Joe Allen / Covent Garden, London


OK, as a precursor to this review, let me throw down some B/A burger theory for y’all. Burgers are usually served up in one of two ways:

  • The ‘Open’ Burger

Whereby the lid of the bun is placed separately on the plate or partially resting on the edge of a burger, revealing the meaty innards and other contents. Occasionally the bun lid will be bare, occasionally it will play host to the salad elements of the burger, occasionally the ‘salad’ will be on the side of the plate, occasionally they will place it on the burger. Condiments may or may not be included. There appear to be no steadfast rules on this. Usually applied by restaurant burger offerings.

  • The ‘Closed’ Burger

The bun lid is on top of the burger and all composite ingredients are already tucked in. For the most part, this is the method of the convenience burger industry. Now, the ‘Open’ method innately suggests that the burger is incomplete and that the eater will add his or her condiments, the salad items of his or her choosing, and close the bun content in the knowledge that personal preference has been satisfied in this area. But come on guys, this is real laziness. Some of the genuine joy of trying a new burger for me is seeing how the place has made it and what ingredients they have used.

A burger should be served as a whole and should be a product of the flavour choices the chef has chosen to combine into a good sandwich. Leaving the top open is close to heresy in this respect and is a major bugbear of mine.

Like, a restaurant wouldn’t serve a chicken and mushroom pie with the pasty top at the side and the chicken and mushroom in separate dishes so the diner can decide how the meat to veg ratio is best would they? No. Exactly.  

So with that all off my chest, let’s move on to the Joe Allen Bacon Cheeseburger

Everything about this burger is pretty good:

  • the bun is a robust yet satisfyingly squidgy brioche
  • the patty is thick with quality meat
  • they don’t half fling a fuck-ton of nicely melted cheese on it.

But then we get to the ‘Open’ situation.

Two spears of pickle and a whole, thick slice of raw onion cosy up to the side of the burger for potential insertion. Ketchup and American mustard are requested. Everyone at the table sets about constructing their burger like kids eagerly making a space station out of lego: I add two of the larger rings of onion, both pickle spears and, using the tried and tested Meatwagon technique, I alternately lattice my ketchup and mustard onto the bun lid.

Then we eat.

Exclamations of how good the burger is bounce around the table, and yes, my burger tastes kinda great: the right sauce distribution, heavy on the pickle, relatively light on the onion. But then, it should taste how I like it. I CONSTRUCTED IT.

And this is the point I’m trying to make: I don’t want to know have a good idea of how the burger is going to taste, I want it to be a mystery. That’s why we love burgers so much, because each one can be unique even though the basics are essentially the same. So even though I enjoyed it, there was a slight pang of disappointment.

joeallen.co.uk

  • Rob.

The Joe Allen burger is an off-menu “secret” item.

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