The Frenchie, London

been so swamped with life and its many happenings (may or may not have involved 51% play 49% work :P)  in general that i haven’t managed to find much time to write about all the exciting foodie adventures i’ve been on (huge backlog that i will endeavour to clear over christmas break!!!). but i had the pleasure of savouring something that excited me so much on tuesday night that i decided i had to write about it. pronto.

i hereby present to you *drumroll please*… the glorious FRENCHIE in all its glory.
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duck confit in a brioche bun with crispy duck skin scratchings, red onion chutney, mustard, rocket, blue cheese & truffle honey – £6

made the trek to southbank christmas market on a cold rainy night just to have this and i believe it was worth every single step there (along with many other happy patrons who stood in the queue with glistening eyes and later proceeded to stand around the stall mmm-ing and aah-ing as we stuffed our faces in delight). thank goodness it lived up to its hype or i would have been sorely disappointed… i think it has officially made it onto my list of the top 5 ways to spend £6 in london 😉 #heavenisaplaceonearth…

the burgers are made to order and you get to watch hungrily as a mound of duck confit sizzles on a hot plate along with your choice of cheese (blue cheese or goat cheese with truffle honey, raclette or cheddar). the wonderfully fluffy and soft brioche is heated up on the hot plate alongside the duck, and later slathered generously with delicious red onion chutney and mustard before sandwiching the amazingness that is a mini mountain of duck/cheese/scratchings/truffle honey.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the duck was soft, tender, flavourful, well-cooked, and made even better by the occasional crispy edge. topped with melty blue cheese, truffle honey and mayo which provided a real kick, there was an explosion of flavours and textures (from the rocket and scratchings) with each mouthful. oh yessssss the scratchings are surely worth mentioning by themselves… melt-in-your-mouth fatty goodness get in ma belly #YAS. they also added a super nice crunch and were the perfect contrast to the pillowy brioche and soft tender duck. taste-wise, the savouriness of the mustard and cheese were the perfect complement to the sweet honey and red onion chutney. i could go on and on raving about this burger (which i place high up in the esteemed ranks with patty & bun as the closest contender for the title of my all-time favourite burger in london!!!) but i shall stop now and simply urge you to please go try it for yourself!!! (besides being at the southbank for the christmas market, they are also sometimes at brick lane, broadway market and camden lock.)

we also had a serving of duck fat chips with truffle mayo to share. artery-clogging and oh-so-sinful, but very good stuff. i would have preferred them to be a tad crispier on the edges (they were pretty much unabashedly oil-drenched), but they were otherwise very tasty (wouldn’t have expected anything less) and the truffle mayo was fragrant and light, the perfect accompaniment to them chips.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAduck fat chips with truffle mayo – £2.50

i was so satisfied that i was all ready to head home after that 1 burger (which i refused to share with anyone; thankful for friends who understand my need to have my own serving of certain delectably divine foods… heh), but because the southbank christmas market this year is officially a food heaven, we could not resist getting a few (or more) other things to share. other things on the agenda included:
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pulled pork mac n’ cheese toastie (!!!) from grill my cheeseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
quintessential christmas market food – dutch pancakes with maple syrup (because nutella is too mainstream :P) and strawbz
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super yummy smoked polish sausage from the polish deli

NB: copious amounts of hot chocolate and mulled wine/cider not pictured…

the southbank christmas market has seriously upped its game this year and is definitely worth a visit! i loved every bit of it – compared to the glitzy and commercialised winter wonderland, the southbank market is distinctly different – all cosy and warm like you’re in your neighbour’s backyard enjoying some good good warm food in the cold and under magical fairylights ❤OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Honest Burgers, London

and the search for london’s best burgers continues, this time with my visit to honest burgers in soho to give their much-raved about burgers a try. arrived around 630pm on a thursday night to get my burger fix, just in time to snag one of two outdoor tables to have our meal at. we were told that we would have to wait for about half an hour to get a table inside, so our protesting empty stomachs got the better of us and made us opt for the alfresco dining (in winter?!) option. it was nice anyway, because honest burgers is located in a cosy shop along a short residential side street that hardly sees any cars going down it.

