Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
The talk of Cardiff recently was the merits of another burger joint, this time Bryon’s, coming to the city centre. Opinion seemed to be divided between “Oh God, not another burger bar” and “Praise the Lord, another burger bar” whereas Jay Raynor probably had himself a smug little chuckle about all the fuss.
If I am honest, I am pretty ambivalent on the subject. Don’t mind another burger joint if it sells a quality, good value, burger. I can’t say Byron’s sets the pulse racing either way, but surely it can’t be as wallet shreddingly awful as Five Guys or Shake Down (oops – Keynesian slip – mean Shake Shack).
Perhaps we could have a one in one out policy – in which case I nominate Shake Shack (consistently empty every time I walk past it, presumably as mortgages are hard to come by when your security is a miniscule burger) to be put out of its misery.
Anyhow this bring me to what this post relates to – yep you’ve guessed it a bleeding burger (love them bloody me). Not in Cardiff but in London, which is perhaps better able to absorb a myriad of burger joints (what is the collective noun for burger bars – a “mince” perhaps or, going with a beef analogy, “a “charge” or, all too often it seems, “an overcharge”?) than a markedly smaller market like Cardiff’s.
A rather arduous pitch presentation in London left me and a collegue somewhat drained and in need of sustainance.
I took this as an opportunity to continue my exploration of the London burger scene and suggested Mac & Wild in Fitzrovia.
This place specialises in game and whisky from bonny Scotland (hence my usual contrived blog post title), with not a deep fried mars bar in sight to trump Cardiff’s chocolate orange and lettuce baguette.
On the burger front it offers up the winner of many an accolade, including the “UK’s Best Burger 2016” (hotly disputed no doubt by many), in the form of the veni-moo. This is a burger of which Giles Coren, a critic who is not known for being liberal with his plaudits, said “There is nothing in the world I would rather have after five whiskies. Except sex with a stripper”. There was me thinking I occasional go off pisté with my comments.
Inside it is rather nice, with the game “shootin un fishin” theme to the fore. Handle on the door is rather alarmingly in the shape of a shot gun and clays (as in clay pigeons) feature on the tables.
My only qualms with the inside were, firstly, it was a tad dark in the downstairs bit (where we ate) so photos are a bit rubbish (nothing unusual there I know, but as least I have an excuse this time) and, secondly, the tables are really “I’ll have to sit on your lap to get out” close together. I usually don’t mind this (as long as they aren’t ridiculuously close) as I can then have a good nose at food ordered by other tables, but here by doing so my nose would literally have been on the other table in their food.
I love the clear focus here on food provenance with details of sourcing down to who shot it (in terms of game on the main menu) and who butchered it, as well as full producer details.
Whilst sorely tempted, based on the wider offering on the menu, to have a full blown three course meal (the haggis pops and venison chateaubriand seriously appealed, as did the venison steak with chips which looks very good value at £13)
we were somewhat on the clock so a burger it was and on paper what a burger (ordered by both of us) the veni-moo (£10) sounded.
Two good (nicely yielding rather than compacted) patties, one venison, the other beef – with melted cheese, béarnaise sauce and caramelised onions (and some green stuff) all sitting in a brioche bun
To this I added (for an extra £2) candied bacon. I didn’t stipulate a preference as to the cooking of my burger and it was gratifying to see the top patty coming in the right side of medium rare. The bottom one was a bit more well done than I would have liked
Boy is this a rich burger, with the gameiness of the venison adding to the luscious béarnaise and a nice hit of umami from the beef. I rather like the idea of béarnaise in a burger (or in anything really – happily drink a trough of a good one), but it was a tad rich perhaps with the gooey melted cheese on two decent sized patties (worth a £10 rather than taking the “Shake Shack” on the value front). I could have lived without the cheese and my addition of candied bacon took it over the edge a little for me. Maybe not my best spend of £2 (God me moaning about the addition of bacon – what have I become).
Chips (£3.50) were rather nice – crisp on the outside, a nicely fluffy interior and generously seasoned. Great for mopping up béarnaise leakage. Nice to see a reasonable sized portion of these.
Great burger I have to say. It was satisfying in nearly every way (richness overload aside – at least partially my fault with the add on of candied bacon) and set me up nicely for a wee kip on the train back to Cardiff, but my advice is perhaps hold the candied bacon.
On the booze front the focus is on whisky with a superb selection on offer
and suggestions (on the main food menu) as to whisky pairings with dishes on offer ( an “Auchentoshan 3 wood” is recommended with the veni-moo for instance).
A paradise for whisky lover no doubt, but for me regrettably whisky and I had a serious disagreement in my youth from which I came off very much the worse for wear. I am a very sore loser and as a result I can’t drink the stuff for love or money.
I have been told by all and sundry that I am seriously missing out on something lovely (Mrs. SF is very partial to a good whisky), but my painful memory of my foolish, youthful dalliance with the stuff means my brain simply will not allow me to drink it with even a modicum of pleasure.
On the wine front they have a decent selection, with it nice to see a Mencia, an Aglianico and a Blaufrankish in the reds
and an interesting Croatian riesling in the whites.
With my veni-moo something fairly robust would be needed to cut through the richness. I would have probably gone for one of the Zinfandels on the list.
As it was a school night, we decided just a beer was the order of the day on the booze front.
The one I when for was a “special” on the day of our visit – a pleasant enough whistle wetter (if lacking in excitement) in the form of an Edinburgh Gold.
My fellow diner has a Clearwater from Brewgooder – again nice enough and refreshing but a bit lost against the robust flavours of the veni-moo (no hint of the advertised banana, according to my fellow diner, which to my mind was perhaps not such a bad thing).
For non drinker the selection is somewhat limited.
Personally I think only a Scottish person could conceivable have any love for Irn Bru.
A great burger is to be had at Mac & Wild. Better certainly, by some margin, than ones I have had in Cardiff but the best in London and the UK ? Hmmm not so sure about that. Beefy Boys’ fans, for instance , are legion and would no doubt hotly dispute the National award.
Price wise it is ok. We paid around £40. This was for two big “double hander” quality burgers (with candied bacon added to one), 2 lots of fries and a couple of beers. By no means cheap, but I didn’t think bad value for the quantity and quality of what we got.
On the booze front there is a decent wine list (which is far from pedestrian) and Mrs. SF would have a ball here with the superlative whisky selection.
I also rather like the look of the brunch menu, especially the bottomless Bloody Mary
and the rather lovely sounding “Candied bacon and bechamel toastie”.
Would I go back? Yes, for both the veni-moo and the chance to check out the wider menu. Excellent option for food, when up in the Big Smoke, this place
Address: 65 Great Tichfield St. London, W1W 7PS (branch I visited)
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus: 0.3 miles ; Great Portland Street: 0.4 mile.
They also now have a branch in the City (9A Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4YN with the nearest tube being Liverpool Street : 0.4 miles and Aldgate : 0.3 miles)
Tel: 020 7637 0510
Website: Click here
Book online is available