BOBO Social, London

yet another new kid on the london burger block, and this time just a stone’s throw away from where i stay. i’m certainly not complaining! 😛 bobo social is a newly-opened burger joint in fitzrovia located in a cosy shop at the very end of charlotte street which prides itself on offering great burgers in a charming and civilised (i say civilised because your experience at bobo social will probably be far from the usual unglamorous juice-and-sauce-dripping-all-over-your-hands-and-running-down-your-wrists experience that many other burger joints offer) environment.

there has been quite a bit of hype surrounding it since it opened, so it was a natural choice for one of my first meals back. indeed, we knew it was popular but didn’t realise quite how popular it was until we heard they were often full and reservations needed to be made in advance. so we promptly called on thursday night to make a reservation for lunch on friday, but turns out we had moved too slowly because they were already full :O some #seriousbusiness going on here! nevertheless, intent on not letting anything get in the way of us and our burgers, we decided to go with the lunch deal advertised on their website, and took away our burgers to the park to enjoy them as we basked in the (last of) summer sunshine.

i arrived a little before 1pm to place the takeaway order, and was greeted by warm and smiling staff who were efficient and offered me a seat while i waited for the food to be prepared. the place was nearly full on the ground floor (they were expecting to be full by 1pm), and if i’m not wrong they have more seating in the basement.
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decor is simple but tasteful, and i noted how patrons who were dining in were served their burgers on an eclectic mix of intentionally-mismatched dining ware – the burgers sat neatly right in the centre of the pretty vintage plates, and tucking into the burgers with fork and knife was a very civilised and dainty affair.

didn’t take a picture of the menu i was handed, but its available here at their website. you’ll notice that unlike other burger joints, on top of sides, they have a range of small plates, cocktails, wines and a decent selection of desserts (a friend tried the white chocolate cheesecake for dessert and gave it her stamp of approval). i believe this is how they are hoping to differentiate themselves from the rest – offering a full dining experience instead of the idea of “fast food” typically associated with burgers.

for the takeaway deal which is available daily from 12-2pm and is what we went for, you get a original BOBO burger and a side for a reasonable £10. i only waited about 10 minutes before i was presented with 2 big paper bags of food glorious food.
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arrived at the park and excitedly dug into the paper bags to unveil and lay out them goods (this isn’t all; we had 5 burgers and 5 sides in total).
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behold, the BOBO burger basking in last friday’s glorious sunshine:20141003_132511
BOBO burger – 6oz rare-breed beef, lettuce, tomatoes, charcoal-roasted red onions, BOBO sauce (£8.50 or £10 with a side for takeaway)

size-wise, the burger wasn’t very big and i could handle it quite comfortably with one hand. good for the weight and health-conscious who see this as a guilty indulgence, the burgers aren’t very large or greasy at all so they leave you feeling satisfied but not too full. the lettuce, tomatoes and onions were fresh and complemented the beef patty well. on to the beef patty – according to their menu, their burgers are handmade daily using rare-breed beef, and single species wood is used in their charcoal ovens to enhance the flavour of the meat. i must say that the beef patty was indeed well-seasoned, flavourful and very tasty. the meat was coarsely-ground giving it a really nice hearty texture, and the patties were also all cooked to medium-rare perfection, just look at that wonderful pink! :20141003_132846we all felt that they could have been juicier though; they were a tad dry, resulting in no messy juice-dribbling-moments at all. i would also have preferred more sauce; it seemed like i hardly had any of it so unfortunately i can’t really say what BOBO sauce tastes like! as for the next most important part of a burger, the burger bun, BOBO uses buttermilk brioche buns which i enjoyed very much – buttery, soft and fluffy, worthy of proudly emblazoning a big “B” across the top as they do. all in all, it was a pretty satisfying burger but it didn’t quite blow my mind or excite me in the way that i had hoped. the BOBO burger is definitely closer to the style of honest burgers, clean and simple, without the sauciness of patty & bun’s offerings. its worth noting that the rest of their offerings on the menu sound very promising though, and might be vastly different from the original BOBO.

