Sunday, 25 November 2012

Wenlock and Essex: 30 Very Good Reasons

Burger season is upon us it seems and in a bid to out-do each other some of the Big Names have stepped up their game.

The latest to throw their hat into the ring is James Morgan of the Wenlock and Essex. Some lucky people may remember him as the kitchen behind the Two Nights Only events that created the infamous 40 Burger early this year. That burger supposedly involved 100 people in its conception and even the pickles were hand collected from Boston itself. Excessive food-miles if there ever was, but so worth it for a few extra inches to sea-levels. Recently he has unleashed the 30 burger. Thirty day dry-aged beefyness with a 30% fat content and only available for a month. Although its nearing the end of its run, the point of this review is to publicise the quality of James' cooking and his knowledge of how to deliver a great end product. There's even rumours of another special burger in the works so keep an eye on this one.
30 Burger - Oh the joy

Now for those unaware of the inner workings of a burger, usually fat levels hover around the 20% mark. 30%, although sounding delicious (how could extra fat be bad?) has the potential to be claggy and ruinuous for the texture of the patty. That said, I think it's safe to say that James has nailed his blend.

Dear readers, this blogger goes to great lengths on your behalf, and so i visited the W&E twice in two weeks to verify what is, possibly the best burger in London. Both times James was absent from the kitchen (chefs can take Sundays off too) and although the burgers varied widely, somehow both were almost as good as each other. Looking at the pictures you can see the differences, the first had a much thinner patty and the cheese was very heavy handed. However, I think it's a testament to the quality of some of the ingredients at play here which allows for some lee-way with the cooking and presentation skills.
30 Burger - First version

On both visits the patty was super rich and super moist, the high fat content is obvious from the start. Fat is flavour and this blend has it in bucket loads. Probably the best tasting patty I've ever had. The simplest way to describe eating it is that it is deeply satisfying. My friend said it was the best burger she had ever eaten and I'm so almost inclined to agree.
30 Burger - Second visit

The structure is different to the usual fare. I tend to think of burgers as divided into two camps.The double stacked, dirtier, greasier American versions and the cleaner, 'flight to quality' of the English. This is definitely in the English camp and is a front runner on quality and creativity.

Soggy lettuce and limp tomatoes are replaced by a gherkin-laced slaw. It gives a bite to each mouthful that helps cut through the richness. The cheese is beautifully melted on top and adds another rich, punchy element. Unbelievably the sweetness factor is turned to 11 when it comes to the caramelised onions. Triple cooked (plain, reduced jus, and then balsamic vinegar) leads to some of the stickiest, sweetest, most delicious onions I have ever had, let alone as a burger condiment. All this leads to a burger that is so over the top on flavour and richness that I am fuller than I have ever been by a single patty burger.
30 Burger - Second visit again.
The brioche bun is of the highest quality. Incredibly soft with a hint of sweetness it does a great job of holding everything together. Structurally this is one very sound burger.

The Wenlock is also a pub and James does some great roasts too. On the first visit the BH had the roast beef. Cooked perfectly medium rare (except maybe that top rip cap piece), the yorkie was crisp and the gravy fantastic, as deep and meaty as the burger I was destroying across the table. On the whole though, the burger should be the reason for a trip.
Roast Beef
In summary this really is one of the very best burgers in London. Its a shame that its only for such a short period of time but I'm positive that something great will be coming out of James' kitchen soon. The food he's cooking now is already pretty special.

How much: the 30 costs £15 and the roast £12.50. There is also a great choice of beers and ales which are recommended with each dish.

Where: 18-26 Essex Road, Islington, London, N1 8LN. Nearest tube Angel
tel: 020 7704 0871

Food: 9/10
Drink: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

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