Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bukowski, Shoreditch

At the best of times, I'm a cynic.  So perhaps I should've been more wary of a burger place naming itself after a German-American hipster icon.  With Spanish touches to the menu.  It didn't raise alarm bells to the likes of a place offering "Chinese-Thai-Fish & Chips," but shame on me for going in so eager.

Anyhow.  Boxpark Shoreditch bills itself as the "world's first popup mall;" is this supposed to be a good thing?  Don't get me wrong, I hail from the country that has a mall with a roller coaster in it; so I'm not a stranger to retail-related hyperbole.  But even in an ideal situation I hate malls....so perhaps the advertisement of its own inevitable mortality is a good thing?  Meh, who knows.  

I do know that the original intention was to have small independent retailers selling their goods in The Land Where Movember Never Ends.  What ended up there?  Oh, little niche players such as Nike, Puma and Levi's.  Yawn.  

But onto the burger spot - from the outside, it's what I expected of a converted shipping container: narrow.  An innocuous entrance to what was obviously a space lacking width.  I found the interior to be mainly inoffensive - some decent large photos on the walls, faux-wood booths (which were quite comfortable), and it wasn't cold inside, despite the door being open and it being December and all.  We were greeted with a smile and shown to a  table.

Onto the menu.  Prices seemed to be quite reasonable for the offerings, a standard burger - or "Purist" on their menu - setting you back £5.50 with an extra quid for the cheese.  Of course, due to my preferences, my heart sank a touch when I saw that said dairy offerings were limited to Double Gloucester or Stilton.  Sigh.  And perhaps I'm just an old grouch (well, probably not just that), but the whole 'cutesy' phrasing on menus works exactly 0.1% of the time - "add some of our homemade condiments and call your GP." Indeed.

I decided on a Purist, medium rare, with Double Gloucester.  Whilst awaiting our food I sampled the homemade condiments on offer. (no, I didn't just jam my finger into the communal offerings)  The mayo that came out was passable, but tasted too eggy and didn't have enough acidity.  The scotch bonnet relish had the smallest hint of kick, but the taste of the peppers came through quite well.  The organic horseraddish [sic] mustard tasted of mild English mustard with a dab of horseradish from a jar.

And then there's the ketchup.  I won't go on a massive diatribe, as it has already been done very well indeed by Chris @ Cheese and Biscuits, but suffice to say that I feel he was nearly too kind.  I truly love ketchup with all my being, and yes, Hawksmoor do a fantastic homemade version, but otherwise I'm Heinz all the way.  Back when I was in Uni, during the Iron Age, there were so few people using email that we could choose our own email address.  My first ever one was ketchup@blah.  True story.  So their watery, listless version really did hurt my soul.

As for the main event, when it arrived, let's just say my heart didn't soar.  Quite the opposite.  One look at the bun, and I knew that this leavened product's best days had come and gone.  The top had that dry, flaky consistency that only comes with a good bit of bread ageing.  Flavour-wise, it was quite sweet, bordering on a breakfast-brioche taste.  Not ideal.

Under the hood, things didn't fare much better.  The patty itself sat on top of a swipe of their HOMEMADE™ mayo and a few pieces of lettuce, guaranteeing that they were limp beyond edibility upon reaching the table.  There was a healthy slab of cheese on the top, and a bit of it had clearly been melted.  But observe the cut-through pic:

Look at that enormous chunk of 100% unmelted cheese astride my burger.  Sadness personified.  This, children, is why cheddar belongs in many many places, but not on a burger. It had the dual pleasure of being both unmelted and unremarkable in taste.  There were some oven-dried tomatoes on the burger as well, and the oven had successfully removed their flavour.

As for the burger....well, it was cooked to order.  I've found a good thing to say about it.  Otherwise, it lacked seasoning, a slight that I just can't understand; salt is a burger's best friend.  I caught a glimpse of their super-hip Josper in the back, but is it the best for cooking a burger?  Not if this one is anything to go by.  But what I was sure of was the fact that I couldn't taste much beefy flavour in their oh-so-carefully-sourced meat.  It might've ticked all of the boxes as far as the best suppliers and what not, but the proof is in the (meaty) pudding.  No evidence was offered of the quality of their suppliers.

I added the gherkins from the side of the plate to the burger and this improved it immeasurably. That's not a compliment by the way.  It just helped the situation a bit.

Fries were not as bad as some others' experiences -- they were mostly crisp, although still bordering on the too-greasy side.  I finished them; so they weren't terrible, but they weren't very good either.  Our starchy friends seem to be an afterthought to many, even my favourite burger joint.

So, not exactly a ringing endorsement, in fact, quite the opposite.  I didn't go in with the highest of hopes, but I also didn't expect them to be dashed so severely, especially seeing as I went in before the aforementioned review came out, as well as Burgerac's hot off the press.  I might've still gone anyhow to see for myself.  

And now I have.  And I can tell you that this review was specially curated in my bedroom, atop my John Lewis duvet cover and Land's End sheets, to ensure that you could indulge in a spot of reading that would whisk you away from the hustle and bustle of your ordinary existence to a land of whimsy and damn depressing burgers.

Bukowski Grill
Bethnal Green Road
E1 6GY

Monday - Sunday
from 11:00 - 20:00
Late Thursdays open until 22:00

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