the menu at honest burgers is simple; they have on offer a chicken burger, 3 types of beef burgers (each with more toppings than the one before), a vegetarian option, and a special that changes quite often from what i can see on their facebook page:
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thank goodness for the menu’s simplicity, because i would probably have been super indecisive and taken ten times the time i took to decide what to order if it was any more extensive. it was hard enough deciding between the honest and the special, but i eventually settled on the honest since i decided i had to try the house special before moving on to other things that might have too many distractions from the basic burger!

service was rather slow but we (kindly?) attributed it to the crowd, and the fact that we were seated outside so it was more difficult to get their attention. luckily we got our food when we did, because we were starting to feel the effects of sitting outside ie our hands were getting cold and we needed to get them busy stuffing our faces with food!20140206_190052
honest burger: beef, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber & lettuce – £9.50 (comes with a side of rosemary fries)

we were pleasantly surprised and very pleased that all the burgers (at the prices stated on the menu) come with a side of fries! because i was nursing a bad throat that day, i requested for the beetroot and apple coleslaw instead, a request that they very gladly acceded to. extra points for that! 20140206_190351
picture of topless burger so you can see the red onion relish!

the burger was decently-sized, and they were generous with their portions of sides. i’ll start with the beef patty – it was meaty, chunky, very tasty and cooked to moist and juicy pink perfection. all their meat is supplied from the ginger pig, none of that processed patty meat here; this was some high quality meat and you could definitely taste it! what made it even better was the generous amount of cheddar melted on the top – mmmmmmm… my only qualm was that i felt the beef patty could have been a tad bigger. the smoked bacon was delicious and very tasty, but it wasn’t fried till it was crispy so if you’re a fan of crispy bacon, you’d probably be a little disappointed. veggies at the bottom of the burger were fresh, and i liked the addition of large chunky pickle slices. the red onion relish was also a lovely addition, adding sweetness and moistness to a burger that might otherwise have bordered dangerously on being dry due to the lack of sauce.

i was disappointed by the burger bun, though. it was rather dry and i was hoping for something more glazed and brioche-like. maybe that’s not what they were intending to go for though? at least it was served freshly toasted so it was nice and warm.

think you can tell that the bun was rather dry from this pic:20140206_190640

it was otherwise a very satisfying burger. was generally quite a clean eat (ie no sauce dribbling unglamorously down our forearms) and not heavy because of its focus on simple but high quality ingredients.

moving on to the sides, the rosemary chips were quite possibly some of the best chips i have had. they are a must-have!!! i was having a sore throat, but i simply could not resist having more after having one chip. the rosemary flavour is strong but not overpowering, and my friend and i felt that the chips were of just the right size and thickness. they were crispy on the outside but thick enough to have a nice soft potato-ey bite hidden within that crispiness. finger-lickin’ good! they also weren’t too oily, which always makes the chips-eating experience more guilt-free (deceivingly so!!!). we happily lapped up every single chip that the burger was accompanied by.

as for the beetroot and apple coleslaw, it was a very refreshing change from the burgers and chips; a great option if you’re looking for something healthier! it was light, fresh and tasty. general taste was like normal coleslaw though i thought it was definitely less tart than coleslaw can sometimes be when made with raw cabbage. it also had less of a thick mayonnaise-y kind of consistency and a lovely sweetness that came from the apple and beetroot combination.

additional sides can be ordered at £2.50 per serving.

honest burgers conquered:20140206_194106

honestly (pun completely intended 😉 ), i still prefer the burgers at patty & bun, though i also must say that they’re just different types of burgers. the honest burger is more of a classic burger with very good traditional toppings while the patty & bun burgers have more interesting recipes with exciting sauces and combinations. so it really depends on what kind of burger you’re looking for… honest is probably worth going to for their amazing rosemary chips, but patty & bun has their amazing wings too! i definitely feel that the patty & bun burger bun is better though!

