“Give that man a hot plate, some ingredients and a table, he’ll bang out scores of perfect cheeseburgers.”
A few words about The Long Table. The Dalston pop up market to end all pop ups. And possibly Dalston.
It seemed everybody except the organisers knew this was going to be crazy busy. So for those lucky enough to be able to get there early, it was a very cool and novel experience, like a bonfire night where the stuff coming off of the obligatory barbecue actually tasted good. Great stalls selling amazing food.
They definitely had a long table, but not long enough to cope with the overwhelming turn out, causing classic Brit passive-aggressive seat-hawk mentality to rear its ugly head.
You know the types - the people peering over your shoulder whilst you consume your food and looking to see where the next viable perching spot will be, asking if you’ll be moving any time soon - sucking some of the enjoyment out of the experience for the patron who arrived on time. No offence buddy, but I’ll sit here for as long as I fucking like, thanks.
Carnage. It was utter carnage.
But before we talk about that, let’s discuss the food. True to form, I had two burgers. The first was the fabled Hawksmoor burger, which was accompanied by some kind of Ginger brew cocktail Manhattan thing by booze-pert Shaky Pete. I was more curious to see whether Hawksmoor could relocate their care and attention to detail en plein air.
The short answer is no, not quite.
Having held off the five or six H-moor superfans, who were crowding their spot a good thirty minutes before they were ready to serve, the pace seemed a little too frantic. My burger did indeed look identical to what you get in the restaurant, but consisted of two top bun halves and a patty that had been viciously burned on one side. They had also given up toasting buns and melting cheese properly due to the rush: an understandable restraint but one that dramatically altered the end result compared to the bricks and mortar equivalent.
Having your customers right in front of you might not be what these guys are used to.
Which brings us to the matter of the cheese. Ogleshield. It’s hefty. Unsubtle. Arguably not suited to a burger, unless you’ve got the wherewithal to melt it sufficiently. When bonded with meat, it can be a magical thing. But here, it was floating above the patty, jeering at the rest of the ingredients. And it utterly dominated the flavour of the whole burger. Friend of B/A, Dan said it tasted cheap.
Cheap! But he was right! It reduced the entire ensemble to a glorified cheese sandwich.
Now, I think we were a bit unlucky overall, since I was a recipient of one the first few burgers off the grill, and I’m sure things got better throughout the course of the evening. We heard murmurings from nearby Hawksmoorers that it was the ‘best burger they’d had’, so I’m sure things got better later on.
Still, it was £3 cheaper than what you’d pay in the restaurant.
Next up was Lucky Chip. Ben was there without his van and seemed to be training up a new guy on the grill. He was also the epitome of calm compared to the frantic rush for Hawksmoor. That guy is seriously chilled out.
And sure enough, the cheeseburger that resulted was effortlessly authentic. I don’t think you can find a more perfect plain cheeseburger in all of London. Give that man a hot plate, some ingredients and a table, he’ll bang out scores of perfect cheeseburgers. Really impressive, and we’re lucky to have him.
So after both burgers, we were too full to have anything else.
The Long Table is a great thing; the sheer variety of what’s on offer makes it well worth a visit - but do ensure you’re there on time. The queue when we left reminded me of the queues you used to see for the Astoria back in the day.
And there wasn’t even any music.
Street food seems to be the new rock ‘n roll, and the crowds of hyped-up über-connected Twitterers queuing for hours made some wasteland in Dalston feel a bit like San Francisco for the evening.
Follow @thelongtableAS for details.