just realised (very belatedly) that i forgot to take a close-up shot of the sides, so unfortunately you’ll have to make do with squinting a little to see them in the picture of everything laid out above, and then envisaging them in their full glory in your minds. for the sides, we went for 2 servings of sweet potato fries, 1 serving of skin-on beef dripping chips, 1 serving of apple slaw with toasted pumpkin seeds, and 1 serving of mixed leaf salad with pomegranate and croutons.

the favourites were definitely the sweet potato fries and the apple slaw. the apple slaw was refreshing and a nice and healthy (relatively) accompaniment to the burgers. the apple was sweet and wasn’t sliced too thinly such that they retained crunch and juiciness, while the dressing was light despite it being mayo-ish. our other healthy side was the mixed leaf salad with pomegranate. it wasn’t anything to shout about, a light accompaniment that could probably be served at any other restaurant.

as for the sweet potato fries, i loved how they were chunky and rather thickly-cut, almost like wedges except that they were still rectangular and generally fry-shaped, not wedge-shaped. i can imagine that they would have been even better if taken fresh at the restaurant; they were unfortunately a little soggy by the time we tucked into them, but still satisfying and remotely crispy on the outside nevertheless! they were supposed to be sprinkled with truffle salt but unfortunately there was nary a hint of that… as for the beef dripping BOBO chips, given their fancy-sounding name and the fact that they were named after the restaurant, i had very high hopes! they ended up meeting my expectations, but not quite surpassing them in any way. they were good fries, but not particularly outstanding and in fact i think they could have done with a little less salt.

all in all, we were all a little let down and agreed that the burgers at BOBO didn’t quite live up to our high expectations. admittedly, our expectations were pretty high because we had heard so much about the burgers, and the fact that we took them away instead of dining in probably reduced the taste-good factor, even if just by a little. we also found the prices rather steep compared to the other big burger names in town (patty & bun still remaining my top choice and honest coming in a not-very-close second; i swear patty & bun really has my heart 😀 ), and hence all agreed that we wouldn’t quite jump at the chance to head back to bobo. that said, the other burgers on the BOBO menu (which come at a heftier price tag) sound really interesting and i like the idea of the experimental burger sessions they have on monday nights, so there is definitely reason to give it another chance!

BOBO Social
95 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4PZ
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PS. we didn’t know then, but that friday turned out to be what seems to be the last day of summer… its suddenly gotten cold and it seems like dreary london is here to stay for winter 😦
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picnic-perfect ❤

Franco Manca, London

food options along tottenham court road have just gotten more exciting with franco manca’s recent opening of a new branch there! excitedly paid it a visit a few days ago, and we were not disappointed at all.

i had heard it was good, but got even more excited when i saw some reviews they had selected to put on their menu – people were really singing praises about it! “if you only eat one pizza this year, make sure it’s franco manca” – tatler. they were also dubbed the “best in britain” by the observer! seeing all that really made me take my first bite of the pizza with high expectations, and i am pleased to say that they were certainly met 😀 also, i was actually pretty full that day having had a really big breakfast, so the fact that i still thought it tasted really good probably means it really did 😉

they only serve pizzas at franco manca (along with some simple sides), and what is special about them is that they are made from sourdough and baked in a special oven made in naples by a specialised artisan (all this info is found on their menu). the oven produces a heat of about 500 degrees celsius (wow), and the cooking process is supposed to lock in the flour’s natural aroma and moisture, giving a soft crust.

we went as a group of 7 which allowed us to order a range of pizzas to try – we ordered 1 of everything on the menu except the most basic tomato, garlic & oregano, which we replaced with the veggie special of the day. it was all very exciting 😉
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here’s the menu:
20131121_131849 20131121_132615and the board of specials:20131121_134820

service was good and efficient despite the lunch crowd, and we soon had a SPREAD before us:
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HAPPINESS, seriously.

in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom left pizza:

