Summer is here. And we all know that an inevitable overcast weekend in August will be spent at the seaside.
Of the day-trippable places from London, one is Southend - the common mans’ Brighton. The slightly commoner mans' Hastings - You can numb your arse on pebbly beaches, take a tiny train up a really long pier, or play on knackered, gack-buttoned arcade machines in crumbling, post-apocalyptic Vegassian arcade halls. We fucking love the place.
Tonking buckets of cash at Adventure Island builds up an appetite, and if you don't fancy the fish and chips then you can always head to Henry Burgers...
Off the beaten path of the high street, Henry is located down Southend’s 'alternative' alley way, at the former site of infamously questionable club The Sunrooms. Next door is a tattoo parlour, cupcake bakery, and no doubt soon a traditional-yet-modern barbers. Its a right supermicro-Camden in the brewing.
From the outside it looks like a Côte except for the simple striking logo adorning the windows, a rather fetching Shake Shackian shade of design. You get the feeling the simple snug interior, with its questionable wall colouring, has had little done to it and statement additions come in the form of labourer-chic table top covered wooden pallets posing as eating stations. We positioned ourselves on one and ordered.
The Bacon Cheeseburger that arrived had the appearance of a deliciously bedraggled mess, thoroughly lashed with rivers of 'American style' cheese the consistency of a slightly gooier nacho cheese - It was everywhere, cloaking the patty almost entirely with only spidery pieces of iceberg and mere glimpses of the house sauce poking out.
It was the highlight by a pier length: satisfyingly sloppy and surprisingly flavourful, in such quantity that you could happily pick dollops off without worrying about it disappearing. The patty underneath was disappointing: overcooked, quite dry, and too tightly packed, making the mouthful hard work to get through and doing a dis-service to the meat, which was a touch under-seasoned with additional flecks of green that were visible, but not noticeable.
The bun was a valient attempt at a brioche but was oversized and rather dense making it doughy and chewy. Paired with the patty, the jaw had a lot to do. The chunks of raw onion and tomato added a freshness alongside the lettuce. But whilst the cheese was in abundance, the house sauce was lacking and what was there was nowt special. The pretty bacon, awkwardly stuck in the no-man's land between crispy and soft, failed to be anything other than standard too.
Whether they admit to it or not, a lot of places in The Provinces are cashing in on the highly successful MEATliquor model, on a smaller budget. Burgers, craft beers and cocktails with a misty air of rebellion. But there is a noticeable quality inconsistency that regional gaffs arguably get away with more than London's highly scrutinised establishments. And Henry suffers from this a bit. We can't give it a free pass just because it's beyond the M25.
Yeah, the fries are decent and the chilli atop them is a nicely sauced pulled meat with solid flavour and kick. But the deep fried gherkins were woeful greasy messes of thin, translucent batter that disintegrated off of the pickle the second you touched it, served with an underwhelming, and still thawing out, blue cheese dip.
And service was SLOW. It took 40-plus minutes for our food to arrive. There was a table of ten being served ahead of us, but the place was not close to full with only one other table. Busy nights must be interesting. And by interesting we mean long. Bigger grill required.
With a second location coming soon, it is a measurable local success. With a touch less mimicry, and a bit more product development, there is potential down Diagoth Alley.