The Burger Chronicles #9 – BIRD Islington

Bird bacon and cheese burger 1

There isn’t really much to say about BIRD‘s Bacon & Cheese Burger. If anything, it’s an experience basted in understated glory.

Having already tried the Holloway Road-based joint’s outrageously decadent Original Waffle Burger I decided to spring for something slightly less debilitating – that, and I didn’t have the rest of the afternoon to sit around recuperating.

Bird bacon and cheese burger 2

Straight away the Bacon & Cheese Burger calls out to me, with its beguiling combination of old meets new, Deep South meets Far East. The ingredients are simple: a crispy free-range chicken thigh, bacon, melted American cheese, BBQ sauce and house kewpie mayo.

In fact, if you’re looking for proof of a higher being, biting into BIRD chicken is the heavenly experience for you; impossibly crispy deep-fried exteriors that give way to tender, pillowy hunks of juicy chicken devoid of the grease you usually associate with such hedonism. The burger tastes fresh, light and unsettlingly refreshing.

Then the massive slices of bacon and American cheese grab your heart and drag you right back down to Earth, and the sweet-tasting brioche bun and creamy kewpie mayo seal the deal like a London real estate agent – no talking necessary. This is a bacon and cheese chicken burger for the soul. Nothing out of the ordinary, just high-quality ingredients put together with care, creativity and affection. Good at what it does but not quite as special and out-of-this-world as the Waffle Burger.

If you do want to BAM things up a notch, an order of BIRD’s Cheesy Korean Fries – American cheese sauce, house kewpie mayo and a spicy, peppery gochujang glaze – is the perfect gooey, tastebud-tickling side to wash your burger down with. DAMN, now I’m hungry.

Somerstown

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L.O.B. vs Jacklington Stanley – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

It was pissing down before kick-off. Cold. Wet. And miserable. Referee Ash Pedantic was wrapped up like he’d parked his sled dogs around the corner and both teams looked about as enthusiastic as Louis Van Gaal before a surprise game of Twister – in Denmark. But things soon changed when the whistle blew.

The rain seemed to fall in slow motion and the Greys swapped nods and glances like sports movie underdogs ready for the big finale. If it was a movie, Al Pacino had just given his big Any Given Sunday speech and the chorus of “Eye of the Tiger” was playing on infinite loop; Jacklington Stanley didn’t stand a chance.

As usual, Manu pulled the strings in midfield, turning Jacklington Stanley inside out and spreading the play out wide. “You little…,” “You fuckin…” moaned the yellow-and-black-striped opposition, as he snuck by with a few deft flicks of his feet.

New recruit Karim made an instant impact down the left wing as well. With his big frame he resembled Manchester United flop Memphis Depay, only this dude could play, cutting inside, avoiding tackles and unleashing powerful shots that flew just over the bar. One of his long range efforts looked destined to ripple the back of the net, but Jacklington Stanley’s keeper pulled off one of the best saves Coram’s Fields has ever seen.

Finally, the Greys broke the deadlock; Manu’s outside-the-box shot was blocked by a charging Stanley defender and the rebound fell to Thomas, who knocked the ball cleverly across goal, putting it on a plate for Alex. And of course, Alex didn’t waste his chance, slotting the ball neatly past the desperately scrambling keeper to put the Greys 1-0 up.

After that, only more heroics from Stanley’s keeper stopped the Greys scoring at least four more. Then, against the run of play, Stanley snuck one back, when a long throw-in bounced off a striker in yellow and black and flicked up over Greys keeper Yusuf’s head. Half time.

In the second half the Greys swapped to two at the back and Julien and returning defender Paolo did well to keep a lid on things. In fact, despite the torrid conditions, the Greys played out of their skins, knocking together some of the best football they’ve ever played.

And finally, after more Gordon Banks, David de Gea-type moments from Jacklington Stanley’s keeper, the Greys got the goal they deserved; Manu cut inside from the right wing, dazzling his way past swearing, ghost-faced defenders and delivering a perfect ball to Alex, who finished the chance off coolly, putting the Greys 2-1 up.

And that’s how it ended. The Greys dug in their heels, shut up shop and strode off the pitch like warriors – soaked to the bone but gleaming with pride.

L.O.B. vs Design Bridge – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Things didn’t look good for the Greys when opponents Design Bridge took the field in matching black kits featuring their own crest and sponsor – they looked like the “evil” Icelandic team in D2: The Mighty Ducks. Meanwhile, the Greys still had a few unofficial grey t-shirts making up the numbers, and if it was a Disney movie, they’d be the underdogs – which would make missing-in-action player coach Thomas Joly Emilio Estevez.

The Greys had a strong lineup of players on the night but lacked any out-and-out defenders. To compensate, they switched to two at the back, with Adam and Julien volunteering to hold down the fort. And straight away, with two pacey, attacking-minded players towing the line, the Greys added a new dimension to their play.

With Manu holding the ball up well in midfield and Adam and Julien surging forward, the Greys looked sharp, creative and exciting. Additionally, Ahmed and Ollie dropped back well to provide cover when needed.

