If anyone had told us they were opening up a burger place within 200 feet of MEATLiquor, we would have called them fucking mental.
Sod the preamble, we’ll put it out there right now:
we can’t stop thinking about Tommi’s Burger Joint.
Ever since the papered-up facade appeared a month or so ago, we’d been asking ourselves:
- ‘What? They have burgers in Iceland? What the fuck does Iceland know about burgers? Are they made from puffins? Will they be cooked and served by their infamously attractive women’
Rob’s been to Bæjarins Beztu and sampled the infamous hot dogs (but alas, not the infamous attractive woman), but didn’t even know there was a burger place…
Sorry, we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar has been going in Iceland for just under a decade, has five locations in and around Reykjavík, and is by all accounts chuffing popular there. It fucking must be, as it’s even outlasted omnipresent burger-bully McDonald’s, who pulled out in 2009 after Iceland’s economy plunged like Del Boy through an open bar flap. And their expansion into London town would suggest they are doing pretty well with it.
The interior of Tommi’s channels the spirit of many Reykjavík bars and cafes to a tee: a kind of mismatched rustic homely feel with sporadic pop culture references dotted about the place, but without any over-designed London try-hardiness.
It’s cool. It’s also small, and is designed for eating quickly and getting the Eyjaffjalljokull out of there. We ordered a cheeseburger and Steak burger with cheese intending to do just that, with a few pots of Béarnaise on the side.
Unwrapping the burgers revealed a glossy, creased bun, which looked almost exactly like a Martin’s potato roll. I mean, it’s been a while since we last held on, but it’s uncanny. Too good to be true, surely. We bite. We look at each other. Smiles. Lots of gormless smiles.
The buns from Miller’s Bakery1 do not disappoint (why anyone gets their buns from anywhere else is beyond us). It’s as close to a Martin’s roll without being one: It squishes and compacts easily into a thin layer without losing any integrity, holding everything is with composite ease. It’s soft to bite through, and has an almost silky texture against the contents.
Everything else compliments. The patty is thick, charred perfectly on only the very outside, searing the juices into a fully pink middle, with any dribbles foolhardy enough to attempt to escape soaked into the all-too-willing-to-accommodate bottom bun. The iceberg lettuce adds some crunch, laden though it is with a signature cocktail sauce, throwing in a sweetness with lemony zing, and interfused with the tart kick of what tastes like English mustard. It’s a great, moist, saucy, meaty bite. It’s awesome.
The steak burger is what it is, it’s got cuts of proper steak in and you can taste the quality of meat, and dunking in the béarnaise sauce you can get with it is pretty satisying. But for a more classic burger experience, and one that’s practically half the price, the cheeseburger nails it. The fries are simple, steering clear of the organic-from-down-the-road triple cooked route, McCain Juliennes being fried up until super crisp, a solid enough accompaniment.
If anyone had told us they were opening up a burger place within 200 feet of MEATLiquor, we would have called them fucking mental. Well, you can count this straight-from-Iceland crew as maniacs. Competent, well-trained, awesome maniacs - they are spot on and have clearly been doing what they do for a while.
But the experience is not really comparable to MEATLiquor: There’s no booze, there no toilet so don’t got there needing a slash, and it’s not opening particularly late. It’s quick chirpy diner style eating done right. Saying that though, the temptation to rock in here and grab a cheeseburger to eat as a starter in the ML queue will be overwhelming, and will probably happen. We will do it for sure. We may even smuggle one in for a direct comparison.
There are two other crucial differences with Tommi’s. First up is the fast food franchise style bundling. You can get a burger, fries and can of pop for eight bob. The saving may well be in the pence, but it slickens the ordering process a tad. Secondly is pricing. The steakburger is firmly in the now Londonised standard of eight-pounds-something. The plain cheeseburger however is just a few notches over a fiver, easily making it London’s best sit down “budget” cheeseburger (excluding our street food friends, of course).
That’s more like it.
Literally, writing this has us wanting to go back. Go there, right now.
- Rob & Simon.
- Sorry if this is some kind of secret, you guys. Everyone else, it’s a commercial bakery that supplies all the London restaurants you would care about. ↩