On 22 July chef Dave Ahern (The Alex, The Ship & most recently Ben’s Canteen) is launching his first ever pop-up, Burger Breakout. With five different burgers on the menu and an expected 400+ covers, Dave’s going to need a strong team…
Fortunately Dave will be joined on the grill by master chef and peri-peri pedlar Grant Hawthorne and journalist-cum-chef Alex Watts. (Alex’s account of retraining as a chef after 40 is a must-read for anyone interested in the restaurant business and is available here)
There are five burgers on the menu, only one of them isn’t a burger; it’s a po’ boy filled with a golden fillet of battered dab, smoked gherkins and a tartare sauce laced with Grant’s African Volcano peri-peri sauce. It’s enough to send even the most hardened (softened, surely? Ed.) burger aficionado off course.
In putting dab on the menu, Dave is showing us punters how an unfashionable (some might say ugly) fish, which has almost become the by-product of a catch, can be transformed into a beautifully tasting dish. And with po’ boys (originally cheap vehicles for deep-fried oysters, of which Louisiana had a glut) hailing from the southern states of the USA, you can be sure to expect an element of heat from this sandwich.
Arguably the most conventional burger on the menu is a dry-aged Cornish beef patty from the Cornish Food Club, topped with smoked bacon, Cornish blue cheese and homemade whiskey mustard. Dave’s taken three classically paired ingredients and thrown American bourbon in for smokiness. “I’ve designed each burger so that every element works together. The whiskey works really well with beef, as does the mustard,” Dave explains, “even the coleslaw has horseradish and mustard through it, again to work with the flavours coming out of the burgers.”
“Every ingredient in each burger is there for a reason. I want people to come away from Burger Breakout having had a new experience, and to say that they liked it, and it worked.”
– Chef Dave Ahern
The à la mode pulled pork bun is upgraded to full-on burger status with the addition of a rare breed pork patty, this time paired with cheese and a daub of apple and jalapeno mayo. Followers of Dave’s work will know that this isn’t his first foray into the ‘double-meat’ sandwich. His revered BC Burger, featuring a beef patty topped with homemade corned beef, still sells by the truckload over at Ben’s Canteen in Battersea. This burger is anchored by the quality of the pulled pork. Dave’s injecting (we’ll all be doing this at home soon) oregano vinegar into pork shoulder a full 24 hours before it goes in the oven and cooked slow and low for 16 hours. Popular in Carolina, the vinegar helps breakdown the meat even further than convection alone, resulting in an almost hand minced texture that yields to the bite. Add apple and jalapeno notes and a bit of mayo for cooling and you’ve got yourself one f— off burger.
Also on the menu are venison and lamb burgers. The lean game burger partners with Cornish brie, upping the fat ratio to the level you’d recognise in any top burger. The toppings draw from a handful of classic venison accompaniments: beetroot, quince and chocolate. Earthiness and acidity is brought in to the burger in the form of a beetroot pickle, while quince and chocolate are incorporated in a BBQ sauce base of reduced Coca-Cola, orange juice and brown sugar. “I trialed this sauce during a cooking demo at Maltby Street Market,” Dave avows, “and people went f—ing nuts for it.”
“Brioche is good for American burgers because it’s soft and helps give a homogenous bite. I’m using a sourdough bun because I want people to notice the different textures. And because the burgers will be served medium-rare you need the firmness of sourdough for sandwich stability.”
The lamb number is Dave at his point-proving best. “Lamb burgers have been done so badly over the years,” he asserts, cracking his knuckles. At Burger Breakout lamb patties meet deep-fried crispy leeks and homemade roast garlic ketchup with a hint of mint added at the end.
“When you deep fry a pickle you get more of the sweetness and less of the sharpness. By incorporating the brine in the batter you maintain that sharpness from the pickle.”
As Tom Barton of Honest Burgers says, “a burger has to come with chips.” I’m inclined to agree, and happily Dave does too. However, unlike Honest Burgers these fries won’t be seasoned with rosemary salt. “I do think there are flavours you can add around the burger to work with it, but I find rosemary can kill some of the elements of a burger,” he says. Instead Dave’s creating his own smoked horseradish salt, which he reckons will marry well with all of the ingredients Burger Breakout has to offer. Keeping things simple, there will be just two other sides available on the day: deli pickles (deep-fried in a batter made from the pickle brine and dill) and burger slaw.
Burger Breakout is a one day only affair. Come to Kings Cross (map below) on Sunday 22 July and witness a brilliant team of chefs knock up a whole menu of deeply considered burgers.
6 St Chads Place, Kings Cross, WC1X 9HH
Sunday July 22
12pm until sold out
Burgers £11. Sides £3.
The Whiskey Beast
Dry aged, Cornish beef patty, topped with smoked bacon, Cornish blue cheese and Whiskey Mustard
The Swine Time
Cornish minced pork patty, topped with pulled pork, cheese and apple and jalapeno mayo
The Baa-Baa Baby
Cornish Lamb patty, topped with deep-fried crispy leeks and minted roasted garlic tomato ketchup
The Bambi Bought It
Cornish Venison patty, topped with beetroot pickle, Cornish Brie, Quince & Chocolate BBQ Sauce
The Dab Hand
Cornish Dab fillets, smoked gherkins, peri-peri tartare sauce, po boy style
Chips with horseradish smoked salt
Deep fried deli pickle in dill batter
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