Are MEATMarket’s Burgers the Wrong Side of Filth?
When it comes to burgers, for me, there is a processed cheese slice-fine line between delicious, gloriously messy filth, and soggy, overly fatty, greasy filth. On my recent visit to MEATmarket, the second permanent venture from Yianni Papoutsis and the MEATliquor team, the burger I ate there veered dangerously towards the latter. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, it crossed the line.
Located on a mezzanine tucked away at the back of Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market Hall and only accessible through an entrance with a gloriously tacky sign (below) – presumably there to put off random tourists and those who aren’t in the know from venturing upstairs – the place is essentially an edgy fast-food joint, with an aesthetic to match – though the same can’t be said for the prices, with a burger and a drink likely to set you back over a tenner.
Unlike it’s bigger sibling, MEATmarket is not a place to linger. You order your food and drink at the counter, scrabble for a spare seat while you wait and then collect it when it’s ready. The short menu offers up a selection of four burgers, a couple of hot dogs, a philly cheeseteak and a few sides, served in greaseproof paper on trays. To drink, there are bottomless sodas, slushies, a couple of beers and either soft or hard shakes.
In style and attitude, MEATmarket reminds me a lot of The Burger Joint hidden in the bowels of the Parker Meridien in New York. The place is clearly geared towards getting you in and out as quickly as possible and, if you can accept that the modus operandi here is a different beast to MEATliquor, it works very well.
What didn’t work quite as well for me was, surprisingly, the burger. I should mention that my visit to MEATmarket is my only reference point for Yannis’ food so far, having yet to visit the ‘flagship’ on Welbeck Street and, before that, having never ventured south of the river to check out the original MEATwagon, though I’m not sure that should make much of a difference.
I get that the burgers here are, deliberately, the polar opposite of the refined and sophisticated offerings of, say, Bar Boluud or Opera Tavern, whose Piggie and Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras numbers respectively offer pretty much premium perfection in a bun.
I came to MEATmarket fully expecting a burger of the uncompromisingly sloppy, messy variety akin to those served up by the superlative Lucky Chip boys, whose residency at the Sebright Arms has been a revelation and whose venture into a first permanent home in (where else?) Soho, although so far beset by kitchen problems and delays, is due to open any day now.
My Black Palace Burger, comprised of two beef patties, cheese, grilled onions, pickles, mustard and ketchup – and served exclusively at MEATmarket (pictured above) – was indeed of the sloppy and messy variety. So much so that it struggled to hold itself together. The beef was perfectly cooked on the rare side of medium-rare, and the combination of cheese, mustard and pickles was great, but -and I hate to say this – the big chunks of slippery, sweet grilled onions reminded me a little too much of the kind of thing you might get from a van outside a football ground. Worse still, the whole thing was completely saturated in grease. The poor bun couldn’t hope to stand up to this kind of test.
Halfway through attempting to eat it, I could see that the greaseproof paper below was already home to a sizeable puddle of muddy fat and burger juices, which had also formed tributaries down my hands and arms. The bottom half of the bun was sopping wet and falling apart in my hands. Huge chunks of beef and onions were lost en route to my gob, jettisoned from the sinking ship. The kitchen roll on the table was decimated in the clean-up operation.
It was just too sloppy, too messy, too filthy.
All good burgers should leave you feeling a bit dirty afterwards, but this one left me feeling like I’d just been involved in some sort of Premiership footballer underage gangbang scandal. The guilt overwhelmed the pleasure. I feared I might have pushed myself into type 2 diabetes territory just from eating the thing, especially considering I washed it down with a thick, sugary vanilla shake. In fact, I’ve only just awoken from the three-day food coma it induced to write about it.
Like I say, for me, it’s a fine line, but MEATmarket – on this occasion, at least – crossed it here.
(With many thanks to the Burgerac blog, the unimpeachable authority on all things burger-related)