By James Eaton
The rise and rise of Honest Burger has been well-documented. From humble beginnings and long queues in Brixton Village to four new restaurants in and around central London – it is a great success story for a great local business. I love burgers. I love Honest Burger’s burgers. I love (in particular) The Honest Burger (Ginger Pig beef patty, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, red onion relish). And I could come up with never-ending superlatives for the rosemary chips that accompany the meaty fistfuls of joy.
There is, as my last two reviews have explored, a risk that expansion can affect the quality of the food and this is, in my opinion, the most important factor. I will forgive lack of atmosphere if the food in new branches is of the same standard of the original but, as my visit to Franco Manca on Tottenham Court Road showed, sometimes it isn’t quite up to scratch. Very good to be sure, not as good which is a shame. So when it came to visiting the King’s Cross branch of my favourite London meat-and-bun emporium I was worried that I may be disappointed. However, I can safely say that in the case of the newest branch of Honest Burger, the food is every inch as tasty, expertly cooked, downright lip-smackingly good as anything I’ve ever had in Brixton.
Seriously good in fact.
As the chain has got bigger there has been an effort to expand the menu with a few more choices than usual – we had the option not only of the four standard burgers (beef, chicken, veggie, or Honest) but two specials and a list of extra nibbles and sides. Nice. We ordered some deep fried parsley and pork sausages while we waited and settled in for a night of meaty gluttonous joy. And what meat! The sausages were coated in a crispy batter and came with a dip of curry sauce that was mild but brilliantly spiced and the sausages themselves were juicy and delicious, the batter was a wonderful extra texture which quickly had us cleaning our plate of shards and crumbs. Brilliant.
Normally, for the sake of balance, I would have ordered my usual – The Honest Burger – but one of the specials caught my eye and I simply HAD to have it. The Rib Man Special with Christ on a Bike Sauce, smoked bacon, cheese, and pickled courgette. Sold. I’ve never made it to Kerb Market when the Rib Man has been there but I’ve wanted to try his wares for a while and this burger made me consider skipping work on Thursday to go for more. The sauce was hot. Very hot. But utterly wonderful – it worked perfectly with the cheese and pickle and, most importantly, did not smother the taste of the lovely pink burger in the middle. What a joy. I’m sorry to say that the Rib Man Special was only on for February but he is plotting further spicy madness with the boys from Honest so check their Twitter feed. And go and eat some ribs from Rib Man in the mean time. Do it. Do it now. My companion went down the Honest route and I’m taking the whimpers of delight and a face covered in relish and cheese as a sign that it was tip top!
And of course, the rosemary chips. What can I say? Light, savoury, crunchy-yet-soft-in-the-middle, wonderful, the-best-burger-accompaniment-ever, the list goes on….
It was, of course, very busy even on a Tuesday night but we took a perch at the bar while we waited and were very well looked after indeed. In fact, we ended up eating at the bar – no wait required. The staff were fabulous and the whole place had a friendly and relaxed feel. It didn’t feel like just another burger joint (of which there are many), in fact (and some may object to my saying this) it was a much nicer place to be than the Brixton original. I love eating in the Village, I love the noise, the vibes, and the smells. But I’ve always felt Honest Burger could be less squashed, less rushed, and the kind of place you could spend a bit more time. They have recently had a bit of a facelift which I’ve not seen yet and will certainly be checking out – as long as the food remains good, I will as I said earlier, not complain too much about my surroundings. I heartily recommend trying any of the branches of this excellent company (Soho is good if not a bit cramped) – you will NOT be disappointed!