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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GUERILLA BURGERS: THE WRONG TACTICS






























I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the feeble attempts of most London restaurants to create a decent hamburger is like watching a bunch of one legged men in an arse kicking contest. It might provide some initial car crash excitement as you wonder just how bad it can get, but in the end, you just want to turn away in embarrassment.

Lunch today was at the latest entrant to the ‘Burger Wars” the (brand) new Guerilla Burgers in Marylebone. It had been open for all of half an hour when I arrived and was already packed with what I assumed were family and friends, but was assured were real, honest to goodness paying punters, all of who were apparently enjoying themselves

For the fifteen minutes or so I had to myself before my companion, Signe finally deigned to turn up, I had enough time to look at the menu and around the room. Both looked the part and for just one brief moment I dared to believe that I might actually be sitting in London’s first worthwhile dedicated burger joint.

Just how wrong I was only became apparent once Signe turned up and our shared starter arrived a few minutes after we ordered. It may be difficult to get a decent hamburger in London, but it is impossible to get a decent hot dog. So, when I saw a “New Yorico Jumb All Beef Hot Dog” advertised on the menu, it had to be done. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the reality turned out to be so much less interesting than the menu description as we were presented with a sizable but shrivelled sausage (no sniggering) which may have tasted perfectly pleasant, but was let down by a fairly grim bun and onions which had not been cooked for long enough and lacked any sweetness.

The main event served in silver trays, was presented with some ceremony by the lovely wait staff, but the sight of a seeded bun did not augur well. The walls of the restaurant were covered with praises of the perfect burger, which makes the insipid efforts that were placed in front of us all the more disappointing. The meat is cooked medium (unless requested otherwise) but was dry and tasteless, the advertised “crispy” bacon was nothing of the sort and the toppings, served on the side so you could add them yourselves, were limp and unappealing. Both hamburgers came with a small portion of tarragon sauce which our waitress assured us was “sensational” It wasn’t, it was actually rather nasty, but not as nasty as the green slick of chilli in Signe’s burger which she announced “just gave a huge hit of raw garlic”

Side dishes are well priced but come in tiny portions, which are poor value even if you are ordering the small size. The onion rings come in for particular fire for being heavy and slightly greasy (see those on recent post about The Lord Clyde for an excellent version) and it barely took the fingers of one hand to count the number of sweet potato fries in the small bowl placed between us.

There is one aspect of US restaurants that is guaranteed to drive me up the wall. Tea should not ever, ever, ever be served as a cup of tepid water with a bag at the side for you to fashion your own beverage. It is wrong when the yanks do it, it is even more insulting that the one aspect of American restaurants Guerilla Burgers chose to ape should not be decent short order cooking but a failure to serve a proper cuppa.

It was not all dreadful, thankfully. Milkshakes were teriffic, creamy and thick and the service was efficient and a total delight, if slightly over eager on the first day. It deserved the 10% service charge which brought the bill to £36 for two. However, there are enough weaknesses here, quite aside ones that might be overcome when the kitchen finds its feet, for me to be pretty sure that those who are looking for a great burger in London are not going to find it here.

A paragraph on their menu reads (their caps)

“ The ICONIC burger is the leader of all sandwiches. The meal of the people, one that NEVER FAILS to satisfy”

Unfortunately, in London, it seems that it is one that RARELY FAILS to disappoint.

P.S – Just for all those of you who were worried I might forget my promise to keep posting the picture of THAT double chilli cheeseburger from Marty’s in LA, here it is. You will have noticed that I have added a picture the Marty’s chilli dog too, just in case anyone from Guerilla Burgers wanted to see what a proper one of those looked like.

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30 Comments:

Blogger Lizzie said...

Without wanting to be a bun bore, what on earth are those seeds on top of them?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:05:00 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

It's all just so depressingly, crushingly inevitable isn't it.

That dog looks truly dire, and the fries odd. I'm not going to write any more, it's making me cry.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:07:00 pm  
Blogger Josordoni said...

I just wouldn't try to find a good burger in London. That is what the US is for.

It's kinda like trying to find good fish and chips in New York, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:11:00 pm  
Blogger Josordoni said...

btw is that sausage a sausage or a frank?

Cos in my book a hot dog is never a sausage sausage.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:12:00 pm  
Anonymous catty said...

Sigh, no win huh? Out of curiosity, what do you think of Byron Burger?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:12:00 pm  
Blogger Jimbaud said...

A big shout: I would say that the burger at the (charming, sloany, slightly bizarre) Troubadour is up to American standards. There, I've said it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Su-Lin said...

You've got two "hot dogs" there in the photos, no? The first is the grim looking one. Is the second a chili dog (with onion not chopped finely enough)?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:42:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

@Su-Lin the second is the great chili dog from Marty's in LA. I don't mind raw onions or cooked until sweet. it is the mid point I hate where they have the benefits of neither

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 4:45:00 pm  
Anonymous spiltwine said...

funny I only just bumped into Sig moments after this affair...her critique was much different to yours.

But quick turn around on the story.

I'm still planning to go next week and also still stand by the double cheese burger at Ed's!

-Louis

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 5:51:00 pm  
Anonymous spiltwine said...

oh wait meant to say Sig's critique wasn't much diff...
shoulda pressed that preview button

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 5:59:00 pm  
Blogger Signe said...

Spiltwine you nutter I said the place was mediocre, albeit i wasn't so harsh in my assessment as Papa Grumps (Hermano Segundo) here. You're always dragging me into trouble...

PG, thanks for an entertaining luncheon. I agree wholeheartedly with your critique (how could I not, you would eviscerate even your most awesome dining companion if she disagreed). I say leave the burgers and dogs to Americans.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:03:00 pm  
Blogger Josordoni said...

