Surely everyone vaguely interested in food has become bored with hearing the story of Yanni ‘Meatwagon’ Papoutsis and his rise, fall and second coming? If you're not or have been living in a culinary hole for the last three years, have a read up on it somewhere else. In short; Man researches burger, Man creates burger, Man sells burger, all pronounce it good.
Yanni seems to have settled down now, other than occasional forays to appropriate festivals and food fairs, and I really can't complain, as he's settled just round the corner from my house…
There's something almost noble about the life of a legendary travelling meat slinger and setting up a residency at The Rye, a refurbished refurbishment on the edges of Peckham was either a genius redefinition or as self serving and money-grabbing as Celine Dion's residency in Vegas.
It's certainly an improvement on the two hour queues in edgy carparks and pubs that I've experienced before to get Yanni's good stuff, but on the last couple of Sunday lunchtimes visited at least, the steady supply of on of the finest meat based snacks known to man has slowly turned its host pub into a creche. The dodgy as hell history of great, cult burgerdom, has been subsumed into some sort of family friendly post pool party treat for the weekend folks of Dulwich willing to speed ("not in that way darling, I haven't touched the stuff since before Imogen was conceived") over the Rye for it.
The menu is extensive, if you like burgers. There are 6 or so styles with rotating specials. The base of them all is a medium rare patty of 28 day aged chuck steak and a soft, yielding sourdough bun that soaks the juices while keeping shape till the last sticky bite. Toppings include the Dirty Hippy, a pair of mustard fried patties with a processed cheese slice broiled into the meat, the Green Chili burger, a tongue stinging tribute to New Mexico's Bobcat Burger, allegedly one of the finest on the planet, and a self explanatory bacon cheeseburger. Recent specials include a mushroom swiss that took me back to childhood and a dirty plate of chili cheese covered fries, oozing amber juice over the utilitarian tin plates. There isn't any sense of accomplished presentation, but you'll find it difficult to care as the main event, the burgers, have maintained their standards well in the transition from outdoor wagon to pub kitchen. A touch of chopped iceberg gives crunch, the rest is a delicious mingling of flavours and soft texture, a meaty taste explosion.
The only problem I have with the food here is the sides. They've not improved from the early days, despite the static kitchen. Over cooked and over greased in the case of the chips and onion rings and over salted in the case of the last coleslaw I tried. It's not the end of the world though, you can manage two burgers instead. It's probably much better for you.
Does the fact that you're now slamming it down surrounded by rug rats rather than New Cross hipsters take away from the experience? Somewhat, I have to say. It's beyond middle class hell when you can't even hear Minnie Ripperton over the scream and the gurgle of little Ollie and Arthur let alone the shout of your order. Weekday nights have to be the way forward, I don't think I can cope with a Sunday like that without getting fighty…
So will I come again? Of course, the burger is still worth a trip, if not across town, then certainly from the neighbouring postcode. And if you have kids, you need feel no shame here, they'll be welcome, with their mewling and puking, while you can sample the burger you couldn't get the buggy through the crowds to before.