Two of London’s latest one-item-wonders have opened up together in Southwest London on Wimbledon’s high street.
In what used to be the underwhelming Hot Pink restaurant’s location, Soho House brings their simply-named Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger brands to the hungry masses on Wimbledon Broadway.
Soho House founder and Dirty Burger creator, Nick Jones, has quietly amassed a long list of cult eateries, which include some well-known names that may surprise even the most savvy London eaters amongst you. Soho House’s properties range from ‘posh’ to ‘late-night-drunk’. It’s all covered. Their joints include:
- Chicken Shop (obviously)
- Dirty Burger, the first of which opened in Kentish Town, around back from…
- Pizza East, the Shoreditch staple
- Hoxton Grill
- Cafe Monico, which I wrote about last week
- Dean Street Townhouse
- The Electric Diner on Portobello road
and many more, which you can check out here.
Dirty Burger grew out of Nick Jones’ desire for a quick, down and dirty burger “shack” as a foil to the more refined, upscale burgers that Soho House serves at many of its brasserie-style restaurants. And there is something to be said for that, Mr. Jones!
In Jones’ words, “the first shack came about because we found a site in Kentish Town that was too big for just a Pizza East. So we decided to do a Chicken Shop with a Dirty Burger shack around the back in a car park.” That was back in 2012 and now Dirty Burger boasts 11 locations in London and outlets in Chicago and Barcelona as well. I simply happened upon the new Wimbledon branch and thought I’d give it a try.
Most of them are relatively shack-like: complete with corrugated metal sidings, unstained wood surfaces and soldered metal seating. But, Dirty Burger isn’t quite the one-item-wonder that I made it out to be. They do have a menu. And it does have three 8oz. burger options on it: a cheeseburger (£6), a dirty bacon cheeseburger (£7) and a vegetarian burger (£6) – aptly called the “Dirty Cop-Out.”
I, of course, went for the Dirty Bacon Burger. It’s topped with lettuce, tomato, melty cheddar cheese and a delicious slab of bacon. Their bacon is just the way I like it: smoke-cured and thick-cut. All contained in a soft, glazed bun and wrapped up in wax paper.
The beef is a peppery mix of four cuts, of which Dirty Burger will only reveal two: sirloin and rump. However, they do boast the use of bone marrow in the mix, which always makes things better. It’s juicy and messy just as advertised. The flavorful burger patty is most similar to those of Meat Market, where the peppery seasoning is the standout taste. Dirty Burger cooks theirs in mustard on the griddle to infuse that peppery flavor.
In fact, it’s as if a subculture war has broken out amongst London’s wax paper burger warriors. Somewhere below the hoighty-toighty Hawksmoors and above the cheap chippy and fast food joints. The battle rages in the burger equivalent of Middle Earth… Middle Boeuf.
I’ll call them wax paper warriors, because that is what distinguishes these combatants: amazingly tasty burgers clad in wax paper that harkens back to the American 1950s. These aren’t drive-in burgers though, they are gourmet incarnate, with many a top secret recipe between them, armed to the teeth with advanced toppings – all in branded wax paper armor.
Each London wax paper burger is unique, distinctive and as strong as the cults that support it. The Americans of Five Guys, the Millennials of Meat Market, the Hipsters of Patty & Bun, the Tourists of Shake Shack, the Agency Ad-Men of Dirty Burger. Yet, in London there is room enough for them all to coexist. Eclectic burgers for eclectic people. But I digress…
Depending on the Dirty Burger location, you’ll get to choose from sides of crinkle fries, onion rings, onion fries, sweet potato fries and cole slaw (£3.50-£4) – but choices depend on if that location is shacking up with a Chicken Shop or not! I went with an outsized portion of sweet potato fries which are average at best.
However, Dirty Burger does make a standout milkshake. They come in several flavors, but chocolate and Oreo are represented on your left. The shakes are large, deliciously creamy, and thick – just as an American burger shack milkshake should be!
All too often in Britain, I’ve psyched myself up for a milkshake, only for it to be literally some chocolate power added to milk and blended inexplicably with ice, leaving a watery disaster that shouldn’t legally be named a milkshake.
These are not that. Dirty Burger gets the milkshake spot-on, at a decent price (£4.50-£5).
Overall, I don’t see the Dirty Burger craze going away any time soon – Soho House is simply too good at what it does. Like Chicken Shop and Pizza East, the recommendations for Dirty Burger will continue swirling through the young professional ranks, feeding on their insatiable lust for London’s best burgers.
You can visit the Dirty Burger Website here and check out all of their current locations.
Dirty Bacon Burger – 42/50
Beef (9): This 4-cut blend of beef is griddle-cooked in mustard and mixed with bone marrow, what more could you ask?
Bun (8): soft white bun with a slight glaze – it’s not quite a brioche, but does the job
Toppings (7): the bacon is the star, everything else is pretty standard
Value (9): at £7 for the Dirty Bacon Burger, it’s very kind on your London-based wallet
Ambiance (9): I like the rustic, shack-like appearance. The corrugated metal does wooden benches play