Hawksmoor (Spitalfields, London, UK)

Because we were trying to do the trip to Frankfurt on the cheap, my tickets had what most people would consider to be an inconvenient 21 hour layover at London Heathrow. For me, this was an opportunity; my brother and sister-in-law live in London (hence all my frequent London and UK entries), so it gave me a nice opportunity to meet up with them, have some dinner, drinks, and pudding, get rested up, and get back to the airport in plenty of time for my flight. As far as dinner goes, it allowed me an opportunity to finally cross one major food destination of my to-do list: going to Hawksmoor, get a seat at the bar and try their famous Kimchi Burger. It was recommended to me a few years ago by someone on Flyertalk.com, but it’s been resilient to my efforts to actually get one; my first attempt was thwarted by my travel schedule (I was stopping off in London on the way to Spain), and my second thwarted by the large numbers of other people visiting Hawksmoor for Christmas festivities. But this time, I finally managed to pull it off, with my brother and sister-in-law in tow.

The Spitalfields location of Hawksmoor is similar to their Covent Garden location: the bar is downstairs, with the overriding motifs being “copper” and “dark”. The overall result reminds me of what a bar in a Farraday-cage lined fallout shelter would be like, bordering on steam-punk with fairly retro cocktail menu signs and tap handles. It has ambiance. And it’s also packed with people.

The cocktail are worth mentioning. While quite expensive, even by my Boston-calibrated “big city” expectation (some of the more expensive cocktails worked out to being slightly over $20 after conversion), they had quite the impressive cocktail list, ranging from the ginger-heavy Shakey Pete, to the rum-laden Nuclear Banana, to the rich fruit laden Marmalade, they’ve got quite a list. Dan and I both opted for the Marmalade, and I rather enjoyed it: it was a nice cocktail that tasted, well, like marmalade: not just fruity and citrusy, but with a good solid dose of aromatic and bitter peel flavors. I wouldn’t mind a trip back here for just cocktails.

But our mission was clear: I’d been stymied twice on getting a kimchi burger, and now the opportunity was here. So I ordered one. And soon I found myself look at an example of the much-celebrated and ballyhooed Hawksmoor Kimchi Burger. Let me get right down to it: This was a damn fine burger, in fact, it’s an exemplar of what a great burger should be. Working from inside out, the burger itself was a substantial but not oversized patty of juicy meat. Despite the thickness of the patty, it was perfectly cooked (a perfect crispy sear on top and bottom, and a nice rare and juicy interior), which shows that they’ve got a cook that’s both talented and paying attention. The burger topping was a slab of rice cheese and a heft layer of a very, very bold kimchi. The result was both a textural feat (with just a bit of tooth coming from the cheese and kimchi) and a giant dose of salt, spice, and umami from the kimchi. The result was bold, and it was great. Enough so that I’ll excuse the sorry-ass thinnest-pickle-spear-ever. Quite frankly, I’m not used to this level of quality from British burger joints, but this was one of the best burgers of 2012. Without a doubt, I’ll be back for this again. (And sorry to the folks at Worthy Burger , but this is what your burger aspires to be, and could be, with some work).

Overall, it comes down to a single fact: I’ve had a lot of burgers pitched to me, and most aren’t up to the hype. The Kimchi Burger at Hawksmoor was, and I’m looking forward to having another chance to try one of these.

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