1. gloucester old spot ham (home cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, wild mushrooms – £6.85 (bottom left)
this was my favourite of the lot! i loved how there was a little bit of tomato but not so much such that it became a tomato-based pizza; this made it different from what you normally get with most pizzas (either completely tomato-based or no tomato at all), especially those from pizza chains. the ingredients that topped it were also really yummy – the ham was delicious, as was the combination of cheeses. the mushrooms were just icing on the cake, because i really love mushrooms. admittedly the ingredients do look pretty sparse in the picture, but somehow it didn’t seem to be a problem when we were eating the pizza. i do think that everyone loves toppings though, so a little more would be highly optimal. but even without, it was really yummy. tasty and satisfying but still remaining light!
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2. wild broccoli, mozzarella, gloucester old spot hand sliced sausage – £6.75
this pizza has no tomato at all, which is probably why i didn’t like it as much as the rest! it was still very good and tasty, but i do like the what tomatoes bring to pizza. without any tomato at all, i felt that it wasn’t as flavourful – just cheese on (very good) pizza crust with some (good) toppings. we were quite puzzled by the description of the veggie as “wild broccoli” – maybe we are ignorant but we thought it seemed more like something similar to watercress?! (mosdef asian kids hahaha) i liked the chunky texture of the sausage – good quality stuff; definitely not the processed kind. somehow it tasted quite like lamb though? oddly, this pizza reminded me a bit of an indian-inspired naan-type thing…?
without tomatoes, the taste of the delicious pizza crust really shone through!
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3. veg special – tomato, mozzarella, baked mixed peppers, olives, topped with rocket and pecorino cheese – £7.50
i love it when pizza comes topped with rocket and cheese (and parma ham oooh yum) so i quite enjoyed this. loved the tomato base, and the baked peppers that topped it were yummy! not the usual crunchy raw-ish peppers that you get on most pizzas. definitely a good vegetarian option. wonder what veg specials they have to offer on other days; it’ll be interesting to see what other exciting veggie toppings they have in store.
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4. tomato, mozzarella, basil (seasonal) – £5.90
this was simple but good! probably the best thing to order if you want to go back to basics. and because i really like their tomato, i thoroughly enjoyed this because that’s mainly what the pizza was about!
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5. tomato, cured organic chorizo (dry & semi-dry) & mozzarella – £6.95
this was my second favourite pizza! i loved the chorizo which was moist and juicy – the perfect addition to a simple tomato and mozzarella base. so good.
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6. tomato, garlic, oregano, capers, olives, anchovies & mozzarella – £6.70
i quite like anchovies and olives so i enjoyed this! but i can imagine that they are things that not everyone likes, so this might not be a hit for all. the anchovies added a nice saltiness and together with the capers and olives, i thought this was a pizza with very strong and satisfying flavours! my third favourite of the day.20131121_133158

ultimately, i think the highlight of the pizzas at franco manca is definitely the crust – it is light, tasty, and crisp on the outside but delightfully fluffy inside. thin and with just the right amount of bite (i hate it when crusts are super thin and you end up feeling like you’re having something close to flatbread), i think you can’t go very far wrong with your order since all the toppings end up on the same amazing base.

your choice of toppings is really a matter of personal preference, and they a good range of options 🙂 i definitely preferred the tomato-based ones though; thought they were tastier and hence more satisfying/hearty. all the toppings used are also top quality – most of them are sourced directly from italy, and i thought the difference is taste was definitely noticeable. all this at an extremely affordable price too!

franco manca occupies a very bright, pleasant and relatively big dining space (turnaround time is quite quick so even if you have to queue, you probably won’t have to wait too long!) that is perfect for a casual lunch along TCR. food is great and service is good too, so i will definitely be returning, especially given the very reasonable prices. its probably going to be quite a hit with all the ucl students in the area; it has certainly already won over my friends and i 😉

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remnants of the lunch crowd

Franco Manca

98 Tottenham Court Road
London W1T 4TR

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