Best London Burgers
The constant traveller: A guide to London's burgers
Words— Marc Richardson
For a world-class city, London doesn’t have the perception of having world-class food. This simply isn’t the case. The post-war London plates of jellied eels and bland meats flavoured with simple ketchup or brown sauce is still there if you want to seek it out, but what you’ll mostly find is vibrant, modern British cooking in most corners of the city. It’s also Europe’s most multicultural city, so you’re bound to find incredible Sri Lankan curries, jewish bagels and Italian gelato. You’ll also find some of the best burgers in the world.
London’s burger scene is vibrant—I bet you never thought you’d hear a burger scene described as vibrant, but here we are. Each time I end up in the British capital for London Fashion Week, I indulge in my own informal and unofficial London Burger Week. For the last four years I’ve been on the hunt for the best London has to offer, and while my quest is not finished, what I’ve come to realize is that you can get a pretty comprehensive tour of London by following its burgers.
Good food is representative of where it’s served. London is a financial hub, home to some of the finest tailors in the world, and ones of the most expensive cities to live in; it’s also a place where pubs reign over posh restaurants, streetwear is as present as finer menswear, and the people are friendly. The burgers served in the capital’s best burger joints are, like London itself, unpretentious while still being made from the best ingredients.
The norm for burgers in London is for them to be served pink, as a burger should be, as it lets you actually taste the meat. Fret not, though, if you’re paying ten to fifteen quid for a burger, you should be getting fresh beef from the English countryside, so a little pink isn’t the end of the world.
So where does one start when looking for the best burger in London? Well, I recommend spending some time in Central, around SoHo and Covent Garden, where you’ll never be more than a few minutes walk from a delectable patty.
Walk around Central London for a day and you’ll notice a quasi-duopoly: Honest Burger and Byron. The first meal I ever had in London was at Byron, and every time I’m back in the city I find myself walking into one of the many franchises throughout the capital. If you’re looking for a unique experience, there are other spots coming up that will be better suited for you. But, if you’re looking for a consistently juicy burger in a restaurant with lots of space and quick, and courteous service (it's a big city and you have a lot to see, sometimes the food needs to be fast!), Byron is for you.
If you’re going to go to a specific one, it’s hard to beat the one right beside Supreme’s London outpost. It’s in the heart of SoHo and a stone’s throw away from some of the best shopping in the entire city. As for the food, it’s hard to beat the restaurant’s namesake burger with a side of cheesy fries. The Brits, I have learned, are rather fond of melting cheese on fries — and most importantly, they are rather good at it.
In the area: Piccadilly Circus, Carnaby Street, Nightclubs, Comedy Clubs, Theatres
The other major player on the London burger scene is Honest Burger. Honest feels a bit more homey than Bryron and you’d be forgiven for thinking that any one restaurant was independent. Driving home Honest’s local twinge is the fact that each restaurant partners with a local brewery to offer a special beer every month. No two Honest Burgers are alike!
When it comes to the actual burgers, you’ll want to add the red onion compote and bacon to anything you order and let them serve it to you pink. It will literally melt in your mouth. The confluence of condiments and juicy beef makes for a messy meal, but one worth the hassle. For the fans of obscure cola brands, Honest carries Karma Cola, and the Karma Libre (Karma and rum) is served in an enamel mug, adding to the restaurant’s cozy feel. If you’re to pick one, I’d recommend the Honest Burger in Oxford Circus, kitty corner to Getty Images’ London Gallery. It’s a quaint little burger joint in a bustling neighbourhood.
In the area: Oxford Circus, Liberty London, Sketch
Not too far from SoHo and Oxford Circus, you’ll find Covent Garden. If you’re a fan of theatre, you’ll undoubtedly spend an evening (or two) in the neighbourhood as its chock full of legendary establishments, like the Apollo Theatre. Covent Garden is also home to an array of wonderful shops —and one of the nicest Apple stores you’ll ever walk into, blending modernity and traditional architecture seamlessly—, including the bustling Jubilee Market.
