Have any of you discerning lot ever been out on the Edgware Road - the shabby, monoxide-ridden artery between leafy Hyde Park and ritzy Maida Vale?
Of course not.
Why would you?
Any visits of ours have been both rare and sporadic, unless we were to include the many instances impatiently sat on a tube carriage on the Circle line waiting for it to transport us far, far away. An alumnus of ours was quite violently mugged there not so long ago.
It's almost as bad as Clapham. Almost.
We reluctantly ventured this way for BBQ Whisky Beer a few months ago, only to be underwhelmed. This one had better be worth it.
Owned by Best Place Inns, who vaunt 5 pub-cum-hostels situated variously around The Smoke, The Green Man is a very bog-standard boozer, mixing original wooden fixtures with new mock flock wallpaper. Like every sodding Slug and Lettuce ever.
It was here in the summer of last year that Juicy Bstard set up shop. With a name that was designed to be risqué but too prissy to spell out a legit swear, it was only a matter of time before a rebrand just before Christmas tweaked the menu a touch, rendered the @Juicybstard Twitter account defunct and switched to the super lame 'Burger Craft' ("Hey Steve, beers are craft now, why can't burgers be too?" "Genius! Get it to the printers!). Sure.
The Juicy Bastard burger lives on (spelled correctly) as the signature burger on the menu. And it is a handsomely unkempt individual. An uncommonly glossy brioche wrangles together two chunky ragtag patties enveloped with American cheese atop the standard tomato and lettuce.
It is the kind of burger that will launch a thousand Instagram likes.
The patties are softly packed together, flashing the slightest seductive peek of pink. Looking smashed, but lacking a convincing crust, the meat is well seasoned, oozes with juices, but has a consistency more reminiscent of mince a la supermarket than an actual burger.
The cheese is vividly yellow, satisfyingly gluey and smothered over the meat. And that bun is sweet and delightfully soft, accommodating everything amply. It's all fairly decent until the condiment torpedo hits, a "liquid smoke BBQ sauce" which is much less a smoky BBQ and much more of a showboaty sweetness. It overwhelms the flavour and we yearned for a simpler special sauce, or even just ketchup and mustard.
Advertising that you use liquid smoke in something is pretty weird too, right?
The Bacon BACON Bacon is much more successful, with its hog trinity - smoked bacon pieces and ickle chunks of crispy bacon 'dust' throw a porky flavour cluster over the patty, while the bacon jam adds a belt of chutney-joy with it's added sweetness.
The only thing it was missing: cheese.
There's a choice of sides to accompany your sandwich, but the ones we tried weren't really up to much. The slaw was a meagre, chopped to within an inch of it's life, tasteless affair. The hash brown bites were better, basically mini versions of the Golden Arches breakfast offerings, but in smaller size and higher numbers they soon become a greasy chore (give them to us with a hangover though and we'd happily annihilate them probably).
A solid effort that has definite potential with some tweaks and better beef preparation, the initial response seems to have been encouraging enough for Best Place Inns to announce two more Craft kitchens coming in 2014. One is opening in London's grungy river-lined scrotum sack, Docklands, right about now (29th Jan).
They also have a pub in Clapham. Sod's law they will put the second one there. If you're unlucky enough to be on the Edgware Road, it's worth your time but ultimately, this is not food worth crossing town for.
- Rob & Simon.