By Mark Muldoon
Brixton has a new burger joint, and it’s got a curious marketing strategy behind it. Calling your new restaurant Shhh Burger Club & Bar is an intriguing touch, as it seems to imply you’re attempting to create some sort of small secret society of burger eaters. Clearly, the low key strategy is working fantastically for Shhh so far, because it’s a Thursday evening and we’re the only customers.
Shhh’s air of secrecy extends online: their website still doesn’t exist yet, and it’s now been seven weeks since the restaurant opened (and at least ten since their big green shop sign went up mentioning the site’s address). Whilst you’re online, there’s fun to be had by checking out the restaurant’s across-the-board-5-star-definitely-not-written-by-friends reviews on Facebook and Tripadvisor (our favourite states: “We left a pretty big tip as we were so impressed”]), which may as well have been followed by “honestly, if I were you I’d ask the manager of this restaurant out on a date immediately!!!”.
Shhh arrives on the former site of the much-loved Duck Egg Café. That Brixton stalwart is now nursing your hangovers across the road inside Market House, as long as you’ve had the social decorum to get drunk at the weekend. Duck Egg Café only pop up there on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so if you’re the kind of person that likes to get drunk on a Tuesday night, unfortunately Brixton in 2015 just isn’t the place for you anymore. May we recommend Clapham High Street?
Arriving at Shhh, it’s instantly clear that this particular story has a hero. We’ve never been served by anybody in Brixton quite so eager to please than the guy who’s serving us here. He’s charmingly skittish, with puppy dog enthusiasm. We order two pints of Brixton Brewery beer. The two pint glasses are brought over to us 2/3rds full of beer, 1/3rd foam. These are either the first pints the guy has ever poured, or we’re the first people to bother to send them back.
A starter of succulent, clearly well sourced Nyonya Fried Chicken is thoughtfully topped with tiny mango chunks and served with excellent curried mayo. The burger patties themselves are superb – if underseasoned – cuts of beef. There’s barely any stilton in the house burger, but there’s a lovely texture at play, with nice hints of sweetness. The Honey burger arrives with barely any detectable honey, which in hindsight is perhaps wise given that really, that sounds like a terrible combination of ingredients.
We ask for salt, and our server brings over glass salt and pepper shakers and explains that the one in his left hand is the salt, which will presumably come in useful when a customer eventually shows up that’s been struggling to tell the difference all these years. Shhh are also aiming to make everything (bread, ketchup, sauces, butters, chutneys..) themselves, which does seem like a lot of effort for the 3% of their customer base that will probably care.
Brixton already has some 10 out of 10 burger stalwarts in the shape of The Joint, and what is still the best Honest burger outlet (if you’ve found a branch of the chain that does the core menu as well as the Brixton original then you’ve either got greater patience or greater luck than us). There’s clearly a lot of thought going into (the food side, anyway) of Shhh, and it would be foolish not to wish it well. It would probably be a really exciting new place to eat had it opened in Forest Hill or somewhere. But at this stage it’s reduced to a good option to go to if you’re after a burger, but don’t fancy the queue.
Mark Muldoon tweets and Instagrams about Brixton and London in general here , and here.