London does #Burgers – Case: @Burger_Breakout

Burger Breakout @ The Old Crown definitely had to be the first review in the “London does #Burgers” series as it’s the one I visited most recently….and what a visit it was.

Date & Time: Wed 17th of October9 pm

Party size: 2

Reservation: NO – but we were misled to think that it was packed. Lot’s of heavy tweeting on the day made it sound like we wouldn’t be able to get through the door.

We arrived at the Old Crown afraid that we would go to sleep hungry, but much to our surprise we ended up finding a seat immediately upon arriving. Table for two, right at the door – a spot I usually detest as the cold gush of wind freezes my face every time the door opens – but we sat anyway. A very eager and polite waitress came over with menus and asked us if we would like drinks. We needed a minute, so she went away with the promise that I would call her over when we were ready to order.

As an initial reaction, I was not impressed by the menu. For some reason, I expected more. However, we were both drawn to the chocolate & quince BBQ sauce, so we kindly asked if it was possible to try some. Several minutes later, a small pot containing the chocolatey concoction arrived and we dipped in. Neither of us said a word at first, and then we simultaneously agreed that “The Bambi Bought it” (Cornish Venison patty, topped with beetroot pickle, Cornish Brie, Quince & Chocolate BBQ Sauce) was to be avoided at all costs, all because of that sauce.

We deliberated for a while, but finally decided on what to get : The O.C. Burger, The Whiskey Beast  & Deep fried pickles in dill batter + Burger Slaw.

As we discussed our order with the waitress, she pointed out that The Whiskey Beast is served Medium Rare and that the chef does not allow changes of any sort on the burgers. I laughed at this, since my MO is to walk away whenever I come across these ridiculous rules, but I played along. She asked me if I was OK with spicy food as the burger contained “whiskey mustard”, and I said it was fine.

The Breakdown :

The Whiskey Beast – At first, this burger looked great….until I touched it. The first mistake that jumped out at me was the staleness of the bun – both on top and at the bottom. Slightly annoyed, I took the first bite and 12 seconds into chewing, the mustard started burning my nose. “Where’s the whiskey?” I thought. Moving on, it became apparent that it was impossible to figure out whether or not the beef was of good quality by eating it this way. So, I decided to dissect  the burger and eat it with a knife and fork, instead of suffering with the taste of that horrible bun and the whiskey-less mustard.. Bun + mustard gone, I was left with a healthy piece of lettuce , two bacon rashers, and TOO MUCH BLUE CHEESE.  I scraped off the excess, leaving an amount that complemented the beef….instead of replacing it.

Severely annoyed, I ate the first mouthful which ended up leaving me with a bitter aftertaste. I took a second…same thing. Extremely curious as to what was going on, I flipped the burger over only to discover that it was charcoal black at the bottom – like soot. Puzzled, I thought about the term “medium rare”, and I wondered if the strict chef-that-allows-no-changes-and-tells-you-how-to-eat-your-burger knew the definition as well as I did. Left with no other choice, I called the waitress over and showed her the mess in front of me. Shocked, she called over another member of staff, who was equally as polite and agreed that this was non-edible but explained that the kitchen staff had left and thus I was not able to get another burger. He apologized repeatedly and before he could take away the food, I paused to take some photos (see below).

With no food in front of me, the only thing available to eat were the sides….

Deep fried pickles in dill batter – flaccid and soggy.

Burger Slaw – ……no slaw here. Mayo soup that tasted like fridge instead.

Chips with horseradish smoked salt – The horseradish salt did not enhance the flavor at all. Each texture-less chip left an unwelcome & irritating aftertaste.

Conclusion: I usually give new restaurants second chances. But in this case, I won’t. It’s extremely disappointing when a meal doesn’t live up to your expectations ESPECIALLY when there has been such a massive build-up & hype from the purveyors of the establishment. I refuse to accept that this was a “one-off bad experience” because I believe that the sign of a good business is consistency – where no bad days are allowed. 

As for the chef, if he is to dictate how and what you will eat, the least he can do is cook it properly. “Quirky” combinations only work if the execution is perfect… otherwise, the menu just becomes nonsense on a page.

Worth mentioning : The staff offered us free drinks and took my burger off the bill. The upstairs floors were empty and the rooms were a mess…not cool. Lastly, we were equally unimpressed by the O.C Burger, but my dinner companion was so hungry he chose to eat it rather than starve. After his final bite he said: ” I don’t think I’ll becoming back for seconds any time soon….”

Rating: 2/10 ( 1 point for the staff & 1 point for….effort)

Burger Breakout @ The Old Crown  – 33 New Oxford St WC1A 1BH

Organs.

Heart-Gut

I never used to give people chances. Now I think I give them too many. When you are young, you tend to think less, and act more. Impulsive decisions are your life’s mantra…and lately I don’t think that’s such a bad thing after all. Over-thinking leads to being influenced by all the external factors that are out to get you…to change your mind. Shouldn’t it be a rule that every decision should be based on gut feeling? I guess the response to that is that not everyone has a gut in perfect working condition.

