Fitzrovia has long been a hot spot for great dining options in London. But with the recent restaurant renaissance in the area, places like Hakkasan, Salt Yard and Dabbous are being joined by an increasing number of new food options: Homeslice is a recent addition, as is Kua 'Aina, and even Bao is opening up their second location there soon. Another relative newcomer is Mac & Wild, nuzzled around weird must-be-a-scam modelling agencies, strange wholesale fashion shops and Scandi coffee shops on Great Titchfield street. Their burger has been awarded 'London's Best Burger 2015', 'UK's Best Burger 2016' and praised by the rare-to-ever-plaudit Giles Coren. Such a multi-accoladed dish. Wowser guys, it must be fucking bonkers good.
Forget grabbing a munchy box at Mac & Wild, the brainchild and permanent residence of the Wild Game Co. is one posh Scottish restaurant focusing on traditionally sourced wild venison and other meaty produce from the colder side of Hadrian's Wall. Obviously the venison steaks take center stage, backed up with other Caledonian staples as well as the revered Venimoo burger, each dish on the menu naturally having a recommended pairing of whiskey.
This epicurean selection is offered in a low lit collection of bare brick and black & white prints of hunters at work, with thick hunks of tree serving as tables and metal railings normally used to hang animal carcasses overhead. You could say there is a touch of overkill here, all to the soundtrack of funky instrumental jazz usually reserved for expensive hotel bars. The service is also aimed at being the higher-end restaurant standard. 'Classy feel' is the raison d'être here.
Perched upon brown kraft paper in the low candle light the Venimoo is a seductive specimen - perfectly melted yellow cheese envelopes caramelised onions and invades all the crags of the patties below them, a well executed griddle fusion. Photogenic as fuck. The beef and venison patties both exhibit a lovely charred exterior and have a great loosely packed pink interior.
Bearnaise is becoming a more frequent visitor to the burger in London (utilised well by Flat Iron) and the generous dollop of it on the bottom bun is an extraordinarily rich affair with overtones of sweet, and touches of savoury, as well as being buttery to the max. The caramelised onions dial up the sweet notes and the buttery brioche, sliced top heavy to resemble Pharell's ridiculous hat, is a formidable soft, sweet and bouncy meat depot. Such extravagance! Waitress, you are spoiling us! But here is the issue, it is so out there rich that it becomes a one taste pony.
The buttery sweet of everything surrounding the meat just simply overwhelms it. Yes - the beef is well seasoned with a nice flavour and the venison is a clever addition giving an extra interesting dimension to the meatiness, with the crusts on both supplying a weighty umami intensity - but you can only tell that by tearing bits off and sampling solo. Like smearing half a pot of Nutella on a slice of sourdough, it is all about the spread. But what about the delicious sourdough? Nobody puts sourdough in the corner. The burger screams for an inkling of acidity; some pickles and mustard to cut through everything and mix up the flavour profile a bit.
Clearly M&W are going for indulgence with the Venimoo and they batter the head with many nails in achieving it, which may explain all of the ovation it gets. It is just a bit tarted up for our liking, we like our burgers a bit more au naturel.