But then I'm not part of the solution; rather, I'm part of the problem. Just another lemming with tunnel vision for the burger. But then, this isn't an ordinary burger, or even a slightly different burger. This is its own beast, and a marvelous one at that.
James Morgan, the head chef at Wenlock & Essex, is most definitely a driven young man, and like many of us, he has a special enthusiasm for burgers. His creations skew more towards the Hawksmoor/Ad Cod end of the spectrum as opposed to the MEATenterprise or Lucky Chip. I headed up to the W&E for a weekday lunch with a couple of coworkers in order to sample his latest creation, the Sloppy Joe Burger.
Back in the old country, I grew up eating many a sloppy joe, and whilst tasty (to my 12-year old palate), they weren't exactly fine dining. I was prepared to have my perceptions shifted slightly.
First hurdle cleared easily; this burger looked fantastic. In terms of components, working our way down, the burger consisted of: thinly sliced gherkins and tomatoes, the latter covered in thyme and other spices and slow roasted; Montgomery cheddar; a thick layer of sloppy joe; the burger itself; shredded lettuce; and finally some burger sauce consisting of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise. This glorious combination was coddled in a delicious, squashy egg-glazed bap from Rinkoff's Bakery which proved a worthy opponent to the subsequent onslaught of juices.
I truly loved this burger. To make the sloppy joe,pork and fore rib (I believe) had been simmered in tomatoes, stock and other assorted ingredients for over 9 hours.The sloppy joe was reminiscent of a Texas-style chili (no beans) minus the heat, and I could've eaten a pile of that thick, rich concoction on its own. The gherkins did a fine job of providing just a touch of acidity to cut through some of the heaviness, with the lettuce playing the part of a firmer-textured component.
Every bite yielded a traverse through the flavours, but as with every good burger, the end taste was always beef -- perfectly cooked, aggressively juicy, delicious beef. Silence reigned for a good 5 minutes punctuated by small outbursts of inarticulate pleasure.
Skin-on, hand cut chips were lovely - and plentiful - in their own right, but they were overshadowed by their beefy friend (and rightly so). Of course I finished them, eschewing the ketchup for the cup of burger sauce on the plate. Did I mention that this dish only costs £10?
I love what's happening in London at the moment - burger obsessives, street food mania, American food(!), all of it. I realise we've reached the point where some people feel that these things have become overexposed, and to them it's become fashionable to rail against those who queue, dream nonstop about burgers or serve cocktails in slightly eccentric glassware. There are no shortage of articles complaining about the latest food trends. And that's a bit sad isn't it? But then I suppose some people just love a good moan. Anyhow, digression aside, here is a chef who really loves what he does and works virtually nonstop trying out new things that are innovative without being outlandish. It doesn't seem like he does things just for the sake of being different - the focus is always on the most important element, the taste. And with the sloppy joe burger, I believe he has accomplished his goal in spades. Now when's the next creation coming?
Wenlock & Essex
18-26 Essex Road
N1 8LN (map)
Thu: 12:00 pm - 12:00 am
Fri - Sat: 12:00 pm - 2:00 am
Sun: 12:00 pm - 11:30 pm