Meat Market, Covent Garden

Meat Market is the second outlet in the ever growing MEAT burger chain that began so momentously with the arrival of MeatLiquor in Marylebone. Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins’ second venture is rather smaller and even more casual than the first eatery. Located on the outskirts of Covent Garden Jubilee Market, at mezzanine level it is rather tricky to find. However the alluring smell should lead you up there if nothing else.

Once I’d found my way upstairs I was surprised by the interiors… not dark and brooding like MeatLiquor but bright and diner-like… reminiscent of a scene from Grease the Musical. High tables with stools encourage quick eating, and food is bought at the speedy counter. A neon sign reads MEAT MARKET and amusing decoration covers the walls.

The menu is a down-sized version of the one from MeatLiquor, with fewer burger options and less choice. Four varieties of burger are available: Dead Hippy, Double Bubble, Black Palace and Philly Cheesesteak and three HotDogs: Ripper, Kraut and Corndog. All the burgers are quite similar but with varying garnishes and sauces! The taste and flavour is as good as the commendable MeatLiquor burger, but we found the whole thing far too sloppy… it is impossible eat, either by hand or with cutlery as the bun just disintegrates with the excessive juices, and once the surrounding paper starts to go the whole thing just becomes too messy to handle.

On the upside the food was ready impressively fast – in just a few minutes we had our red striped trays in front of us. The rich beefy patties are thinner here, so a double cheeseburger doesn’t seem like such a ridiculous idea. With the lettuce, minced onion, pickles and mustard, it is certainly high flavour, perhaps even a little too overpowering. Fries are super thin and crunchy, not dissimilar to McDonalds in appearance, but noticeably better.

This fast food phenomenon just keeps growing. Convenient, quick and queueless, Meat Market seems to have the best of both worlds, but in diluting their exclusivity they have also diluted the product, and I’m sad to say these burgers just aren’t as good anymore.

More information here.

Patty and Bun, James Street

Somewhere between Meat Liquor and Honest comes Patty and Bun. The burgers are messy and the queues are long… it’s another hit joint following the now familiar steps to success: sloppy tasty burger, grubby-chic venue, no reservations, cheap… and hey presto there are hordes outside begging for burgers. Will our cravings for dirty burgers ever end? Mine certainly don’t show signs of slowing down as new tempting eateries pop up all over town.

I have queued for enough burgers, I’ve done my time, and after hearing rumours of Patty and Bun’s fans’ patience, I didn’t take any chances with my visit. 3pm on a Thursday afternoon seemed like the ideal time for an  available table… I wasn’t very hungry, but never mind, it seemed like my only opportunity. My planning paid off, two tables available and one was mine. There is only enough space for about 30 in a makeshift type room with hanging red wire lights, wooden tables and stools and very plain walls. A blackboard outside is marked with witty burger puns.

Joe, the founder of Patty and Bun, developed his juicy burgers through various pop-up projects, all of which were staggeringly popular… so many were delighted to see the arrival of this permanent fixture in central London, moments away from Selfridges.

The burger was great, though difficult to eat with any decorum, I must have got through at least eight paper napkins as I mopped up the cheesy mess running down my hands and chin. There are six varieties on offer, I chose the simple ‘Ari Gold’ Cheeseburger – beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, smokey P&B mayo, brioche and optional bacon. A lovely combination of sweet onions and meat with the salty bacon and creamy American style cheese, it was a delicious creation. The meat is soft and juicy with a rich flavour complemented by the bacon and slapped together in a super soft brioche bun.

The chips (tossed in rosemary), though the perfect consistency and texture, were blindingly over-salted. I couldn’t even finish them, which is extremely rare for me. I later found out that food can be eaten in or taken out, so even if seats aren’t available you can try these magnificent burgers.

Choc Ices, for those who can manage one after a rich burger, are made bespoke by Ice Cream Union in the sophisticated flavours: Peanut Butter, White Chocolate and Coffee or Hazelnut.

£12 bought me a burger, fries and diet coke, next time I’m trying pudding too. A little less salt and this place would be perfection.

More information here.