking of the Leg.)
Moan over, though it still seems odd so few places in Cardiff actually bother to ask you how you’d like your food-you know, the thing you are paying for- when it’s the standard elsewhere.
What you get here is simple food, executed with precision, with each item the product of obvious care. It shows- these chips are exemplary. Proper hand-cut, skin-on chips with lots of lovely ‘scraps’ to chase around the bowl. Just the right amount of rosemary salt, just the right amount of crunch versus fluffiness. Superb, and a strong contender for the best I’ve had served with a burger anywhere. A little pot of curry sauce on the side, chutney-thick, had a mellow heat cut through with a fruity tang.
The ‘Honest’ burger (£10) had the deep rich savouriness of properly aged beef. This is serious meat, Ginger Pig dry-aged beef, treated with care and respect.
These are simply presented burgers- no vertiginous array of onion rings, no superfluous layering on of extra meats, no bun skewered with a stalactite of frozen pixie’s tears. No, just meat and cheese and bacon and salad. There’s no showboating here; any lilies remain resolutely ungilded. And as a result these burgers are superb. As in, severely, ridiculously good in their simplicity, in their capturing of the essence of what this food is all about and hitting the burger-shaped bullseye with a resounding thwack.
If you’re of a certain vintage- or a fan of the kitsch 60s Batman- feel free to provide your own percussive sound effect at this point. KAPOW, perhaps. Or KLONK. Or even the little-used but undeniably onomatopoeic SPLONK! The kind of burger that simultaneously reminds you how good this classic can be, and infuriates that so many manage to miss the point, becoming sidetracked in extra this and bonus that and dollops of the other and just generally losing sight of the eternal truth: good meat, cooked properly, plus a few wise adroit judicious toppings can make something deeply wonderful.
Every bit of this meal had had the same attention lavished on it. As with Patty & Bun, the local competition means the kitchen is Not At Home To Mr Cock-Up: get this wrong and there is plenty of competition for your hard-earned nearby. Their avowed mission is ‘to do one thing well, a simple burger menu inspired by great British produce’. Five beef, one chicken, one veggie: yes, less really is more.
Mission accomplished, with room to spare.
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:
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.