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Honest Burgers

4A Meard St, Soho
London W1F 0EF

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Patty & Bun, London

i think my quest to find my favourite burger in london may very well have ended with my visit to patty & bun two weeks ago. the only thing holding me back from using “the best” instead of “my favourite” is my acknowledgement of the fact that not everybody likes their burgers the same way and so what i think is the best may not be the best at all in someone else’s opinion!

this place is so popular and so consistently has a queue that there is a location tag for “the patty & bun queue” on instagram – is that not hilarious? hahaha i thought that was highly amusing/intriguing! headed there for lunch on a friday and we waited about 20-25 minutes to get in, which was shorter than i expected.20131031_125033
happy despite the queue

it felt shorter than it actually was too, since we spent a good portion of it staring at the menu and trying to pick something to order; everything sounded amazing!!!20131031_124231
the menu

very conveniently located off oxford street, patty & bun occupies a small, cosy and simply-decorated shop that i thought gave off a very casual/chill/relaxed vibe, just like a burger joint should! don’t expect anything fancy; its quite a no-frills place that is really all about the food on the tables.20131031_131205our one qualm was that the tables were pretty close to each other and the music and chatter were rather loud, making it quite hard to carry on a conversation without having to raise our voices or strain our ears. but this didn’t seem to matter much once the food came and we we were all too busy stuffing our faces to speak much 😛

it being my first time there, i decided to start from the basics and opted for the “ari gold” cheeseburger. without a doubt, one of the best cheeseburgers i have ever had.
just look at that –20131031_134305
~DROOLS~

20131031_133951the burger was big, amazingly tasty and seriously dripping with juice. i loved the sweet brioche bun which was perfectly toasted, and what it held within was even better!!! the beef patty was cooked to absolute perfection – wonderfully juicy and naturally sweet, and all the flavours from the cheese, onion, special mayo etc came together to give this HUGELY satisfying burger (one of the best i’ve had in a while) that sent me straight to food heaven. i forgot all about the wait to get in + for the food once i sunk my teeth into this seriously good stuff…

we also ordered some sides to share, a serving each of their chicken wings and rosemary chips:
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i quite liked the chips, though i wouldn’t really rave about them as much as i raved about the burger above/will be raving about the wings below. i liked their thickness – not too thin and not too thick, and they were well-salted with a hint of rosemary which was a nice touch! they were really good with the ketchup/mustard/mayo/hot sauce (Y)

20131031_134003as for the wings, i have never had chicken wings like these before! they were drenched in a thick and sticky barbecue sauce which actually reminded me a bit of an asian-style dish (maybe it was the spring onions?). the sweet sauce was yummy, but it was the way the chicken was cooked that really impressed us all – the meat literally fell off the bone and was cooked to perfection! it was moist, sweet and wonderfully tender. finger lickin’ good stuff! 😉 definitely a must-try side if you’re at patty & bun, in my opinion.

BEFORE:
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AFTER:20131031_140123

they have choc ices available for dessert but we were unfortunately too stuffed to have any 😦 i will DEFINITELY be heading back to patty & bun soon for a burger fix. the thought of sinking my teeth into that amazingly moist and juicy burger again has never been far from my mind; i guess you could say it was love at first bite 😛 worth the queue in my opinion, and definitely in the running for best burger in london!

Patty & Bun

54 James Street
London W1U 1HE

PS. i MUCH (much much) prefer the burger here to what shake shack (see review here) offers – to me, it makes for a MUCH juicier and tastier (and hence more satisfying) meal. one of my friends felt that what we had here was rather heavy however, so if you prefer something more plain/light then this might not be for you. given the price and serving size however, i don’t think you can go far wrong with giving patty & bun a try! seriously good stuff.

