The initial big bang of quality burgers that emerged in London years back spoiled us. But in the years following, the flow of quality newcomers has ebbed rather than flowed. As some of the big hitters dipped in quality with expansion, newcomers heralded as the second coming of beefy Jesus have been disappointing. But this year it feels like the tide might be changing, as some of the new additions to London seem to be proving. Zephyr are one of them.
Describing themselves as a 'California Kitchen', their message is very on point indeed: The name reminds us of a tune from L.A. band Red Hot Chili Peppers which was the soundtrack that defined the Summer of 2002 for a lot of pre-Millennials. The palm trees on their logo are very reminiscent of those that adorn the packaging from California burger legends In-N-Out. They also proudly embrace the 'farm to table' ethos that defines Southern California in particular. Their website proudly notes that the 'Beef, Bread and Salad' are sourced directly from the producers. We'd love to know if they can name the farm that provided the milk for the their 'American' cheese slices.
Much like Hollywood does, the Zephyr gang know that image is everything and this is a masterclass in the art of Instagram-friendly burger aesthetics: The burger is half wrapped so that it opens out like a meaty bouquet, exposing the charred patties and cheese, when you hold it. The sauce is placed on the inside edge of the bun so that it oozes out with a delicate squeeze. The thinly-sliced red onion and sliced red and green chilis peek out with flashes of colour, and the chives that are sprinkled on it contribute nothing to the flavour but everything to the fresh, vibrant look. It’s a filter-friendly rainbow of a sandwich.
For all the thinly-veiled cynicism the last two paragraphs have, none of it really matters because the cheeseburger is fucking delicious.
The Ginger Pig sourced meat has a super meaty depth, the aged fat included in the blend really works to add an unctuous note to the taste. Balls of meat are smashed to produce a great crust to the patties and are fried with mustard added, in the signature In-N-Out Animal Style way, to cut the savoury with an edge of sourness. Having made it many, many times ourselves, we'd swear blind the sauce is food legend Kenji's In-N-Out Spread recipe - it is perfectly sweet and piquant with an underlying mayo-y creaminess, arguably the greatest burger condiment ever produced (for challengers see: Big Mac Sauce). The red onions add crunch and sourness, the shredded lettuce adds a fresh bite, and the red and green chilis add more crunch with a very light dusting of heat at the end.
It is a perfectly balanced menage of flavours. The Double Double (a shameless name pull from In-N-Out) throws way more deep meatiness in to the mix. If you add some exceptional thick, almost Canadian-style smoked bacon to the mix you can get a great additional sweet smoky chew too.
Sure they've nicked a bunch of ideas from Californian burgers, from one amazing place in particular, but they are *brilliant* ideas which deserve to be nicked and come together to make one of the most creative yet familiar burgers we've had in London in a long time. We went twice in a week, it was that good. If we didn't have to watch our cholesterol we would continue to go twice a week too.
You can find Zephyr at Kerb and various other locations pretty regularly. Follow them on the ‘gram for sure and check them out.