Greys striker Alex broke the deadlock early on, when he took a neat pass from Ahmed, drew the keeper to the edge of his box and smashed it past him. Then, without even stopping to breathe after the kick-off, Ahmed made a silky run down the right wing and cut inside, playing a dangerous-looking ball in to Adam, whose shot rebounded off a Design Bridge defender to put the Greys 2-0 up. Beautiful football finished off ugly.

The Greys continued to press Design Bridge and midway through the first half Alex did well to beat his man and knock the ball across goal. Ollie reacted first, tapping the ball in with his right foot to put the Greys 3-0 up.

Then, just before the break, Manu sprayed a searching pass to Alex, who picked it up on the halfway line, took a few touches and placed his shot past the sprawling Design Bridge keeper to make it 4-0. What was going on?!!

Despite the onslaught, Design Bridge did manage to squeeze in a few shots on target before the interval, with Greys keeper Yusuf saving well and Julien and Adam putting their bodies on the line to block a couple of goal-bound chances.

Something else happened before half-time, when Greys winger Ahmed clashed with one of Design Bridge’s players. Afterwards, it seemed like the whole Design Bridge team turned on Ahmed, targeting him with a series of nasty tackles.

Design Bridge came out fighting in the second half and the Greys survived a few narrow escapes. Julien did a great job at the back, practically marking Design Bridge’s most threatening-looking striker right out of the game.

Then, against the run of play, the Greys launched an attack of their own, turning FIFA 16‘s “Play Beautiful” motto on its head and scoring one of the ugliest goals since Paul McGrath retried. The ball pinged around the box, everyone got a touch, Adam hit the post, the ball hit the branches above the goal and then dropped to Kais, who tucked it in to put the Greys 5-0 up.

But suddenly Design Bridge were all over the place. A long range effort from outside the box practically tore a hole through Greys keeper Yusuf to bring them back into the game at 5-1. Then, less than five minutes later, the Greys went AWAL and a series of neat Design Bridge passes ended with the ball in the back of the net. 5-2. Naturally, the Greys started asking the ref how much time was left on the clock; “13 minutes. Keep playin’!”

Spurred back into action, the Greys took shape again, doing well to see out the danger and hold on to a convincing 5-2 win.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Charlie’s Jaws Speech

For me, Netflix usually involves trawling through endless lists of movies, TV shows and documentaries before giving up and re-watching old episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Right now I’m watching episode three, season eight: “The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre.” Charlie’s take on the Jaws Indianapolis speech gets me every time… Solid gold.

Here’s the real speech – starts around 1:31.

The Burger Chronicles #8 – Honest Burgers Camden

Honest Burger menu

We slide in off the street in high spirits and adjust to our new surroundings. The smell of rosemary hangs in the air as thick as incense and my jaw slackens instantly, as I pick up the hint of sizzling burgers and slip into the dimly lit little bunker.

I take one quick look at Honest Burgers’ menu and make my mind up instantly. The Ribman Special. A Ginger Pig dry aged beef burger with Ribman rib-meat, mature cheddar, Holy F**k sauce, pickles and lettuce. My stomach does a back-flip at the thought of it.

Beavertown Honest Pale Ale

I order an Honest Beavertown Pale Ale (are you kidding me?) with my burger. It comes in a customized can similar to the north London brewery’s Neck Oil design, only darker and with added mustachioed skull men carrying burgers. What a cool partnership. I consider taking the can home but remember I’m not twelve years old – and it’s not the FIFA World Cup.

Honest Ribman Special

As soon as our burgers arrive conversation is reduced to a couple of approving murmurs, oh yeahs and GOD damns! The rib-meat is so tender, succulent and delicious, a decadent, flavour-filled addition to an already hedonistic meaty feast. My mouth feels like a Royal Rumble as time seems to slow down and speed up simultaneously. The juicy burger literally melts in my hands and the whole thing seems to last about five minutes.

Ribman Special
The Ribman Special in all it’s glory – Instagram/The Ribman

In-between rosemary salted fries and finger licking, talk turns to our burgers. Eventually, after much back and forth, we come to the mutual conclusion that Honest Burgers is clearly a cut above joints like Byron, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Hache, but perhaps still not quite up there with Patty & Bun and Stokey Bears. Top three, though, for sure (so far). And for a while, life has an intoxicating golden glow and I’m seeing burgerific rainbows.

But the night takes a weird turn when I ask our waitress where the bathrooms are. One of the cooks says, “Outside. On the left.” I follow his instructions precisely but end up wandering around Camden Market. Then I realise Honest Burgers Camden doesn’t have its own bathroom.

A group of teenagers is sitting in a magic circle at the top of the stairs, singing and drinking and shooting the breeze. The toilets are locked. I head back down to the restaurant where I’m greeted by the manager, who’s holding one of those restroom keys on a tag the size of a real estate sign.

Grinning sheepishly, he leads me and my buddy back up to the toilets and unlocks the door. We take turns while he waits, staring off into the distance like a cashier when you’re punching in your pin. It’s weird. The golden glow evaporates and suddenly it feels like I’m at the 24-hour McDonald’s in Holloway Road at 3:00am. All that’s missing is an angry woman dragging a mop and a couple of screaming kids high on sugar.

Honest Burger