Shake Shack, London

shake shack has finally made it across the pond! the once elusive only-in-US burger joint has made its highly anticipated appearance in the middle of london’s happening covent garden. it opened sometime over summer and having heard so much about their burgers for so long, it was one of the first few places i checked out upon my return to school (hello year 2!!!).

we had our burger fix on a rainy thursday afternoon and were pleased to find that there was no snaking queue in sight at all! we attributed our luck with the lack of fellow burger-hunters (some of my friends who have been have had to queue) to the wet weather plus the fact that we were there close to 2pm when the lunch crowd had thinned out. there were only about 5 people ahead of us in the queue, and given the number of people taking orders and working in the kitchen, it moved very swiftly:
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the system they have going at shake shack is that you queue to place your order, then proceed to the seating area where you queue again to be seated. you will only be allowed to take a seat if you have the buzzer they give you after ordering, so you can’t go with a bunch of friends and have someone reserve a table while the rest go and order. i think this makes for a pretty efficient system that helps them make the most of the tables they have. it didn’t take long for our buzzer to vibrate and our food to be ready for collection, yay!20131003_135322 shack burger: cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and shacksauce – £5

more of the famed shack burger in all its half-eaten glory:20131003_135522i was actually a little disappointed by the burger! but maybe it was because i went with extremely high expectations given how much i had heard about it from people who had tried the burgers in US. it wasn’t bad at all; it was certainly above average, but just not a case of love at first bite for me hahaha. as a very typically american-style burger, it was compact and relatively small (big eaters should opt for the double option).

the burger bun was soft, warm and tasty, while the lettuce and tomato were fresh (as you can see from the pic; i hate it when veggie that has started browning is put in a burger!). as for the burger patty, it was juicy (but i wish it was even more juicy – the juice-dripping-down-my-hands kind of juicy) and everything together tasted very yummy although i would also have preferred the cheese to be a little more melty! given its price though, i really shouldn’t be complaining AT ALL – we all thought it was good stuff for the £5 we paid 🙂

one of my friends who is a vegetarian opted for the ‘shroom burger:
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‘shroom burger: crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce – £5.25

it looked REALLY good (just look at that cheese oozing out!!!) and my friend could not stop raving about the mushroom and cheese combi, so this is definitely what i am going to get the next time i visit shake shack! YUM.

i must also mention the fries – we ordered 3 portions of fries to share among the 5 of us, 2 plain and 1 with cheese!
20131003_135238we were originally rather skeptical about the fries because we saw when peering into the open kitchen while queuing that they were frozen and not freshly made! we later discovered that our worries were unfounded though, because they were goooood fries. we could tell that they were fried with fresh oil and they weren’t overly greasy at all; it almost made me feel guilt-free while eating them. remotely healthy-tasting but still very yummy fries… strange huh!

we also ordered dessert to share because we thought what they call “concretes” sounded too good to resist:
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union shack concrete: double – £6.50

this was like a dense frozen custard ice cream blended with a bunch of mix-ins. we got the union shack, which was made up of chocolate custard, st john bakery chocolate hazelnut brownies, fudge sauce, paul. a. young chocolate chunks and sea salt. i actually think it sounded better than it tasted, because it sounds amazingly amazing, doesn’t it? and it just tasted… not bad, pretty good! hahaha. i thought there was nothing fantastic about the ice cream itself – it was smooth and creamy, but nothing exceptionally extraordinary. the mix-ins were yummy though! especially the hazelnut brownie, despite the fact that it was very sweet. i’d probably have been more satisfied with gelupo gelato or something, though.

it was definitely a much-needed visit to a much-raved about place, and despite the fact that it fell below my expectations, i wouldn’t mind going back if i’m in the area and looking for a cheap (by london standards) and satisfying meal.

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Shake Shack

24, Market Building, The Piazza Covent Garden
London WC2E 8RD