My mate Andy claims that nobody outside of American knows how to cook a decent burger. He is American, so maybe he has a point. Then again, in all my many, many visits to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, I have only ever had one truly outstanding, memorable meal. The same number as I’ve had in Copenhagen. And several fewer than in Bray. So maybe Americans just don’t know how to cook.
There is always a queue outside Meatliquour, so we decided to brave it and find out why. Well it’s not the location, stuck as it is in the bowels of a concrete monstrosity of a sixties car park (land cleared thanks to the Luftwaffe) next to a strip club. Nor the décor, which is Berlin Bunker chic circa Glasnost by way of Camden market. Nor the service, which is relaxed to the point of incompetency.
It is the burgers: say what you like about any other aspect of the operation (and believe me, I shall), the burgers are quite spectacularly good. Forget GBK or any of the other pretenders to the crown of Best Burger in Britain, these are hands down winners. Just the right size to be grabbed with both hands, the meat the absolutely spot on texture, the perfect pickle, the juices (meatliquor maybe?) flowing down your arm, onion rings the size of donuts. Yes, this is burger heaven. Set in hell.
Of course I realise that I am getting old, but is it too much to ask for sufficient light to read the menu by? Maybe put some torches on the table? We had just about enough natural light seeping through to read the no-nonsense menu, which has succinct descriptions like: “bacon cheeseburger: bacon, cheese, meat, bread” and “chilli burger: nuff said”.
There are many other affectations, such as a set of bizarre (amusing?) rules, pinned to the bar (which include “no wanking, no dickheads, no freeloading, no shirtlocking and no gerbils”, although “guinea pigs are welcome”). Then there are the bar staff who all shout out “liquor” when a round is ready to be served. There is no cutlery, no plates, kitchen rolls serve as napkins and there is no salt set at the table. Shades of Nico Ladenis at the height of his fame: like Nico, the chef knows that what comes out is perfectly seasoned.
The clientele too is a bizarre range, from oldies like us, through tourists seeking escape from the hordes battling the Oxford Street sales and families with young kids, who can’t seem to work out why they decided on this as the right place to bring young children. It is perfectly fine for them, so long as they don’t look too closely at the graphics on the walls, some of which are really quite graphic.
Drinks are some fine cocktails, beers and the odd bottle of wine. Not all of the cocktails really work mind you: the Full English Martini comes with a pickled quail’s egg dusted in powdered bacon. Yes, it is as silly as it sounds.
And then the service: again, I felt like shouting out “money” in mimicry of the bar staff considering how long it took to get the bill. This was nothing as to how long it took to get change; we sat there so long a parade of waitresses kept asking us if everything was ok, as we had no food or drinks left, yet refused to budge. A tip: proffer exact money only.
But as we left, had anyone in the long, long queue stopped to ask me if it was worth the wait, I should undoubtedly have said yes: forget everything other than the burgers. Enjoy them to the full, as you are unlikely ever to try a better one. Even in America.