In honour of the land of the free, home of the brave and the vast amount of Americans I’ve somehow managed to find myself hanging out with in London these days, I thought it was only right I checked out some American fare in time for 4th July. Where better to venture out to than the sort-of-under-the-radar-but-kind-of-infamous MEATLiquor?
A fairly new kid on the block, opening its doors earlier this year on Welbeck street, just tucked behind Oxford Street, MEATLiquor is well known for its no reservation policy and subsequently, the huge queues that can form in order to merely get a look in at this Southern style joint. Don’t even think you can grab a table or a drink at the bar whilst waiting; after letting about 20 people in front of me whilst waiting for my friend, I asked if I could wait inside for her to arrive. I was told that as soon as I stepped in, my friend would have to join the back of the queue instead of meeting me at the front of it. They’re missing out on some big bar bills there as the world waits for friends caught up at work.
One of the most comforting things about MEATLiquor is that it epitomises my American friends: it says and does exactly what it means with no apologies. Meat, and liquor. American meat: an array of burgers and the elusive (this side of the pond) chilli dog. No food could sound more American to me than the latter, except possibly yams, which will confuse me forever (are they sweet potatoes? But why do they also have different vegetables called sweet potatoes? We’ll leave it ‘til Thanksgiving to stress about it). For on Independence Day, burgers and hot dogs are the order of the day.
Now, we’ve all mulled over the important and difficult question of ‘what’s the best burger you’ve ever had?’ – and if you haven’t, make life a little less serious and ask the next friend or colleague you see. For a long time the best burger I’d ever had was when I was eight years old. My Dad was driving our family from Miami to Orlando on my first trip to the States. The drive was long and we were ravenous. The reward for our patience was a real American Burger King.
Then it was ‘The Works’ burger from the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien hotel in NYC, a brilliant postage stamp place that’s one of New York’s worst kept secrets with the walls scrawled with celebrities’ signatures. Appropriately greasy and messy, the Burger Joint is a must everytime I go to the Big Apple.
So far, as to be expected, the best burgers I’d ever had were in the States. Until October 2011, when burgers would never be the same again. The Ferg Burger. Many of you may never have herd of Ferg Burger, urban legend of backpackers, one shop only in small party town Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island. And I don’t care how many people I upset by my next statement, American or otherwise – the Ferg burger is undoubtedly the best burger I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. It’s a regular occurrence for a backpacker to have 2 or 3 a day. Open from 7am until 5am, it’s easy to do. And I literally bought the tshirt. But NZ is over 12000km away and a hefty plane fare. So could MEATLiquor be the best burger I’ve ever had in London?
Drumroll please. It was definitely one of the best. The Bacon Cheesburger was thick, the meat was beautiful, there was the right amount of cheese and instead of your usual rasher of fatty bacon, they had created some sort of bacon patty full of flavour that sat beneath the slightly sweet bun. I once read that brioche was the best bread to serve burgers in and the slight sweetness really does work. My friend had the Buffalo Chicken Burger with the house hot pepper sauce, and after a moan about how some places claim dishes are hot but really aren’t, was pleased to find that MEATLiquor kept to their word. The cheesy fries that accompanied our burgers was a necessary and appreciated nod to the British kebab van obsession but the part most worthy of a mention were the onion rings. Best onion ring either of us had ever had. Huge, perfectly crispy and still had a decent chunk of onion in it rather than one of those rubbish ones that turns out to be all batter. I’m salivating just recalling them.
I can confirm that the place does a decent mojito and margarita too, which are two of my vices in life. Cocktails served in jam jars come with names such as ‘pop my cherry’ and ‘two girls, one summer cup’. The wine list is brilliantly honest and worth taking time to peruse other than for the obvious reasons, laced with great descriptions such as ‘it’s also a cracking wine for just necking and giving you red teeth’ (a snap of the wine list can be found over at twitter).
And you won’t be financially ruined either, with a regular burger just £6.50 and getting no more expensive than £7.50; sides at roughly £3 each. Winner. We couldn’t finish it all, and that is the only bad thing I can say about the meal. We were defeated, and surprised by this. We don’t usually have this sort of problem. How I wished that MEATLiquor would go whole hog Americana and offer you a doggy bag. I’m sure they’d accommodate, but I’m classically British and get embarrassed asking for one without confirmation of some sort that I won’t be full on judged for my gutsiness.
I’m not sure it’s worth waiting in line for an hour and a half for (as some rumours have described), but if you can pick a less busy time to go, you will get a decent cocktail, a brilliant burger and even better onion rings in a cool environment that is somewhere a bit different to everywhere else. You also won’t get hurried out, which is rare in any restaurant nowadays, let alone one with a massive queue outside the door.
MEATLiquor, kudos, as you Americans say. I will be back.