When our brain isn’t following the gut, it tends to follow the heart, and that’s just a recipe for disaster. The heart is funny. I like to think of it like a teenager on cocaine who thinks he/she is invincible and can conquer the world. Problem is however, that whatever goes up, must come down….and that come down is no party. So when the heart takes us on that short, “immortal” journey of a badly thought out decision, there’s no telling when the crash will come and all your limbs will go flying off in every direction possible.

Brain, heart , gut….which one has the answer? Maybe all three. It’s reasonable to assume that when all three organs join forces and agree on something, it can be taken as the “soundest” and most intelligent choice a person can make. In a utopian world, this should happen all the time. In the real world…rarely.

I don’t think we give credit to all the organs in our body…they have WAY more power than we assume. But at the end of the day, the hope of a collaboration between them turns into a battle…and this is why I think people go insane. If you had two people pulling at you on each side, eventually wouldn’t you get tired and walk away? The answer is probably “Yes”, so lets not judge those that have “lost their mind”…they are probably in a better place than you.

 

Duck Soup

I want to make this brief and to the point.

Food:

1. Bland

2. Overpriced

3. Some dishes were prepared better than others

4. Not enough options

5. Tiny portions

6. Drinks menu: very basic & overpriced

7. Salt & Pepper nowhere to be seen on the table….but much needed throughout the meal.

Ambience:

1. Dim lighting made the already small space seem smaller (felt like a military bunker at times)

2. The downstairs area where we sat smelled musty and stagnant…which is a good reason to put someone off their meal

3. EXTREMELY small tables and very limited space, often making the whole meal uncomfortable

4. Waitresses were nice, but seemed confused

5. Just not up to par….

Duck Soup, 41 Dean Street, London W1D 4PY

The Most Ridiculous Policy In the World.

According to Wikipedia, there are 53,500 pubs in the UK (Click Here).  Obviously I haven’t been to all of them, but I can say that I have been to quite a few in and around London over the past 3 years.  However, a couple of days ago I stumbled upon one pub that wins the prize for having the most RIDICULOUS policy in the world.

A friend and I decided to go for a quiet drink. It was relatively early on a Tuesday night, around 9 pm, when we entered The White Horse Pub in Parsons Green. I had never been there before, even though I live a stone’s throw away. I had visited the pub’s website and was impressed by the range of beers, ales and ciders it stocked, so being a true “drinks snob”, I thought it was the perfect place for me.

When we got there, we noticed that it was quite busy, so we cued up at the bar, waiting patiently for our turn (as you do in the UK). After a good 30 minutes, we noticed that for some reason, the bar staff was intentionally avoiding us (that’s what it seemed like anyway). Finally, one member of staff mustered up the courage and approached us. I tried to put in my order but was stopped abruptly and asked for ID to prove my age. This happens often, so I smiled, and jokingly asked him to guess my age. He said 19, and I laughed, so I pulled out my ID card, and proudly pointed at my birth year that read “1984”… making me 27 this year. He smiled back and said I look so much younger… but unfortunately he still could not serve us (note: my friend is 26).

This information shocked me, and immediately I asked : “why?”… and that was the golden moment where I was presented with ‘the most ridiculous policy in the world’…

Apparently, the policy that the White Horse Pub holds is that it only accepts UK Passports or UK Drivers Licenses. Here’s where the problems arose. I am Cypriot/American….and my friend is Palestinian/American…which means that neither of us have UK forms of ID….since we are NOT from the UK. For the White Horse Pub, this means no service. If you look young, and are not from the UK, you cannot drink at their establishment…(?@#$@#$?)

I asked to speak to the manager, and the bartender was reluctant, but went to get him. I watched him in a huddle with other staff members…and the manager. Then I noticed that the manager was totally uninterested to speak to me (his blank face and hand gestures were too obvious) and instead chose to send another member of staff our way. A new bartender approached us. This one was rude…so I guess he was the “tough guy” of the team. I re-presented my argument to him…and he gave me more stupid excuses, and tried to make arguments that were not valid, just to seem intelligent (something he lacked no matter how hard he tried).

I then asked him the golden question. “If I can travel between EU countries with my Cypriot ID Card, which means I can pass through UK Border Control, how is it possible that I can’t get a beer at the White Horse Pub in Parsons Green?!?”…he stared at me really confused, and tried to give me some inconsistent response which made no sense. After his soliloquy, he didn’t let me get another word in, and said “OK, sorry I cannot do anything else for you” and walked away. I stood there for 5 more seconds to allow it all to sink in, and then walked out, thinking that I shouldn’t be angry or confused, but that I should feel lucky to have come across “the most ridiculous policy in the world”…

We walked up the road to The Wheatsheaf where we got talking with the lovely bar staff, who were so polite and accommodating, and spent some time laughing at the ridiculous events that took place at The White Horse Pub.

What did we learn? We learned that companies like Mitchells & Butlers do not actually have any control over their brands like they claim they do on their website. It is also evident, that once again, the title of “Manager” in the UK means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING….and in reality, a barman has the same value as his boss. As for the overall experience at The White Horse Pub, I would have to give it an overall 0/10…sorry.

