Sometimes in the pursuit of the new, you can let the tried and tested fall between the patty-encrusted cracks of your culinary want list. We have to admit that this, combined with a mostly South London-centric placing post Red Market, is why we haven't visited Burger Bear since we first wrote about him all that time ago. All three Hobbit films have been released in that stretch. That is depressing, on several levels.
Since then many have followed the Bear and a crazy successful Kickstarter campaign (something of a game changer for street market food stalls) is leading to the opening of a shipping-container-party-lair around Shoreditch at some point. But it's taking its sweet fucking time in becoming a reality. So we wait, the Kickstarter vouchers pinned to the fridge cruelly taunting us as we remove the quinoa and pomegranate salad for our January tea, still buzzing from drinking too much Bulletproof Coffee™.
However, in this protracted waiting the brazen growler has only gone and opened up on Stoke Newington High Street: A long, cavernous room is simply tunnelled by bare brick walls and white ceilings and populated by an enormous beer garden-style wooden booth on one side and what look like ageing school examination tables with cushioned beer barrels for stools on the other. The red-light districted kitchen and bar lurks ominously at the end. Basically, you can tick the 'Trendy East London decor' box.
The issues we addressed all those months ago have been rectified to a large degree. The patty in the Grizzly Bear was bang on, the quality meat had a great char, meritorious seasoning, and a nice tidy line of pink through the middle. The two slices of not entirely melted American that topped it were the sticky gooey sort we have a deep affection for and the crossbones of crisp streaky bacon were cooked exceptionally holding a super crunch and saltiness. A very engaging trifecta.
The attractive dark glossy brûlée looking top of a much-improved-upon brioche bun does that pleasing thing where it creases under pressure but doesn't break, and the inside is super airy and soft yet handles the hefty contents. The lettuce, thin red onion and classic condiments do the job required, whilst the bacon jam adds a subtle hint of deep sweetness.
It is a Really Nice Burger.
The novelty of being able to have Bear sides as well meant chilli cheese fries and hot wings came along too, both of which were delightfully enormous portions for the money. The chilli was thick, abundant and had that home cooked sensibility to it, which the spattering of thinly grated cheese encouraged reminders of, with an enjoyably solid kick. And the fries were cooked bang on and crispy.
The wings could have done with a full on tossing in the exemplary spicy Orange Buffalo sauce instead of being subjected to a light drizzling. Some could have had a crispier skin, and they could have jointed the fuckers to avoid the awkward hand-wringing ceremony of lobbing them apart without sacrificing one's new January sales jumper. But for the amount you get for your quids, we'll douse our cut-price clobber with flying sauce residue and let them have a meeting with the Vanish later on.
'Stokey' is one of the few places in the North that suffers from the more common South London issue of being a transport black spot. You can snarl bus routes at us all fucking day, but it is a genuine ball ache to get to for anyone except people who live there. From the tree-lined paradise of Walthamstow barely three miles away, you can get to Victoria quicker.
Saying that, the journey to Middle Earth is certainly worth it for a burger that is getting up there with other London sandwiches that we have heaped praise upon.
Roll on Shoreditch, we can barely contain ourselves.