Braving the fresh hell that is Clapham Junction, we find something that might just dull the pain of being there
We hate Clapham. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. The fact we even made it to Dip And Flip is a freaking miracle. The only redeeming feature of this compact gravy restaurant is that it's only five minutes from the train back out of there. Enough said.
Despite the rabid uptake of other American fare, French dip and patty melts are still a rare commodity in London. Hawksmoor have their take on the gravy-accompanied sub and Haymarket new addition Chop Shop has a melt on their menu, but that's about it. There have been a couple of false dawns too: A French dip stall popped in a Brixton Saturday market last year, only to go incommunicado before we could try it, and Rita's rather decent melt disappeared when their residency at Birthdays in Dalston ended (we wait impatiently for their own place to open in Hackney this winter).
So when we heard that a new place was flogging both of these sandwiches and burgers we had to get over there post-haste, South of the bloody River or not.
Slobbering over D&P's menu online exhaustively, we were excited by the prospect that they were ballsy enough to offer their roast beef sandwiches with double-dipped and drowned options - a staple of LA's famous Cole's and Philippe's.
In the flesh though, these options had been omitted. Huh?
We were informed by the personable Antipodean waitress that they had been on the menu, but the punters of Clapham had no idea what the fuck double-dipping was (it probably has an entirely different meaning at Inferno's), so they simplified the menu to avoid confusion. No dunking of our meaty rolls then, shame.
The dip arrived wrapped up like a tiny Christmas cracker, with the thinly sliced beef shyly peeking from between the between the roll. First impressions: This was a small roll encasing a much smaller portion of meat than you'd expect from it's American counterpart, creating something the more gluttonous amongst us could dispatch within four bites or less.
The lightly-pink hued meat was tender and soft. As was the cushion-soft brioche roll that matched a malleable squish with a good ability to soak up the thin, broth-like gravy. The gravy itself was satisfyingly meaty and full-bodied, if lacking a touch of salt. Sensibly avoiding the temptation to add cheese in for the sake of it, it's a simple combination that works agreeably. Too small. But anyway. Let's continue.
This is an impressive Bacon Cheeseburger. No two ways about it.
The splendidly thick, salt jabbed crust and unorganised pink-center of the smashed patty, thanks in part to the Shake Shack-esque chrome plated griddle they use, comes housed between a shiny, bronzed Bread Factory brioche bun which has the same pillow comfort like its French dip roll sibling with slight sweetness, and reminds us of the early generation Mother Flipper bun.
Well cooked, satisfyingly salty and crisp-but-not-brittle bacon sits above an American-style cheese slice, melted into the cracks of the patty. Ketchup and mustard are slathered on the top bun, while the bottom gets sharp pickles and a healthy dose of slaw-style veggies doused with piquant-sweet sauce. This is a sloppy and sauce-laden affair, resulting in the thin bottom bun relenting almost instantly. But that's a small qualm about a great mouthful which incorporates a salty crunch and soft beefiness, a traditional-yet-nuanced sauce combination, and the added bite of slaw and pickles, something that is just about worth braving the locals for.
The Patty Melt
A buttery, beefy, cheesy concoction, the notable factor is a slightly smaller version of the burger's very-competently griddled patty.
Sadly it was let down by an over-buttering combined with only grilling the bread on the outside. This lead to the butter seeping into and engulfing the bread due to the lack of a crispy toast layer barrier. The outside could have done with a bit longer too, indicated by the two slices of unmelted yellow American-style cheese flanking the patty. The last bread-only bites that came from a round patty being placed a square slice were a disappointing finale to a flawed-yet-artery-fuckingly-solid sandwich.
And a word about the poutine
Having had the poutine energetically pimped to us several times, we ordered it.
Now. Canucks would balk at what passes for poutine over here. Fact.
Nowhere we know of in London has yet to use those rubbery, spring lumps of dairy known as cheese curd that distinguish the dish. It's no one's fault really, curds must just be really hard to come by we guess. Yes, you can argue that there can be variations that don't use curds. But in the same way that ‘slider’ has been re-purposed to mean ‘little burger', so ‘poutine’ has become a posh way to market ‘cheesy chips with gravy’, the staple late night snack eaten by pissed revellers across The North.
Re-purposing does mean though that you have to produce something pretty exceptional for the amount that you are going to charge. Cracking the lid of a small Styrofoam burger box we received showcased a laughably meagre portion. The cheese was a good melted, elastic and stringy consistency but it was reinforced by totally standard fries and the thin broth sitting like a shallow puddle at the bottom.
Worth a fiver it was not.
It's all Gravy
So to summarise. Despite being in the belly of the beast, Dip & Flip is well worth your time. Yes there are a few teething issues that could be addressed, so let's list 'em:
- up the poutine serving size. Spuds are cheap.
- the gravy needs a more robust receptacle than a plastic bowl. We foresee many a gravy portion accidentally flipped to the floor by the rolled double cuff of a locals.
- we would avoid it like the plague on a weekend evening, but that's more about the neighbourhood than anything else.
For an indie, it's priced fairly keen regardless of portion size and there's plenty of potential here.
Their heart is in the right place, sadly the bricks and mortar really aren't.
And to illustrate our beef with Clapham, we'll leave you with a quote from Vice's recent-ish Reasons Why London is the Worst Place Ever:
Despite what house prices and official Met Police statistics will tell you, Thamesmead and Edmonton are not the worst places in London. The worst place in London is Clapham. What's so bad about leafy, affluent Clapham, you ask? Well, mostly the people. Which might sound unfair, but probably only if you've never spent a terrifying Saturday morning watching Millwall fans fight over the last bath salts behind Clapham Junction station. Or a Saturday afternoon watching American city boys play ultimate frisbee on the common. Or a Saturday evening watching an endless succession of sneering Australian gym-freaks trying to chirpse your girlfriend. Yeah, don't go to Clapham, it really doesn't matter how good the Slug & Lettuce is if you feel like you're trapped in a kind of Grand Guignol Peep Show.
- Rob & Simon.