Burnt Out

I don’t tend to complain much…and I can’t say I am as observant as The Critical Eye. But I really appreciate it when people don’t challenge my intelligence. I’m not much of a cook either but I really do enjoy good food. So when someone serves me black eggs and claims that’s how they are meant to be eaten, then be sure I will speak up!

That little incident happened a couple of months ago at Megan’s – a cozy little Chelsea joint renowned for its ‘atmosphere’ and ‘home cooked food’. With its lovely decor and welcoming feel, my flatmate and I sat at the table, starving and ready to eat a hearty brunch. Almost 20 minutes after putting in our order we finally received out lattes (yes 20 minutes later). The mugs were stained from the outside and the coffee did not taste great. I thought ‘ok’ I will let this slide – as I said I don’t like to complain much. But then came the ‘meal’. My English breakfast – served with bacon, toast, beans and a large portion of black scrambled eggs. (Yes black.) I of course called over the waitress to ask her what had happened. She apologized and took my plate away towards the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later, with what seemed a new portion but when I looked down, there they were again…black eggs. She relayed the chef’s message to me: ‘that’s how these eggs are’. I said, ‘really now..?’ and told her to get me the manager. The manager of course apologized again and told us that they had just gotten a new supplier and perhaps that was the reason why these eggs were not normal looking. He also told us he had a taste and that they tasted a bit off.  With an empty stomach and following this huge disappointment, my friend and I left Megan’s, never to return again. (Poor and ignorant people around us continued to eat their meals.. I only hope no one ended up at the hospital.)

And now we come to today.

This evening I ordered some pizza, chicken strips and choc chip cookies from my local Domino’s. My flatmate and I were bored to cook and this seemed like a safe choice. Not expecting much from the pizza, we ate it and an hour later were ready to enjoy the dessert. We opened the box of cookies only to find that the cookies were burnt. So here we were again. Disappointed and unsatisfied. My friend phoned the local store and politely asked them to replace them. Shortly after, the 2nd batch of cookies  arrived. I went downstairs to greet the delivery guy and much to my surprise saw that the new portion of cookies were equally burnt – if not more! At that point you can imagine I was quite frustrated and annoyed. I called the guy at the store right in front of the poor delivery guy and told him that this was getting a little ridiculous. And guess what the Domino’s employee said to me on the phone? ‘Please miss just take a bite and I promise you won’t get food poisoning.’ (!) I did not find this funny in the least. He also tried to convince me that they were not burnt and that this is the way they were usually made. He said we always serve them this way. Again this stupid phrase ‘oh that’s how they are meant to be’.. Well here is some news for you. NO ITS NOT HOW THEY ARE MEANT TO BE. Cookies are NOT meant to be burnt, eggs are NOT meant to be black and there NEEDS to be a better freaking standard of quality in this country!

P.S. This is how Domino’s Pizza describes their cookies: “Domino’s Cookies – 4 crunchy chewy warm & gooey cookies loaded with choc chips”…No mention of burnt cookies anywhere.

Faith No More.

“The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world.

They can sit at their ease and gape at the play.

If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.”

Oscar Wilde

Image taken from Dutch Uncle Agency / London

In other words : “Ignorance is Bliss”…and I have come to accept that it truly is. Unfortunately for me, I am not Ignorant, therefore I cannot experience Bliss. Lately, I wake up before the alarm goes off, and lay in bed staring at the clock, waiting for it to go off. Why do I do this? Because, I’ve lost faith in the world and it’s seeming increasingly difficult to restore…

How I dread leaving the house and entering a world where the stupid, ignorant and undeserving seem to be in charge. When did we give up our power to them? What happened and who put them in charge? I’m tired of meeting people who don’t do their jobs well, or don’t know HOW to do their jobs well…either because nobody showed them how, or they just don’t care to find out… I’m sick of talking to bland, boring and uninteresting people who hold positions WAY above their capabilities… It makes me nauseous when I realize (after 5 minutes of conversation) that someone is as uncultured as a tomato, and should never be let out of their house… I hate it when businesses are INCONSISTENT and fail, every second of every day, to meet their true potential… I despise the idea that the WRONG people are in the RIGHT positions… BUT what really makes my skin crawl is when I meet rich people with power, that shouldn’t have a penny to their name and should be shunned by society as a whole.

Society is grossly disillusioned, in every aspect. Money goes down the drain on a daily basis because salaries are paid to the useless and start-ups go up in flames due to lack of knowledge by all the participants. Businesses, governments and entire countries are run by idiots that have been put there for all the wrong reasons. Nobody wants to listen to those who know better…they prefer to blindly follow…the blind. How many times do you have to think “I could do your job in my sleep” before you lose your cool…? Is it just me that feels this way?

Where are all the inspiring, cultured and deserving people to give me an ounce of hope? If you are one of the rare few, please speak up, tell us why and scream out to the world ” HEY! HERE I AM, I DO STILL EXIST!”…