Tag Archives: burger

Boom Burger, Portobello Road

When arranging to catch up with friends over a meal, I’m often the one to pick the place. This is fine by me; there’s always somewhere on my list I’m dying to go.

But I also love it when the decision is out of my hands, especially when it leads me somewhere I hadn’t heard of previously, which turns out to be great.

This is just what happened with Boom Burger.

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Although I didn’t know about the relatively new Jamaican inspired burger joint, which opened just off Portobello Road in March 2014, I got a hazy feeling of déjà vu on approaching. Turns out I had been here before, led by rum-induced munchies one Notting Hill Carnival a few years ago, when the restaurant was an average Mexican joint.

Now it’s Boom Burger, a Jamaican burger joint slinging out jerk-inspired fast food to a pumping soundtrack of ska and reggae.

I ordered a “Jerk Boom” burger – jerk chicken with fried plantain, rocket, mango and pawpaw sauce.

This was risky; I’m a bit of a purist and normally abhor erroneous toppings like pineapple (I’m looking at you, GBK!)

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Jerk Boom did not have classic burger flavours, but together they worked; the jerk spicing was lip-smackingly strong, offset by a sweet, fruity sauce which made every bite addictively moreish.

Saying that, I will be ordering the classic Boom Burger (beef, cheese and bacon jam – lots of it) on my next visit.

Even the token dieter in the group was chuffed – it may have been her stoic willpower refusing to let her feel a shred of burger envy, but her red snapper salad certainly looked fresh and appetising. Kudos to Boom Burger for providing an alternative to the burger-shy which is more than just an afterthought.

Sides were decent – plantain chips made an enjoyable change from standard potato. Flavourful chicken “Boom wings” were perfect with a squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of the house jerk mayo.

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Next time a friend insists I pick a place for us to eat, Boom Burger will high on the list.

http://boomburger.co.uk

Mon dieu! Le Sandwich Americain

Don’t be fooled by the name: Le Sandwich Americain is 100% French. The baguette, the fries, the cheeky (borderline racist) stereotyping…

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Although I am a Francophile, I have noticed a tendency across the Channel for lazy, inaccurate and often baffling international descriptors.

Food with a hint of spice is invariably labelled “Indien“, anything with a pinch of cumin “Marocain” and of course there is “creme anglaise“. Blimmin’ frogs 😉

Accuracy is besides the point; you will struggle to find a proper “sandwich Americain” in the USA. Rather, the popular fast food snack is inspired by the hilariously lofty Gallic assumption that the typical American appetite is that of a greedy, gut busting gourmand.

A whole baguette is split open, smeared with butter, stuffed with burger patties, fries, lashings of mayo, mustard and ketchup, and a token leaf of lettuce.

It’s a grotesque monster but admittedly, also a delightfully filthy, carb-tastic binge.

God bless America and Vive La France!

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Ben’s Canteen, Battersea

You know those cheesy movies where the hapless romantic lead searches high and low for their soulmate, only to realise that true love was under their nose the whole time?

The foodie equivalent happened to me recently.

Ben’s Canteen in Battersea is like the Hollywood stock character of the overlooked, reliable buddy who turns out to be full of surprises.

I live just around the corner yet until the other day, I hadn’t been.

Since my “discovery” I’ve been doing my best to make up for lost time with multiple visits, dragging friends to sample the all-day venue’s brunch, dinner and cocktail offerings.

Good morning to you, “eggs pig out”, eggs benedict with pulled pork – sexy!

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Some home made hash browns, ordered for the table but I admit to taking the lion’s share…

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Washed down with a “Banging Bloody Mary” (love the fact that Ben’s Canteen refer to a booze free version as “Pointless Mary”

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Dinner time. Scotch eggs with a gooey yolk, well seasoned flavour and crisp exterior – practically perfect.

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Award winning “The BC burger”. Beef patty topped with salt beef and smoked cheddar. Beefy!

BC Burger

Sides: coleslaw and deep fried pickles (aka “frickles”, aka my new favourite word)

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Ben’s Canteen loves a promo and I felt like an “extreme couponer” taking advantage of the 2-4-1 cocktails on Tuesday nights, happy hour between 5-7pm AND instagramming for a free affogato – all at the same time.

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Sure, I may be in the heady honeymoon period after discovering a new love but honestly, I think Ben’s Canteen is a keeper.

Good things come to those who (can be arsed to) wait: Patty & Bun

In his book Notes From A Small Island, Bill Bryson celebrates the unique British queuing culture as a benchmark of civilisation.

I can understand his admiration for the orderly manner in which people in the UK approach mundane errands, like politely waiting for your turn at the post office, or using public transport without pushing and shoving.

However it feels far from civilised to line up outside a restaurant in the freezing cold, fighting the urge to press your nose up against window and drool pitifully in the direction of the smug gits seated cosily inside, unwrapping their burgers in a warm glow.

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Four of us arrived at Patty&Bun at 7pm on a recent weeknight to find the queue already snaking around and doubling up on the pavement outside the small restaurant. We took our places at the back like dutiful Brits, buoyed by the knowledge that this place comes very highly recommended – I had heard the words “best burger in London” from several sources.

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The off licence down the road should give a cut to Patty&Bun; they’re doing well out of the situation judging by the number of tinnies being clutched by frostbitten fingers in the queue.

By 8pm it was our turn to be seated and it was all we could do not to high five each other and bellow “in your FACE suckers” to the remaining forlorn queuers as we crossed the threshold.

The feeling of victorious achievement didn’t last long before it was replaced by a new, different kind of queue stress. It’s impossible to ignore the hungry, cold, miserable crowd watching us through the glass, mouthing “come the fuck ON!” every time we dared to linger over our ordering and eating. It reminded me of the scene in Shaun of the Dead where the cast takes takes refuge inside their local pub, with the zombies on the outside scratching at the windows to get in.

