To get the first half of the review out of the way immediately: Beer + Burger Store is an excellent beer store. They serve a wide range of beers I’d like to drink, from milkshake IPAs to kettle sours, to spontaneous fermentations; and a wide range I’m less interested in but appreciate the existence of.
Many of the bottles and tins are expensive, but my willingness to pay for novel beer is almost unlimited and my depth of experiences buying online tell me that this isn’t driven by B+B’s mark-up.
But this is a restaurant review website, and while the quality of drinks will often tilt the scale in one direction or another, the strength of my recommendation will always depend mostly on the strength of the food offering. After all, there is a hipster bottle shop, beer bar, or taproom in almost every neighbourhood now, and while this is one of the better ones in Dalston/Haggerston, my absolute favourite nearby would be Seven Seasons on Hoxton Street. If we’re talking pure beer.
Weirdly enough, I ate B+B’s burgers twice last weekend. We were sitting in Highbury Fields on Saturday afternoon and it came up on Deliveroo. Their Deliveroo was pretty good, but it didn’t feel fair reviewing them on the basis of food that had by necessity rested at least half an hour when I ate it. It just so happened that I was in Haggerston that Sunday as well, and I thought why not go back and see what the real version is like.
The short answer is that their burgers are decent, but that decent burgers are par for the course in London now. Back in 2014 I could list every single good burger that London offered; London burgers were so scarce that we queued an hour for the opening of Shake Shack. Now people have learned how to make burgers good, and, presuming there is no Bleecker Burger nearby, there are at least ten places I’d be happy to walk into almost any day.
Beer + Burger Store make smashed burgers, like Shake Shack, but with far more commitment to the concept. Their bizarrely undersold ‘double cheeseburger’ is actually a triple: three smashed down, darkly caramelised, and crisped up patties, thicker than you’d expect, and slathered in American cheese, with a huge number of pickles.
The pickles are a highlight: clearly homemade, particularly excellent, and generously portioned – you get something like 20 little slices. The buns are also a highlight: incredibly soft, chewy, and yielding, and able to take any amount of grease and sauce thrown at them, unlike the fluffy brioche you are often given, which gives up without the slightest fight.
The patties should be another highlight: I love the way they are cooked on the outside, and the surprising heft means you occasionally see a tantalising glimpse of pink or purple. But the beef ends up tasting bland and grey – I think this is due both to significant underseasoning and excessively lean meat going into the mince.
The best burgers require nothing but cheese, onions, and maybe pickles, and all of these merely highlight the beefiness that should be the focus of the dish. Here I found myself adding ketchup to get myself through.
Some of the other options were stronger. The chicken burger was one of the best I’ve had: clearly brined to the proper juicy texture, with soft chewy bun perfectly complimenting the bone dry crunchy batter. I have the greatest admiration for how they offer dipping gravy – how much better it is than ketchup or mayo for chips, or even for your burger itself.
In some ways this is an unfairly negative review. In 2013 Beer + Burger Store would probably have ranked among my favourite burger joints in London. I probably would have featured it on lists of London’s best burgers, and regularly sent my friends there to sample its wares. But it’s the current year, and in the current year the quality of burgers in London is so high as to make B+B just another decent burger joint.