Birthdays was a relatively early edition to the ever-evolving Kingsland Road. The sparse, art gallery style space with added underground rave cave has since seen organic food shops, tapas bars and all day brunch 'mess halls' nestle in their droves into the gaps between the long-standing Turkish restaurants.
It was host to the early incarnation of Rita's which served out a mixed bag of Ameri-comestibles, their patty melt being the one very decent memorable item. But as they moved into their own place on Mare Street (which is absolutely bleeding exceptional) the kitchen-shaped gap was taken up by the Psychic gang, burger offshoot of White Rabbit who also have a spot a short walk away on Bradbury Street. Keeping it local.
Heading in on a Saturday afternoon, Birthdays was scarily quiet. The kind of quiet that makes you not want to enter shops for fear that the assistants will flock at you like celebrity-starved paparazzi. It was all a bit subdued. Like a university JCR the day after an end of term rager; the slumped silhouette of a hungover young lady draped across the bar. Everything was quiet voices and delicate movements.
We slipped into a corner booth in the apportioned restaurant area, designated by a vivid turquoise wall and not-so-subtle signage, and checked out the simple menu. Ribs and wings bring up the fore. Burgers are relatively straightforward, with the addition of a rather beguiling soft shell crab burger, and sides come as fries of various tarted up varieties.
The fresh-out-of-the-sauna looking bun lid, thick cheese drizzled patty and double layer of signature sauce stand out first on the eponymous burger. The patty is very competently cooked: The centre is a deep pink with a slight outer ring or char giving it a distinct meaty flavour. The copious layer of sticky American over the top adds its familiar salty edge, and the combination brings back fleeting reminiscences of the very early Meatwagon days.
The Psychic sauce is incredibly creamy, packing that rich sweetness with a tiny touch of tang. The bun is solid example of the familiar light demi brioche, adding more sweetness. Both of which the meat and cheese are able to stop being overbearing. The oft-derided addition of tomato works for us here, adding moisture and its distinct texture into the bite with success, giving it a rather American burger feel. The single pickle spear shoved through the middle brings uneven tangy note, but is the really the only thing of issue. There are flickers of skill here in a very decent, but shy of exceptional, choice.
Got to throw a word in for the croquettes too: Bittenball-esque deep fried balls of melted cheese with the genius addition of polenta for a bit of substance, accompanied by a doubly potent chipotle and stilton dip. A punchy, crunchy two-cheese hit of impeccable goodness.
Psychic have now expanded into Essex-commuter party mecca the Old Queens Head. We hit a birthday up there not so long ago; the combination of extortionate prices, a terribly over-zealous smoke machine, and dad-dancing pissheads meant we didn't last long. But the space is bigger, so more covers of arguably less discerning clientele probably makes sense.
The proximity of fellow burger servers The Diner, Wenlock and Essex and Five Guys makes for an interesting placement choice. The thinking being that there are clearly enough punters around there.
We'll stick to birthdays at Birthdays while they still serve there if that's cool.
- NB. Since publication, Psychic Burger now only operates out of the Queen's Head.