“Characterised by free indulgence in sensual pleasures” they say. An enviable epitaph one day, hopefully, but more immediately the manifesto of Rugby and Hemel Hempstead burger specialists Libertine. Just banish all appetite-tainting thoughts of walking petri dish Pete Doherty.
Libertine have been on my radar for a while thanks to the infectious enthusiasm of one of my favourite food writers, Ellen Manning of Eat With Ellen. More recently a recommendation from Laura of Birmingham’s Bite Yer Brum– ‘The 007 is the one’, she says. ‘Thank me later.’- is my prompt. So ladies, if you’re reading this: thank you. Because these are the best new burgers I’ve found for quite some time.
Dirty tots and burger kit it is, then, from a choice of three beef and one vegan. £30 for four burgers, branded squeeze sauce bottles and all- my collection continues apace- with the beef a blend of Aberdeenshire cattle chuck, brisket and flank, dry-aged for 28 days minimum. (Prey to that tediously male impulse to acquire gadgets, I can’t resist adding a hulking Sasquash burger press– although you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s only room for one big hairy lump in my kitchen at any one time. And yes, I’m probably compensating for something or other…)
I suppose any of these kits can be a starting point for your imagination: or, you can follow their instructions to the letter so you’re eating as close to possible to what you’d get in-house. I prefer the former which seems fairer, especially if you’re going to write about it. Leave your capybara gizzards and ocelot sweetbreads for another time.
Beef is from Aubrey Allen which is as close to a guarantee of quality as you’ll find. This is the beef behind perennial favourites Bleecker, of course, and much of Pasture, both reviewed on this blog. The bread is a deep, lustrous bronze, seeded and soft: but crucially, sturdy even when the wet ingredients- and there are several- are added.
This is not going to be one of those burgers built with both eyes on Instagram, all visual impact but little thought as to how it works in the hand: burgers which disintegrate apologetically half-way through eating.
The 007’s party trick is beef chilli with chimichurri. In isolation the component parts might seem a little muted: the chimichurri might seem underpowered, the finely ground and aromatic chilli much less assertive than many.
But put them all together and… something special happens. That chilli is rich but not too rich, still allowing the kick of the herbs and the snap of the onion in the dressing to come through noticeably. It all works together beautifully and makes something which puts many in the shade: sloppy but still sturdy enough. This combination has clearly had hours of refinement poured into it, hours of fine tuning and thought. It’s not flashy. It is an exercise in balance and restraint and confidence in good ingredients, of trusting lovely things to get along famously.
It gave me one of those quiet moments when for a few precious seconds everything is centred on the sheer pleasure of what you’re eating. And that’s always worth anyone’s money.
Tater Tots (£9) are a tangy tumble of American cheese sauce, bacon bits and a rich mayonnaise. It’s gloriously stodgy, sticky, rich and indulgent: a hot mess of carb overload for sharing, and demands any mewling about calories be parked for the night.
I think the best I can do is tell you that Libertine’s kit gives you the most beautifully considered burgers I’ve had recently. They stay with you. There’s no attempt to reinvent the burger, no straining after wacky combinations. Everything is there for a reason, everything has its own character and identity and yet everything works together. Beautifully. Deeply satisfying, recommended without reservation, because this is comfortably one of the best burgers I have eaten this last year.
Order here: https://libertine-burger.myshopify.com/
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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.