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Part of me wanted to run outside and share our order with our former queue comrades. Instead, I did the other very British thing of turning a blind eye and getting stuck in.

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The burger was gloriously, filthily, eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head gorgeous.

The sides were not the lazy afterthought many places bosh out without care; Patty & Bun’s salad included some interesting morsels like shaved yellow courgette and a punchy dressing which lightly coated every leaf. The slaw was decent; crunchy and moreish. The rosemary and sea salt fries were flavoursome without being perfumey or gimmicky.

So thanks for a great night Patty & Bun, but I fear I may not see you again until the weather becomes warmer/ you get some outside heaters/serve hot toddies to the queue of diehard burger fans outside/take bookings!

Lucky the burger was good enough that the memory may just see me through to next spring.

PS: cute detail on the stairs on the way down to the loo…

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Queenstown: Winter Festival, skiing, bungy and general indulgences

Some people thought we were mad to travel to New Zealand in June, mid-winter down under. “If I had six months off work to travel, I would stick to hot climates and beaches”, they said.

Mark and I, however, love winter – especially snow. Soon after we met, one of the first things he ever asked me was whether I ski. When I replied that I had lived and worked in the Alps for two whole ski seasons I could almost see the giant box he was ticking inside his head.

Some of our best trips and happiest memories together have been in ski resorts. We are even talking about having a winter wedding, partly because of the appeal of a honeymoon in the mountains…

So we were excited about the prospect of getting some time on the slopes in NZ, and even more so when we heard that there would be a “Winter Festival” in Queenstown at the end of June.

Unfortunately the Winter Festival was hardly the Glastonbury in the snow we had hoped for; the only evidence of any kind of festival were a few flimsy signs dotted around town. Hardly any of the standup comedy, freestyle ski and snowboard performances and general boozy partying promised on the festival’s website could be found.

Still, we were there with Anya and her friend Russ who had flown down from Auckland for a long weekend, so we were able to make our own fun.

The ski fields in NZ are all smaller than what we are used to in Europe or the States – just a handful of lifts and pistes. Luckily the conditions were great after a big dump, so plenty of snow to play in anyway.

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Gabby the campervan came into her own for skiing – it was brilliant having a massive vehicle for all of our gear, not to mention a warm, dry place to make lunch and avoid the crowded, pricey cafe on the mountain.

making lunch

making lunch

As Russ couldn’t ski, the next day was a day of indulgence at the Amisfield Winery in nearby Arrowtown. We all went for the “trust the chef” option: five courses with wine matching made for several enjoyable hours of indulgence.

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beetroot and apple soup

beetroot and apple soup

bluenose fish

bluenose fish

Unlike the time in Argentina, Mark and I managed not to fall asleep on the lawn, although it did look rather tempting.

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Instead, we sneaked into Anya & Russ’ s posh resort for some spa time and to watch the sun set.

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It’s a hard life!

Although such languid relaxation is possible, Queenstown is more about extreme adrenalin rushes. Mark had never done a skydive and I had only done one in Oxfordshire, with delightful views of the M4 and a sewage plant. So we were both keen to take the plunge (literally). Regrettably it wasn’t to be – bad weather meant our booking was cancelled four times and we left NZ without jumping out of a plane.

We consoled ourselves with visits to Queenstown’s legendary Fergburger and next door, Fergbaker for classic NZ pies. The “Ferg”empire is so famous, people we met in Peru told us we had to go!

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We also had some lovely walks around the lake.

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But all was not lost in our quest for adventure: I signed up for the 134m Nevis bungy jump, the biggest in Australasia. There were smaller ones around Queenstown but I figured if I was going to ignore every sane instinct and fling myself off a tiny ledge into stomach-churning freefall, I may as well get a superlative under my belt. “Go big or go home” as they say around here!

Even weeks later, I’m thrilled to say I did it! Definitely one of the scariest challenges of my life, although the most intense fear came in the days leading up to the jump. I tortured myself with ill advised Google searches for things like “bungy death”, “bungy accident” etc which Mark thought was hilarious (easy for him to laugh when he refused even to consider signing up).

On the day however, something took over and I became very focused. The music choices played on the way there helped. Fact: nothing makes you feel more of an invincible badass than “Eye of the Tiger”.

Before bungy

Before bungy

ready to go

ready to go

Of course, the stomach flips returned as my turn to jump got nearer. One of the Nevis team led me to the ledge. I vividly remember how hairy his forearm was, I was gripping on to it so hard.

He gently extracted himself and just as my mind began to race, he simply said, “don’t think about it, just do it, 3, 2, 1″… Magically, obediently, as if possessed I shut down my rational consciousness and leant forward, as if diving into a swimming pool.

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Rational thought returned the instant freefall began. I was so shocked I had jumped I didn’t even scream, but just took it all in, wide eyed and gasping at the ground accelerating towards me. Somehow I remembered that I was meant to pull a cord to release my feet on the second bounce – as soon I was the right way up I began giggling uncontrollably with pure joy and relief.

After I was pulled up to the solid floor of the cable car, the feeling of euphoria was unmatched.

After bungy - manic grin and teary eyes

After bungy – manic grin and teary eyes

For the video, click here.

Although the bungy wasn’t for him and his pesky fear of heights, Mark also experienced a similar moment of insanity and glory on the Nevis swing, the world’s biggest swing.

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We did this in tandem which was great fun. I thought it would be a cinch after the bungy but it was a pretty terrifying drop – what made it easier was the fact that someone else pushed the release button rather than the crucial moment being all down to you.

In any case, the wise words of the steady, calm Nevis worker have now become a life mantra for me: “don’t think about it, just do it”. That goes for anyone considering longterm travel too!