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.
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.
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.
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.