Sometimes you want something a little dirty. You throw caution (and the health department’s sanitation ratings) to the wind and hunker down for something a little grimy, a little unsettling, to make you feel like you’re living on the edge. Who needs base-jumping when you can have some yellowtail sashimi at the airport in Belgrade?
This particularly applies when it comes to burgers. The hamburger should be a simple, visceral, messy affair. In its most austere form it needs little more than a generous schmear of yellow mustard for zing and a couple of slices of onions, or bread and butter pickles, for crunch. In simplicity doth it fill and satisfy.
But some ignore my frank stipulations. With the incessant need to create viral content to attract customers, burger joints are turning to swanky interiors and decadent excess in an attempt to garner attention. Burgers are no longer mere canvas for chefs to showcase their talent for handling meat as well as their creativity. They have evolved into a culinary pissing contest, necessitating caviar, foie gras, and truffle aioli to even compete.
London is acutely afflicted by this surfeit syndrome. In a sea of OTT patties with gold leaf buns, and followed bills that cost more than your rent – the wagyu hockey puck from Honky Tonk would’ve bled you dry at £1,100 in 2014 – Patty & Bun stands alone. While its rough and tumble interiors at the new Old Compton Street outpost are the result of intelligent interior design rather than organic decay, it manages not to feel contrived.
Wainscoting, rustic brick and long farmhouse-style tables lend the space the feeling of a chic country cottage, though it’s more Soho Farmhouse than crumbling barn. Twee vintage cash register aside, the 55-seat restaurant has enough grit to make you feel like you just might be in the know, but it won’t send you running for a tetanus shot either. Like Johnny Cash, they walk the line.
90s hip hop thumps out of the speakers with a steady, sexy beat, making it nearly impossible to keep from shaking your ass on the slatted wood benches. A steady stream of tune after tune will ensure that the little bar downstairs (with its very own late license Thursday to Saturday) will be a successful entity in its own right. And if the music is good, the burgers are better.
Don’t be put off by the cutesy names. This is not a ploy to pull the wool over your eyes with lackluster sandwiches masquerading as true burger heavyweights. Instead, the puns peppered throughout the menu merely serve to draw your attention to what’s really important. No matter which burger wins your vote, they all really excel in their preparation. Structural integrity in a sandwich is key, and these are built to stand up to their hefty toppings. The meat is handled delicately to achieve a tender patty, faintly rosy in the middle and oozing fat which slithers down your wrist when you take the first bite.
The ‘Ari Gold’ provides the essentials of an excellent cheeseburger. The addition of Patty & Bun’s signature smoky mayonnaise adds depth and a bit of moisture, whilst the pickled onions keep things bright. The ‘Jose Jose’ Chilli Burger is saucy and savoury and everything you want from a glorified chili cheeseburger. Its aged beef patty is the perfect vehicle to shuttle a rich and meaty chilli from plate to mouth, and the slick of cheddar helps hold everything together, if just barely. P&B’s ‘Lambshank Redemption’ is the only odd man out in seeming a bit try-hard, coupling pickled aubergines with courgette fritters and adding feta cheese and cumin aioli for good measure. But while this union seems about as ill-conceived as Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman’s, it also seems to work (if only as a novelty).
If you get anxious in anticipation, the Roast Chicken Skin with maple, Za’atar and hot sauce is salty and crunchy but will leave enough room for a burger or two. The Thunder Thighs are delightfully slippery with a smooth kick. Nothing too hot, but enough to coax little beads of sweat from your temples.
To make your burger comfortable – you know, just so it doesn’t feel naked on its own – opt for a side of chips with chicken skin salt and roast chicken mayo. They’re neither too thick nor too thin and are powerful enough to stand alongside any of the burgers. An extra order of coleslaw is welcome if you need to temper the heat of the thighs.
Patty & Bun’s burgers are what you hope every Bumble match might be: straightforward with a little oomph. The restaurant is buzzy and a bit grubby in the best possible way. So slip away from all of the chichi Soho spots and duck inside P&B. Because here you can really patty and bullshit, to make Biggie proud.
Monday–Thursday 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Friday-Saturday 11:30am to 12:30am
Sunday 12:00pm to 10:00pm