Review: Four Legs @ The Compton Arms, Islington

5 mins read

I used to live right by the Compton Arms, but in 33 months I never once went there. And yet, in the three weeks since I moved flat, I’ve been there four times.

One reason is that the once-crusty regulars pub has been taken over by hipster millennials, and revamped. In: morello cherry goses, revolving IPAs on tap, and a fridge of Belgian sours. Out: your reassuring range of standard pub lagers.

Apparently, this caused a revolt among the pub’s oldest and most loyal supporters – and Fosters has returned to the tap lineup – except now the edited custom Fosters label reads ‘Compromise’.

Another reason is that I had been told by several people that Four Legs, now in residence Tuesdays to Sundays, does one of if not the best burger in London. This is the sort of recommendation that I cannot overlook.

Clearly unsatisfied with the plaudits they’ve earned for their burgers, Four Legs have branched out pretty widely. We couldn’t resist eating a full dinner, starting with the quail.

The quail was piled ridiculously high with truffle shavings, and to our surprise came bone in. I’m not certain that truffle added to this hugely, but then again I am almost always happy to eat truffle, especially at these prices, and the pieces of bird were battered and fried with a great deal of competence. A very pleasant dish.

Next came their take on a Thai green papaya salad. For me, this one didn’t really work: it somehow tasted a bit bland. I think it needed some more fish sauce and some more lime, and perhaps a little bit of sugar.

The leeks were essentially perfect. They came heavy and silky soft, and served on a solid lake of ‘curds’ – not the squeaky squares we were expecting, but a substance more like a mix of creamy burrata and tangy greek yoghurt. And the whole lot was drizzled with grassy olive oil, sprinkled with black pepper, and served with bread.

In a London where good sourdough bread comes by and large as standard this still stood out as particularly moist and dense, like they had implausibly managed to cook it themselves in the tiny pub kitchen alongside everything else.

Ultimately this is all preamble. This restaurant, at least in its current incarnation, is going to live and die on the strength of its burger. So I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the burger is very good, definitely in the top 10 for London and potentially in the top 5.

They get all the important things right. No fancy sauces, no fancy toppings. The onions are chopped so they don’t make it difficult to eat (like the insane practice of serving whole rings). There is no lettuce or tomatoes and the cheese is good honest American non-cheese.

The bun, despite being a brioche, is soft and lightly chewy, and does not have any trouble maintaining coherence in the face of the burger’s juice, grease, and liquid cheese onslaught. The patty itself was roughly average in heft, charred well on the outside, and moist, partly because it was so consistently cheesed and sauced.

Best of all, it comes with essentially an entire layer of finely sliced pickles, and the pickles are clearly homemade: very sharp and piquant, and much sweeter than the overly healthy ones you get in McDonalds.

Basically this is a good burger, from people who agree with me on all the essential points of what makes a burger good. The only issue I have with it is that it was served fully cooked through. However I know that many councils won’t let them serve their burgers pink, so it’s entirely possible that this is somebody else’s fault, not theirs.

Even hampered by the nanny state, Four Legs serve a rather pleasant meal for not much money at all (we spent about £40 on food and about £20 on two rounds of pints). And above all, they are the first restaurant I’ve ever been to that serves nice normal food and a genuinely good burger at the same time. If you’re nearby, go check it out.

Rating: One medal.

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