Burger Breakout @ The Old Crown definitely had to be the first review in the “London does #Burgers” series as it’s the one I visited most recently….and what a visit it was.
Date & Time: Wed 17th of October – 9 pm
Party size: 2
Reservation: NO – but we were misled to think that it was packed. Lot’s of heavy tweeting on the day made it sound like we wouldn’t be able to get through the door.
We arrived at the Old Crown afraid that we would go to sleep hungry, but much to our surprise we ended up finding a seat immediately upon arriving. Table for two, right at the door – a spot I usually detest as the cold gush of wind freezes my face every time the door opens – but we sat anyway. A very eager and polite waitress came over with menus and asked us if we would like drinks. We needed a minute, so she went away with the promise that I would call her over when we were ready to order.
As an initial reaction, I was not impressed by the menu. For some reason, I expected more. However, we were both drawn to the chocolate & quince BBQ sauce, so we kindly asked if it was possible to try some. Several minutes later, a small pot containing the chocolatey concoction arrived and we dipped in. Neither of us said a word at first, and then we simultaneously agreed that “The Bambi Bought it” (Cornish Venison patty, topped with beetroot pickle, Cornish Brie, Quince & Chocolate BBQ Sauce) was to be avoided at all costs, all because of that sauce.
We deliberated for a while, but finally decided on what to get : The O.C. Burger, The Whiskey Beast & Deep fried pickles in dill batter + Burger Slaw.
As we discussed our order with the waitress, she pointed out that The Whiskey Beast is served Medium Rare and that the chef does not allow changes of any sort on the burgers. I laughed at this, since my MO is to walk away whenever I come across these ridiculous rules, but I played along. She asked me if I was OK with spicy food as the burger contained “whiskey mustard”, and I said it was fine.
The Breakdown :
The Whiskey Beast – At first, this burger looked great….until I touched it. The first mistake that jumped out at me was the staleness of the bun – both on top and at the bottom. Slightly annoyed, I took the first bite and 12 seconds into chewing, the mustard started burning my nose. “Where’s the whiskey?” I thought. Moving on, it became apparent that it was impossible to figure out whether or not the beef was of good quality by eating it this way. So, I decided to dissect the burger and eat it with a knife and fork, instead of suffering with the taste of that horrible bun and the whiskey-less mustard.. Bun + mustard gone, I was left with a healthy piece of lettuce , two bacon rashers, and TOO MUCH BLUE CHEESE. I scraped off the excess, leaving an amount that complemented the beef….instead of replacing it.
Severely annoyed, I ate the first mouthful which ended up leaving me with a bitter aftertaste. I took a second…same thing. Extremely curious as to what was going on, I flipped the burger over only to discover that it was charcoal black at the bottom – like soot. Puzzled, I thought about the term “medium rare”, and I wondered if the strict chef-that-allows-no-changes-and-tells-you-how-to-eat-your-burger knew the definition as well as I did. Left with no other choice, I called the waitress over and showed her the mess in front of me. Shocked, she called over another member of staff, who was equally as polite and agreed that this was non-edible but explained that the kitchen staff had left and thus I was not able to get another burger. He apologized repeatedly and before he could take away the food, I paused to take some photos (see below).
With no food in front of me, the only thing available to eat were the sides….
Deep fried pickles in dill batter – flaccid and soggy.
Burger Slaw - ……no slaw here. Mayo soup that tasted like fridge instead.
Chips with horseradish smoked salt – The horseradish salt did not enhance the flavor at all. Each texture-less chip left an unwelcome & irritating aftertaste.
Conclusion: I usually give new restaurants second chances. But in this case, I won’t. It’s extremely disappointing when a meal doesn’t live up to your expectations ESPECIALLY when there has been such a massive build-up & hype from the purveyors of the establishment. I refuse to accept that this was a “one-off bad experience” because I believe that the sign of a good business is consistency – where no bad days are allowed.
As for the chef, if he is to dictate how and what you will eat, the least he can do is cook it properly. “Quirky” combinations only work if the execution is perfect… otherwise, the menu just becomes nonsense on a page.
Worth mentioning : The staff offered us free drinks and took my burger off the bill. The upstairs floors were empty and the rooms were a mess…not cool. Lastly, we were equally unimpressed by the O.C Burger, but my dinner companion was so hungry he chose to eat it rather than starve. After his final bite he said: ” I don’t think I’ll becoming back for seconds any time soon….”
Rating: 2/10 ( 1 point for the staff & 1 point for….effort)
Burger Breakout @ The Old Crown – 33 New Oxford St WC1A 1BH