There’s a whole lot of Burger goodness going on in London at the moment, much of this beefiness has been wafting its way to me through twitter and I’ve been keener than mustard to get my teeth into some of it. But experiencing any of this in the flesh has been a bit elusive. My drought came to an end when I attended my first BurgerMonday. Daniel’s chosen chef for this outing of his foodie social gathering was to be michelin starred chef Lionel Lévy, flown in specially from Marseille for one night only. Already I sensed I was in for a treat.
I’d booked for the last sitting, so myself and The Missus arrived to find Andrews full and buzzing, outside we bumped into Toby aka @Holytshirt, a serial BurgerMonday attendee and his friend Rich. With the cafe still full of diners tucking into their food, a quick drink at the nearby pub, ensured that Toby and Rich were our dining partners for the rest of the evening and great company they were too.
Upon returning to the Cafe we we’re greeted warmly by Daniel and his wife Vivian who led us to our table with a great view of the kitchen. One of the great aspects of Andrews is the kitchen is fully open to the dining area, allowing everyone to feel part of the magic being prepared by the chefs.
A lovely bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio accompanied the starter of Salmon Crumble, one of Lionel’s signature dishes from his restaurant in Marseille. This was a delicious ceviche of salmon topped with a garlic, ginger and nut crumble, a savoury twist on the classic British dessert, there was a distinct sweet and sour touch to this, the honey glazed ginger and garlic nuts contrasting with the citrus cured salmon.
Next came the main event, the Burger! Lionel is renowned for some radical reinventions, like his bouillabase milkshake, while we had been assured by Daniel that the patty would remain unchanged, everything around it however would be pure Lionel. What was presented was a Provencal marriage of two American classics – the Burger and the BLT. Chef had bought more than just his talents and team from Marseille, his suitcase was packed with the flavours and colours of Provence in the form of three toppings made in his restaurant kitchen and bought vac-packed and chilled for freshness.
Our taste of Provence begins with two slices of garlic and oil brushed sourdough toast. Both slices of toast were canvasses on which Lionel would add his flourishes. One slice was spread with a black olive and anchovy tapenade, while the other, a vibrant red stripe of Chakchouka acknowledged the Moroccan influence on Marseille, next to it lay an electric green strip of pistou, southern France’s answer to pesto. On to the patty itself, O’Shea’s of Knightsbridge had prepared a 30% fat beef patty, this was dry marinaded with Piment d’Espelette a chilli powder from the region. Last, but far from least two strips of smokey bacon and crisp lemon and olive oil dressed iceberg lettuce finished the combination.
The burger was presented open so as to show off the vibrancy of the ingredients, I caught some rumblings in the dining room that it wasn’t a burger, but more of a ‘burgerwich’, perhaps it was the sliced bread? Being an advocate of using sliced toasted bread for burgers I wasn’t buying this at all. Plus the bread coming from the St John bakery, their moist and flavoursome sourdough was perfect for burgers. For me, there was only one way to eat this – pop the sourdough lid on, flip it over and take a big old bite. The verdict – I have to hand it to Lionel and his team for creating an amazing feast. I loved the interplay of all the toppings, the salty tapenade, the sweet spiciness of the chakchouka, fragrant basil of the pistou and the smokiness of the bacon. The ‘fatty patty’ providing that vital lubrication to create a lovely mouth feel to bring all the flavours together in every single bite.
The playful reinventions continued with the pudding, a sweet soup of English strawberries, hidden underneath this seemingly simple bowl of juice was cream mixed with a delicious lemon curd and just a little shredded mint to create a wonderfully refreshing end to a great meal.
It still brings a warm smile to my face when I think about how much fun I had. Daniel really puts on a fabulous party, making everyone feel welcome and bringing together people with a passion for eating and cooking great food. Going by the tales I heard from some of the BurgerMonday faithful they have been treated to a succession of great burgers lovingly created by some brilliant chefs. All too often burgers are treated with indifference – a meat patty in a bun with ketchup and salad – but there’s definitely an art to it and plenty of scope for chefs to bring their unique take on things. I hope to be attending more Burger Mondays very soon and trying out some of the capitals other Burgers offerings.
Footnote: Seeing this glorious burger again whilst I editing the photos for this post means I’ve developed a serious hankering for another of Lionel Lévy’s burgers. Sadly like all good legends the burger has sailed off into the sunset. As foolhardy as it may seem I’m going to try and and attempt to recreate Lionel’s burger at home. Watch this space.