Dach & Sons, Hampstead

I had high hopes for Dach & Sons. My best friends and I had it firmly on our ‘to visit’ list but when I did eventually make a trip I found it to be a bit of a disappointment.

Seconds from Hampstead tube station and surrounded by chain shops and restaurants, it is refreshing to notice this independent eatery. I have always felt that this smart area of North London is quite conventional, but Dach & Sons adds some spice to the streets.

They describe themselves as “Hampstead’s premium hotdog, slider and burger joint, with a 60 seater restaurant, big roof terrace and ‘Flat P’, the upstairs speakeasy bar.” I’ve heard praise for the place on both burger and cocktail recommendation lists.

The cocktail selection is sprawled across the blackboard wall in chalk. The bar is from the clever people at Fluid Movement who are also responsible for the wonderful Purl and Worship Whistling Shop. Simpler (but arguably more drinkable) than the concoctions at the other Fluid bars we thoroughly enjoyed our cocktails. Innovative flavour combinations mixed to create very tasty and interesting drinks. The fascinating lemon meringue drink was delicious and old fashioned with a touch of (if I remember correctly) homemade popcorn liquor, it had an incredible taste.

In retrospect I wish I’d tried the sliders instead of the full blown burger. £10 gets you a trio of miniature handmade bitesize sliders with varied and eccentric toppings. Instead we both chose the classic Dach & Sons burger, £10 for a single or £18 for a double whammy. Made from short rib meat the patty was dry and bland, the gruyere cheese and smoked lettuce helped a little but on the whole it was very unsatisfactory. Fries (I’d call them chips as they are pretty chunky) are triple cooked, vacuum dried and made utterly indulgent with beef dripping.

Although we didn’t try them, I’ve heard the hot-dogs are great here. Using a variety of meats, spices and sausage casings to create some of the tastiest (and biggest) sausages that you are ever likey to see. The meat is supplied locally by the Hampstead Butcher, then de-boned, minced, mixed and stuffed into sausages in the kitchen every day. All sausages are cooked ‘sous-vide’ (under water) at precise temperatures, then flash fried. This ensures that they are as juicy as possible.The bread rolls are supplied by the award winning Flour Station, and baked daily.

If you do want to try Dach & Sons for yourself, I highly recommend visiting the brilliant Hampstead Theatre while you are in the area… and making an evening of it. And although I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I might be, compared to the competition Dach & Sons is still a reason to visit an often overlooked area of London.

More information here.

http://www.dachandsons.com/

Dirty Burger, Highgate

The coolest places are always the hardest to find… I paced up and down Highgate Road for ten minutes before plucking up the courage to ask at a nearby pub, “Where exactly is Dirty Burger?” It had been under my nose all the time, round the back of the glowing Pizza East restaurant.

The tin shack is tiny with just enough space to hold twenty hungry burger fans. The menu is short and simple with the crew concentrating on doing what they do best and not fussing with alternatives. It is a quick process, order a cheeseburger at the bar, make the difficult choice between onion rings and crinkle chips and take a seat on one of the communal benches.

Pre-empting the greasy feast at Dirty Burger, I was careful to not eat much before my visit, ensuring a starving state. On entry to the shack, the irresistible smells tickled my taste buds – I was extremely excited about finally trying a famous ‘dirty burger’.

The burgers here are of the sloppy kind, though they don’t drip unnecessarily. The ground beef is cleverly coated in a floury layer to add a delicious crispy edge. As I often say, a burger is only as good its bun, and here at DB they get it just right with a super soft sweet bread sandwiching the contents. Crunchy lettuce, sliced tomato and melted cheese completes the beast. It is so good all thoughts of calories go out the window, instead I began thinking, “Could I manage a second?”.

Luckily I tried both the chips and onion rings and on reflection would recommend you order both, as they are equally tasty and quite frankly unmissable if you want the complete burger experience. The onion rings are blissfully light, with an extra peppery thin batter encasing the soft loops of onion. Chips are old school crinkly and though I was sceptical at first, taste insanely good, especially after a decent dunking in mayonnaise.

Milkshakes are also available: thick, sweet and indulgent, just like the ones served in American diners. I opted for a refreshingly cold diet coke from the help-yourself fridge.

This secret shack stands strong as a leader in the London burger revolution, and after trying their juicy recipe I’m hooked on this Highgate hangout. The dirtier the burger, the better!

More information here.

http://www.eatdirtyburger.com/

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: An Ideal Husband, Rosemary Branch Theatre

Who knew how much theatre North East London had to offer?  Call me ignorant but I have been amazed by the amount and variety of fringe productions I have seen here recently, particularly in the Islington/Angel area.  Although it may take you a little bit longer to come upon the Rosemary Branch Theatre, this cosy pub venue offers every bit as much entertainment as its N1 comrades.  The upstairs performance space is almost cubic in shape, with the effect that, regardless of where you are sitting, you will feel well in on the action.

Oscar Wilde’s comedic stage play, ‘An Ideal Husband’, deals candidly with themes of bribery and corruption; issues that remain constantly relevant through the passing of time, this being no more aptly illustrated than the five film adaptations that have been produced of this play.  I cannot, however, see this story being better told than in its stage form, and while the simplicity with which this cast portrayed the tale was refreshing, the action was occasionally on the cusp of becoming oversimplified.  In fairness, this was not helped by the fact that the play essentially relies on one storyline, with a light smattering of sub-plot emerging only in the second act.  The one piece of visible set, which appeared to be some kind of twisted branch doorway, was only made use of on one isolated occasion, which made me question the necessity of any set at all; perhaps a blank canvas of a stage would have been more effective.

The actors performed admirably, especially given that there was nowhere to hide, and it was the female contingent that truly stole the show.  Mrs Cheveley, the snake in the grass who attempts to ruin a politician’s successful career by producing incriminating evidence about his past, was cunningly portrayed by Sheridan Johnson, although I felt that at points she was somewhat guarded.  Rose Robinson’s conception of Gertrude Chiltern effectively portrayed an innocent who puts up a front of haughtiness, and her comic timing was impeccable.  The star for me was Emily MacDonald, who played Mabel Chiltern.  The combination of her dry wit and cynicism drew lots of well-deserved guffaws from the audience.  The strength of the female actors does not mean that the men performed weakly; they were merely outshone by their leading ladies.

This is a tale of backbiting and underhanded tactics, interspersed with no shortage of comic moments, which eventually arrives at a triumphant climax.  I thoroughly recommend it to you.

An Ideal Husband continues at the Rosemary Branch Theatre until 7th April, book here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Mark McCloskey.