Inside Jubilee Market you’ll find dozens of stalls selling everything from flowers to clothing and, overlooking the marketplace is a restaurant that epitomizes the unpretentious atmosphere mentioned earlier. A staircase off Tavistock Place leads to meatMARKET, which was, until recently, a pretty well kept secret. The first time I ate there, I was one of two patrons; this past January, I had to wait thirty minute to grab a seat. There’s a reason I say a seat and not a table — meatMARKET has communal tables, so you grab a spot where you can and sit with whoever is already there. It might not sound appealing at first, but there’s something funny about watching a first date unfold over messy burgers and cheese fries.
The music is loud, the staff is laid back, and the decor seems drawn from some post-punk idyll, but you’ll have a good time. The burgers carry names like “Dead Hippie” and are served right on the tray and this is one of the rare places where I recommend taking a stab at onion rings instead of fries, but you won’t be disappointed. Put simply: if I had one meal in London this is where I would eat it.
In the area: National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Jubilee Market, Apollo Theatre
Patty & Bun
Like Honest and Byron, Patty & Bun —or P&B for the burgerphiles— has a few franchises sprinkled around London. The Fitzrovia one is nice, but since we’re working our way outwards from Central, I’d recommend the P&B in Shoreditch. Shoreditch is one of the coolest neighbourhood in London, so it’s worth at least an afternoon detour and there’s no better place to refuel than P&B.
P&B is halfway between Honest and meatMARKET in terms of vibe. It’s a proper restaurant —albeit casual— but your food is served on nothing but parchment paper at the table. Yes, you will make a mess, but it’s expected, so judgment is reserved.
What makes P&B unique —and delicious— is that each restaurant makes their mayonnaise and relish in-house and each bite offers your taste buds sensory overload. Like meatMARKET, P&B is increasingly popular, so if you’re grabbing a bite after 7PM, expect to wait for a table. Maybe it’s indicative of London’s burger scene that most of these restaurants overflow on a typical evening.
In the area: Vintage shpping on Brick Lane, Ace Hotel London, The Ten Bells Pub, Whitechapel Gallery, Columbia Road Flower Market
If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, you know that West London is a vibrant part of the city with strong Caribbean roots, so it’s only natural to turn to Boom Burger for a restaurant that showcases London’s diversity.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, man, this burger could really use some jerk spice… then Boom Burger is for you. It takes a quintessentially British dish —burgers— and injects some tropical flair to make something that would only exist in London.
If you’re making but a single trip to the West London outpost, it’s hard to pick a burger to try. The Boom Burger is sweet thanks to the restaurant’s proprietary bacon jam, but how many other places offer a jerk chicken burger topped with plantain? Personally, I’m inclined to opt for the beef —which is seasoned better than most other patties— and the namesake burger is always a safe bet. If you want the full West London experience, check out Boom Burger during the last week of August so you can enjoy Notting Hill Carnival as well.
In the area: Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill Carnival (late-August), Design Museum
South London may not have the most entries on our tour of London’s burger scene, but there is no better patty south of the Thames than those served by Mother Flipper. London is revered for its many markets, so it should come as no surprise that some of the best —and simplest— food is served there.
Make sure to check ahead of time to confirm that their ephemeral stand will indeed be open in Brockley Market. It’s been known to wander in the past, but regardless of where it is, it’s worth the detour. Then comes the trek to Brockley on Saturday morning. Go early, because even without Mother Flipper, it’s worth a quick jaunt south of the Thames.
As you’re talking through the market you’ll start to smell patties, buns and cheese in the air. Follow the smell and you’ll end up at a stand serving some of the best burgers in London. Unlike many of London’s other patty purveyors—who opt for a sweeter brioche bun—Mother Flipper serves its burgers on sesame-seed buns (a small detail that adds just enough unique taste to make a difference). There’s nothing quite like a coal-grilled beef patty, and, on that front, Mother Flipper has the upper hand. With a plethora of burger and condiment combinations on offer, the only advice I’ll offer is this: don’t get a two-patty burger, try two different ones instead.
In the area: Greenwich Royal Observatory, Thames River Cruises, Horniman Museum, The Dacre Arms
Believe it or not, you’ve just read 1600 words about hamburgers. But, trust me when I say this: you can offer yourself a comprehensive tour of London and its intricacies by following its best burger joints. You’ll get to imbibe beers from local breweries, feast on fresh British beef, explore London’s neighbourhoods and markets, and see why London is better for being a multicultural city. All you have to is follow the smell of perfectly cooked ground beef.