Signe: Exacto.

The US can't do Scandy Cinnamon buns can they? Each to their own I say.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:12:00 pm  
Blogger Ernesto said...

If you think that finding a great burger in London is difficult just try finding a decent Mexican place. Just impossible.

I love so many things about London (where I live), but eating out is not one of them. I always feel ripped off in some degree.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:14:00 pm  
Blogger Pamela said...

I would recommend you to try the Monday & Tuesday 2 for 1 burgers at the Metropolitan pub, just next to Westbourne Park station! I went there just because I didn't feel like cooking and wasn't expecting much of it, but surprisingly it was really tasty!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:40:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

So is it true that this place is a Tootsies rebranded as a "me too" proto-chain and owned by someone who has a bit of form in the area of taking decent businesses and turning them into pure shite? Or am I wrong?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 8:31:00 pm  
Anonymous Paulie said...

Looks like a football hotdog.

@Pamela, pub burgers are usually your best bet... much better than the dedicated "gourmet" burger bar ones anyway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 9:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Binc said...

I walked past this place today and one look at all the BS on the Menu set the alarm bells ringing -
Style over substance - again. . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010 2:58:00 am  
Anonymous Dan said...

I think you can actually SEE the big chunk of garlic in the "chilli" sauce. It looks revolting. Walked past this place the other day and decided I wouldn't bother. It was a Tootsie's and the guy's that owned it, Clapham House, have much form...

Thursday, February 18, 2010 11:33:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucky 7 in Notting Hill has the best burger in London.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 12:31:00 pm  
Anonymous An American in London said...

whoah. 36 quid for two people eating at a burger joint? and in my long experience of eating at American burger joints, I've never encountered one that serves tea, regardless of whether or not it's a well-made cuppa.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 12:46:00 pm  
Anonymous Nick said...

if you are ever there - two places worth tryting for a decent burger - Monkey Nuts and the pub Villiers Terrace - both in Crouch End, North London

Thursday, February 18, 2010 1:47:00 pm  
Blogger Lizzy said...

hmm, I went to the launch last night and really enjoyed myself, although I'm no burger connoisseur...
you can see my thoughts here:
http://alwaysanintern.blogspot.com/search/label/guerilla

Friday, February 19, 2010 2:50:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Lizzy, if they can't get a launch right then they really do have problems. But, what about the punters who have to pay for a meal?

Friday, February 19, 2010 3:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Nick T. said...

Just back from Boston,where I went to Grumpy White's in Quincy for their excellent "char-broiled" burger.Terrific bun(no seeds,than God) wonderful burger cooked medium and slightly charred-ketchup and mustard served separately,all this with a basket of triple cooked fries for $7.50!Had the onion rings starter and was given an enormous basket of freshly cooked (dipped in crushed)matzos) onion rings.I and my guest expected the usual measly London serving of 6 rings....this must have been the equivalent of 6 large sliced onions!Cost $6.50-we asked for the excess to be bagged and took home with us to heat in the oven and eat next day-they were just as good!
London just does not do burgers(or fish and chips) asw ell as elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:06:00 am  
Blogger aneil said...

Have you been to Lucky Seven Diner in Westbourne Park?

Seem to be overstating the "badness" of burgers in London slightly..

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 2:54:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

@aneil - no, really I am not. I will try Lucky Seven, but most other experiences in London are actively nasty. Not all, of course, but enough for it to become wearily depressing

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 3:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Livvy said...

I went to the launch too and whilst the company was unbeatable (I went with Lizzy), I wasn't hugely impressed.
Whilst we had lovely, attentive, humorous service (and I quite liked the loos), I found the food utterly underwhelming - apart from the sweet potato chips which were actually lovely. The ordinary chips truly looked and tasted like McCain's crinkly oven chips (see Lizzy's blogpost or pictures: http://alwaysanintern.blogspot.com/search/label/guerilla), and the burgers were very, very ordinary.

It was all a tad confused, although more on the part of customers who didn't really know what they were getting/what was available at the launch.
It was a very enjoyable meal, but not really due to the restaurant.

Oh and this whole 'we decide the volume of the music, deal with it' malarkey? No. The music was toooooo loud. I realise that comment ages me 30 years, but it's true.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 4:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... packed with what I assumed were family and friends..." - I respect your blog but I cringe when you say stuff like this. Your 'assumption' is neither here nor there, please base the reviews on fact. Throwing a dagger to a business' neck is perfectly fair if it's based on fact, otherwise you're harming their chances, and for no good reason.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 6:28:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

It is hard to take any comment seriously when it is posted anonymously, sorry. If the blog makes you "cringe" you shouldn't read it. You will feel better and we will learn to live with the disappointment

S

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just read your review of this place, and I just felt I have to say a few words. Maybe they have improved after your review, but your experience is way far from our.

Me and my wife (from Norway) spent a weekend in London in april. We also visited GuerillaBurgers and have to say it was a wonderful experience. Great service, great atmosphere and wonderful tasty food. To be quite honest, their burger is absolutely the best burger I've ever eaten.

First me and my wife found ourselfs a table outside. We got served by a kind staff in seconds. Even though they had outside heaters, it was a bit chilly, but we were offered blankets. After burgers were served outside my wife wanted to sit inside instead. No problem, the waiter kindly found us a new table inside.

Inside we felt the great atmospehere. Clean and nice, cool interior, great music and a very friendly staff. A plus for a "different" menu also consisting imported beer (I belive I drank a jamaican beer called Red-stripe).

I have to say that with this experience, the great service, exiting menu and the really tastfully dishes we felt it was great value for the price.
We can abolutely recommend GuerillaBurgers :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011 2:55:00 pm  

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