Like its barbers, the London burger scene is so dyed-in-the-wool — and so waistband-snappingly grand — that any attempt at reinventing the wheel should be met with a sympathetic pat on the back and a quick shove out the door.
For that reason, except for one notable basement BBQ temple, there’s relatively little recent innovation on this comprehensive list of the best burger joints the capital has to offer.
What there is, though, is an array of buns that segue from filthy upstart to full-blown classic via elevated pub grub and globally-influenced itinerancy; taking in refined restaurants, cacophonous dude-food dens, City diners and street food stands along the way.
In any case, they’re all the marvellous. Long live the London food trend that will never, ever die.
The Best Burger Joints In London
Surprised that the guys behind London’s best steak do an absolutely banging burger? Of course you’re not. Run an eye down the bar menu at the muscular Seven Dials flagship, where there’s a petit, perfect list of buns on offer: the Hawksmoor hamburger, topped with Ogleshield or Colston Basset Stilton, the masterful Kimchi Cheeseburger, and a frequently changing third option. They’re not cheap, but push the boat out and slosh one down with a Corpse Reviver cocktail or three, and you’ve got a truly banging night out.
What To Order: The Kimchi Cheeseburger – humming with zingy fermented cabbage and topped with beef short rib. It will warm your Seoul.
11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JG
Lucky Chip Burgers
It’s odd that first-wave burger innovator Lucky Chip never really got the plaudits received by Meat Liquor, Patty & Bun or Byron. They’ve remained a de-facto pop-up, appearing at pubs across north and east London, after its permanent Ridley Road joint closed. But the burger-snaffling public should take note, as they’re arguably the best in town, knocking out pitch-perfect riffs on the classics (particularly the Big Mac-aping Royale Wit Cheese).
What To Order: The El Chappo. An aged beef patty topped with smoked bacon, jalapeños, blue cheese and aioli.
44 Essex Road, N1 8LN
This wantonly unctuous Tex-Mex diner, located down a side street behind the famous Barbican Centre, may be a brunch staple, but it’s sorely overlooked in the best burger stakes. More fool the masses: the patties themselves are 100 per cent rare breed beef, the sides are filthily delectable (pulled pork and kimchi fries, anyone?), sauces like gochujang chilli are essentially edible Korean crack, and the eponymous house bun is absolutely second to none. This kind of bad is very, very good.
What To Order: Behold! The Bad Egg Burger, which comes veritably slathered in spicy ‘nduja and Red Leicester fondue. We repeat, fondue.
1 Ropemaker Street, EC2Y 9AW
The Duke of Richmond
Tom Oldroyd’s Dalston gastropub has quickly become a critical darling and local favourite, which is no surprise given the man’s CV – he basically kickstarted the small plates revolution as chef director at the critically acclaimed Polpo group, before refining it at his eponymous Angel restaurant. At The Duke of Richmond, the house burger is given a good Gallic seeing to in place of regular Americanised buns. Better still, the patty itself is made of minced beef rib cap: the connoisseur’s burger cut. Tres bon.
What To Order: The Duke Burger – a 6oz patty laden with confit shallots, béarnaise sauce and pokey Roquefort. Zut.
318 Queensbridge Road, E8 3NH
Here it is, the one that kicked of this whole marvellous, meaty debacle in the first place. Peckham may be known for its rooftop bars, but it’s also here that Yianni Papoutsis first revved up his burger-slinging Meat Wagon van in 2009. Two years later came Meat Easy, an absurdly hyped pop-up above a dingy former pub in New Cross. Meat Liquor opened off Oxford Street shortly after, and the rest is history. In short, the burgers are still killer, the cocktails are punchy as hell, and half the jokers on this list wouldn’t exist without them.
What To Order: The Dead Hippie – with two mustard-fried patties, cheese, pickles, Dead Hippie secret sauce and, crucially, minced white onions. It remains the groundbreaking London burger.
74 Welbeck Street, W1G 0BA
Burger & Beyond
Proof that London’s sprawling street food and market scenes can still knock it out the park, Burger & Beyond’s oversized buns are spoken about in reverent tones by patty enthusiasts across town. The beef, sourced from the restaurant’s own farm, is properly dry-aged, before being hand-pressed and crafted into gargantuan burgers that are as meticulously conceived as they are knock-out delicious. Oh yeah, plus bacon and parmesan tater tots on the side.
What To Order: The BBB – a 45-day aged beef patty with double American cheese, crispy bacon, burnt butter mayo and pickled onions. Eat it and weep.
Kerb Camden Market, NW1 8AF
Another fresh face on the London dining scene: this time a mash-up French / Southern States joint doing a neat line of snazzed-up junk food (fried chicken with caviar being the textbook example). Crucially, it’s the brainchild of one Andy Taylor, formerly the head honcho of severely underrated peripatetic burger king Le Bun. He’s kept things simple: the burger menu comprises just a ‘classic’ bun and a wickedly decadent bone marrow version.
What To Order: The Bone Marrow And Truffle Cheeseburger – a gutsy, hedonistic pairing of filth and finery in a nice, soft sesame bun.
175 Mare Street, E8 3RG
The Drapers Arms
The house cheeseburger at Islington’s Drapers Arms — AKA every true London foodie’s favourite gastropub — is only available on weekends and weekday lunchtimes. But like the place itself, it’s an unassuming doozy that should be sought out at the first opportunity. Complex it is not (a patty crafted with aged beef, pickled red onion, a slice of smoked cheddar and a squirt of house burger sauce), but it’s thoughtfully put together. Just like everything else they dish up, basically.
What To Order: That cheeseburger. It’s the only menu item relevant to this list, admittedly, but an underrated gem all the same.
44 Barnsbury Street, N1 1ER
A caveat. This is a rogue entry – but call something a cheeseburger, and it’s probably a cheeseburger, right? Right. Temper is a Neil Rankin’s subterranean Soho temple to flesh. When this first branch opened a couple of years back, things like the aged beef fat tacos, burnt end Thai larb ‘salad’ and knockout hunks of smoked goat shoulder set a new benchmark for the gutsy merging of protein, fat, flame, smoke and salt. And the menu’s resounding, resonant high point? [Drum roll…]
What To Order: The achingly brilliant Cheeseburger Taco. Long-aged beef (up to an insanely pokey 78 days), blasted on a plancha and chucked on a taco with provolone cheese, red onion, chipotle sour cream and zesty green sauce.
25 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DF
Patty & Bun
Like Meat Liquor, Patty & Bun is another early pioneer turned actual-chain, but it’s equally deserving of the success. The original Marylebone site is still the best, and the inaugural burgers – particularly the Ari Gold and onion-piled Smokey Robinson – remain a go-to. Though only a fool would visit without also ordering the sticky confit chicken wings, deep-fried beef brisket nuggets and a dinky pot of roast chicken mayo. Off you pop.
What To Order: The classic Ari Gold Cheeseburger with smokey house mayonnaise. Simple, grease-sopping, superb. Do make sure to add bacon and protect that Oxford shirt with a bib.
54 James Street, W1U 1HE