Brunch for six hungry and hungover souls on a Sunday in Central London. Easy, right? Or perhaps not; with the capital's new found love of no reservation policies, and the ones that do appearing to all be fully booked or too far away from where we needed to be, a peckish panic began to take hold.
Luckily there are always b*****s, the foodie trend that will not die. (A fortunate thing, as Laandan Town now offers some of the best meat between a bun available anywhere) After Stealth had kindly saved me Giles Coren's review of Tommi's the day before, the beef-cravings were beginning to take hold. Quickly a consensus was reached. To Soho; where flesh is still king (in more ways than one).
I don't normally subject pictures of my friends on the unwitting, but here they are looking like butter wouldn't melt.... The eagle-eyed amongst you may also have notice the lovely Leona in the picture at the top (hopefully it won't put you off your food). As well as being a good friend she is also a very funny dining companion, and after making many attempts to feature on the blog (difficult, as the height of her culinary skills seems to be toasting crumpets), she's finally made it.
Although Honest Burgers don't take reservations, we arrived early enough to bag a table together, the staff rather helpfully allowing us to rearrange the furniture, and generally make a song and dance about seating ourselves. The place is pretty small and the decor is plain and simple - wooden chairs and tables and not much else - although there also is some handy seating outside, lovely on a sunny day. With the leafy trees and cobbled street it's almost possible to forget you're in the heart of the West End.
Keeping it simple, Honest offers a free range chicken burger; aged beef burgers from the Ginger Pig (with or without a selection of cheeses, or as an 'Honest' version); and a veggie fritter. Throw in a regularly changing special burger and three sides, and that's your lot.
Despite the brevity of the menu we still manage to thoroughly confuse our waitress with our indecision and questioning. Happily she was lovely and took it all terribly well, remaining good humoured even after she had to strike through our original burger orders after we decided that we all wanted them cooked different ways.
And here's the really great thing; Honest is a burger joint that proudly advertises that their burgers are cooked pink as standard, and they will cook your patty even rarer if you request it. Sure, there are other burger joints that will satisfy your blood lust, but it is still far too uncommon to see grey being offered as standard hue and restaurants quoting all manner of health and safety regulations as an excuse to serve up tough and leaden hockey pucks.
For cooking their patties rare Honest gets a many extra burger bonus points; unfortunately it loses half of those for not offering any milkshakes. Even with their limited space and brief menu, a shake is almost essential for perfect burger experience. And I had, rather rashly, promised there would definitely be some on the menu. Ooops.
In the absence of milkshakes, I had a rather nice Oxford Dy iced tea, served in an ubiquitous jam jar. The homemade lemonade was also voted very good (which is offered with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if that floats your boat), while there are bloody marys and Sam Smith's ales for those who want something a little stronger.
Four of us went for the Honest burger, their signature beef patty with onion relish, mature cheddar, smoked bacon, pickles and salad. My patty was perfectly rare, if a touch under seasoned, and had been nicely rested so it remained juicy without turning the bun soggy and disintegrating in hand. The bun was majestic, a shiny brioche number that was slightly sweet, slightly chewy and offered just the right amount of support for its cargo.
The cheese was nicely melted over the meat, while the dry cured smoked streaky bacon (also from the Ginger Pig) was the best I have ever eaten in a burger. Thick cut, smoky and crispy, I happily ate a rasher proffered from Leona's plate, too. The only jarring note was the onion relish, which was a sweet as jam and became rather too overpowering, despite all the other strong flavours nestling between the bun.
A mention must go to their rosemary fries, included with all burgers. I was a little dubious that the herb seasoning may have been a too overpowering, but thankfully I was wrong. These were really quite fabulous chips; crunchy, creamy, fluffy and so well seasoned that I eschewed all condiments offered alongside. Almost unheard of, and the very highest praise.
The Ewing and Ellen went for the special, a combo including chipotle slaw, Welsh Monterey Jack cheese and courgette. This was also taken down in double quick time, although the slaw was described as more of a 'relish', that lacked the punch of smoked chillies.
So, Honest Burgers; it does what it says on the tin. This is mighty fine meat, fabulous chips and good drinks, all served up with a side of impeccable service. There may be many other joints vying for your burger dollars, but although Honest may not be big, it is clever.
As a footnote I must include this photo, which I found on my camera after a night out drinking and dancing in Clapham. Not only had Leona and Ellen schlepped all the way down the Kennington Road for a kebab on their way home, they had also managed to artfully photographed Leona eating it and left me some for my breakfast. All in a desperate and shameful attempt to be featured on the blog. Well ladies, the bribery worked. (And the cold kebab was delicious, too.)